Farmer-herder clashes force Agatu kids out of schools

Daily Trust - - EDUCATION -

The al­leged clashes be­tween farm­ers and herds­men in Agatu Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of Benue State have taken a toll on pri­mary and sec­ondary school ed­u­ca­tion as most chil­dren in the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties no longer go to school.

A group of stu­dents were seen cut­ting over­grown grasses within the com­pound of the RCM Pri­mary School, Aila. In front of the ad­min­is­tra­tive block, the head­mas­ter and some teach­ers sat on bro­ken wooden benches dis­cussing their plight.

The RCM Pri­mary School ap­pears to be one of the schools left stand­ing in Agatu in the af­ter­math of the cri­sis be­tween farm­ers and herders. This, ac­cord­ing to the head­mas­ter, Yakubu Damian Den­nis, was be­cause it was ini­tially used as a camp for mil­i­tary per­son­nel drafted to main­tain peace in Agatu.

Although the school was said to have also come un­der at­tack in the wake of the cri­sis, it was not set ablaze. How­ever, it was not com­pletely spared as the head­mas­ter said “the at­tack­ers broke some doors, van­dal­ized fur­ni­ture and carted away some books.”

The mil­i­tary per­son­nel later re­lo­cated from the school to an­other lo­ca­tion, mak­ing it pos­si­ble for school ac­tiv­i­ties to re­sume but things seem no longer the same there any­more.

Den­nis said the school lost 10 weeks be­fore re­sump­tion for the third term and the stu­dents’ pop­u­la­tion has re­duced as some par­ents have re­lo­cated their wards to other schools pre­sumed safer for fear of fur­ther at­tacks.

“Our school cal­en­dar has been dis­rupted by the cri­sis and we can­not meet the re­quired aca­demic per­for­mances. As you can see some of our pupils don’t even have uni­forms any­more,” he said.

Shehu Daudu, the com­mu­nity leader of Aila, called on the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties to ren­o­vate the RCM Pri­mary School and other schools in the com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by the vi­o­lence to en­able their chil­dren re­turn to school.

A visit to the af­fected ar­eas shows that pri­mary and sec­ondary school build­ings that were ei­ther de­stroyed or set ablaze dur­ing the cri­sis are still stand­ing in ru­ins thereby bring­ing school ac­tiv­i­ties to a halt.

Con­se­quently, some of the schools have been de­serted and over­grown by thick grasses mak­ing them habi­tats for rep­tiles and ro­dents. It was gath­ered that some pupils of the af­fected schools whose par­ents could not af­ford to re­lo­cate to schools in neigh­bour­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas have ei­ther taken to farm­ing or hawk­ing around the streets.

At the RCM Pri­mary School Akwu-Agatu, only the school’s sign­board is left stand­ing. The school was said to have been at­tacked by in­vad­ing herds­men in the wake of the cri­sis, who al­legedly set its build­ing aflame. A visit by our re­porter shows there were no ac­tiv­i­ties go­ing on in the school as the ad­min­is­tra­tive build­ing and blocks of class­rooms have been de­stroyed.

At the Ag­bad­uma Com­mu­nity Sec­ondary School and the Gov­ern­ment Ju­nior Sec­ondary School all lo­cated in Okokolo, it was a sorry sight as both schools have been over­taken by weed. The build­ings have also been re­duced to rub­ble. The sign­board at the Gov­ern­ment Ju­nior Sec­ondary School could hardly be seen as it is al­most buried in green grasses that have over­taken the school com­pound.

Etonu Peter, chair­man of Okokolo Elites Fo­rum, de­cried the state of pri­mary and sec­ondary schools in the area as a con­se­quence of the farm­ers/herders cri­sis. “There is no more school­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties be­cause the schools have been burnt down. Our chil­dren are now scat­tered all over as some par­ents have been com­pelled to re­lo­cate their wards to schools else­where,” Peter said while call­ing on gov­ern­ment to quickly re­ha­bil­i­tate the schools and other af­fected pub­lic util­i­ties such as clin­ics to al­le­vi­ate the suf­fer­ing of the peo­ple.

A youth at Adagbo, Dan­juma D. Dan­juma, said, “Now that we have re­turned to our homes af­ter tak­ing refuge at the IDP camps in neigh­bour­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas, we are still liv­ing in fear even as our younger ones are no longer go­ing to school. Gov­ern­ment should come to our aid by re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing the de­stroyed schools so that our younger ones can stop roam­ing the streets and re­turn to schools.”

Some chil­dren in the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties who have taken to hawk­ing along the streets say they were tired of stay­ing at home and would love to re­turn to school.

The vil­lage head of Adagbo, Og­boche James, also de­cried the im­pact of the farm­ers/herders con­flicts on child ed­u­ca­tion in the area and im­plored the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties to do the need­ful.

Gov­er­nor Sa­muel Or­tom de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion in Agatu and other places across the state af­fected by the farm­ers/herders cri­sis as a huge chal­lenge.

“Our chil­dren no longer go to school in these ar­eas. Pri­mary schools, hospi­tals, churches, houses, farms and eco­nomic trees have been de­stroyed. You have gone there and seen things for your­self and you can ap­pre­ci­ate the mag­ni­tude of the de­struc­tion that has taken place.

“So we’re call­ing on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and other good spir­ited in­di­vid­u­als or groups or NGOs to come in and sup­port the state. We are re­ally down. The state gov­ern­ment does not have the money to fund the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of these peo­ple and if help does not come from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and other good spir­ited in­di­vid­u­als, it is go­ing to be very dif­fi­cult for our peo­ple to set­tle down,” Or­tom said.

Burnt class­room in Gov­ern­ment Day Ju­nior Sec­ondary School, Okokolo

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