NIGERIA – The Kaduna State government recently ordered the closure of Ffad Goshem Academy on Zonkwa Road, Kachia council area of the state, over alleged defilement of a four-year-old deaf and dumb girl by a yet-to-be-identified individual. This comes about six months after two Islamiyah schools were shut after a 12-year-old pupil was raped and impregnated by a teacher, and another 6-year-old was defiled.
Kaduna State has in recent times been in the news for the wrong reasons. If it wasn’t for arson and killings by terrorists, it would be for kidnappings of residents from their homes, or students from schools, or clerics from their homes or worship centers. These do not allow for effective development to take place in the state, or indeed in the larger Nigerian nation.
While we understand the outrage over alleged conduct of pedophiles, who possibly have been having a field day and might go on perpetrating their evil if not apprehended, it must be noted that sexually predatory behavior by adults is not a natural disaster: it is not beyond man to prevent. We see recurrent closure of schools as an ad hoc and knee-jerk reaction to a disaster of monumental proportions.
While pedophiles are all over the world, and by implication across Nigeria, the culture of child marriage and failure to swiftly prosecute people who violate the UN Child Rights Act and other child protection treaties and agreements, to which Nigeria is a signatory, contribute in no small way too little girls being abused.
Nigeria has about 18.5million out-of-school children, with about 69 percent of that number in the northern areas of this country and a majority of them girls. We wonder if leaders concerned fully appreciate the myriad of consequences illiteracy has – more so, that of young girls who would grow to become mothers. An illiterate population is a disaster to any nation, and to harbor millions of illiterate girl-children is a veritable nursery bed of underdevelopment.
Closing down schools where young girls are sexually violated is throwing out the baby with the bath water. Why would other children (and workers) in a school be punished for an action that could be prevented in the first instance? The Kaduna State government has a Schools Quality Assurance Authority. What exactly are their duties? How come pedophiles have access to children sent to school by parents? What do the schools do with security and due diligence?
It appears states like Kaduna aren’t taking a cue from the Ekiti and Lagos model of naming and shaming sexual offenders by establishing agencies to prosecute offenders and list them in a Sexual Offenders Register in ways that after serving jail terms, the public would avoid them and they would live forever with the stigma. We are yet to see such steps being taken – not just for cases of frontal rape, but rape dissembled as child marriage, which the UN and Nigerian laws frown at.