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The city fit for no-one: Inside the ruined ‘capital’ of the Islamic State group (2)

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Danger lies around corners and in the shadows. It comes from distant snipers, hidden bombs, and the deep tunnels that riddle the city. Even in areas that have been secured, IS can sneak back under the cover of darkness. The SDF has its own sniper unit. Four foreigners, from Germany, Spain, the US and the UK. A month ago, they were holed up in the old city, near the top of a building. It was getting dark, they were looking for any movement. They would wait for hours, then a shot would ring out – hopefully a kill.

“We’re always on the offensive,” says Jac Holmes, from Bournemouth. “Daesh are always defending so they’ve always got the advantage. This has been their city for however many years now so they know it better than we do. It’s been very hard.”

That night was particularly hard, the foreigners smelt smoke in the building.

“Daesh have worked out how to start fires very quickly, they creep inside the building and try to smoke us out,” Jac says.

They could hear the IS fighters moving, as the smoke grew thicker, they began firing downstairs. It was their only way of escape, but IS was waiting. They were trapped. But Jac and his unit had earlier found two IS suicide vests. They were rigged with detonation cords, like grenades. They pulled the cords and threw both vests downstairs into the smoke and the darkness. The explosion shook the building, Jac, says. “We don’t know how many we injured, they were all gone when we went down. The explosion was so big it put out the fire.”

I first met Jac two years ago near the Turkish border.

He was in hospital then, with a bandaged arm. It was an IS gunshot wound. He giggled about it at the time, appearing ill-equipped to be taking on IS. Before Syria, he had worked in IT. I wondered at the time how long it would be before he was killed. Jac has changed. The giggles are gone, his hair is longer, and he has a thick beard. He’s grown in stature. He won’t discuss how many IS fighters he has killed. “Why does everyone ask that?” he asks.

But what is it like to kill a man?

“You feel nothing,” he says, then pauses, “you feel excitement.”

His weapon is an M16 with a large scope. It isn’t ideal, but Jac says: “We are never that far away from them, maybe 400m [1,300ft], it’s very close on the front line.”

His wage is $100 (£75) a month.

He’s ambivalent towards the socialist ideology of the Kurds. Anything he needs, from food to clothing, is given for free. The $100 keeps him in energy drinks and cigarettes. His one credo, though, is his hatred of IS.

“The(sic) are a barbaric fascist terrorist organisation who essentially want to take over the world. If you don’t comply by their rules, they will kill you. It’s as simple as that.”

There are fewer direct attacks and car bombs in Raqqa than there were in Iraq’s Mosul. Here, it’s the snipers and the roadside bombs that do the work. Mostly, IS doesn’t move, but lies in wait.

As the men and women of the SDF’s Kobane brigade prepared for an operation near the city’s grain silos, they knew all of this, but still there will be surprises. Some look as young as boys. Barely hair on their top lips, they sit and load their magazines with ammunition. When I ask their age, they shake their head and smile. They know not to answer. Many of them are teenagers.

The commander is Shevgar Himo. He has just celebrated his 24th birthday inside Raqqa.

He’s half Arab, half Kurd, and is rarely without a tablet computer or new Samsung smartphone. Supplied by the Americans, they plot the IS retreat. His men are assembled, ahead lies a residential street, every house bombed, and IS still heading in the ruins. The target is the city’s grain silos, long held by IS and key ground because it gives the militants a high position over this part of the city. Shevgar Himo says: “The bulldozer is opening up the roads and the armoured vehicle is following behind. We are going to clean that area, then we will reach the other group of SDF that is attacking from the other side.”

IS will be squeezed between the SDF forces. Immediately, the SDF take incoming fire. But they keep in formation and ensure their fighters don’t bunch together. That would only invite a rocket attack from IS. One by one they cross open streets, under fire. IS bullets zip past, missing the heads of the fighters by only inches. At first things go to plan. Then comes the first surprise.

IS snipers are good. The armoured bulldozer is covered in bullet holes, including right in the centre of the windows of the operator. But IS knows where to hit. I hear a couple of shots ring out. They’ve taken out the bulldozer’s radiator, it’s leaking fluid and needs to leave to be repaired. The second bulldozer goes in, there’s another shot, and a “whoosh” of escaping air.

The IS sniper, hidden and invisible to the fighters, has shot off the valve on the tire. The fighters stand around and marvel at the accuracy of the shot. Bulldozer number two is now also out of action. So the fighters try a different approach. In minutes, at the end of a street, they plan a movement, half a dozen of them, including one armed with a rocket propelled grenade, to take out a sniper near a mosque. There Kurdish and Arab fighters work well together, but there are moments of confusion.

One Kurdish commander doesn’t speak Arabic, his Arab counterpart speaks no Kurdish. It takes a third person to translate. When I ask some of the fighters where they are from, they reply with a vague “Rojava”, the Kurdish controlled area of northern Syria. But it seems they are not local. The suspicion is that some of the best fighters here are PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Loathed by the Turkish government, it is also designated a terrorist organisation by the West. But here in Raqqa, they are some of the most effective ground troops in the battle. The fighters at the end of the street launch their attack on the sniper position, the noise is deafening, and the firing barely ceases for a second. Under the cover of fire, the fighter with the RPG, runs into the middle of street and fires at the IS position.

Some more gunfire, then silence.

But as I turn the corner to leave to get into the armoured vehicle, the sniper opens up again. About half a dozen shots, I hear them whistle past me, two smack into the wall. No-one is hurt. A boom of an air strike rattles the street and the sniper is finally killed. All of this for barely half a mile of street, but the fighters are closer to the silos now. The next day, they take them and a large swathe of Raqqa is back under SDF control. IS had promised to grow a new empire from these streets. Instead, the bodies of its fighters clog the gutters. Every few hundred metres, there is another one. Some cut in half, some still with their weapons.

Two men were hiding in a building doorway, but they were spotted.

They lie dead where they stood, one, his legs sliced from his body.

The fins of the missile that killed them stick out of the concrete pavement. There are scorch marks at the building’s entrance. An Arab fighter, with a skull and crossbones patch on his uniform, steps over the bodies, he has to check the building for booby traps. As he passes the dead fighters, he greets them, wryly: “Allah, bel kheir [May God make your evening full of good].” The fighters around laugh. The SDF forces document each corpse on their phones and tablet computers. They think it is mostly foreign fighters left inside Raqqa now. When I ask how many, most seem to agree: 400, no more.

A tiny number making a last stand, but holding the might of the SDF and coalition at bay, and ensuring that what’s left of Raqqa continues to be destroyed.

“We won’t leave until the city turns into another Kobane. You’ll only leave Raqqa when the last of us dies.”

Abu Muath Al Tunisi, IS fighter, Raqqa.

 

For four months Raqqa has been the battleground in the war of annihilation against the Islamic State. It is also a victim, broken and barely alive. The map on the SDF commander’s smartphone has a red square, it slopes at the bottom, passes Raqqa’s stadium and hospital and extends a few kilometres north.

It’s all that’s left of IS territory. It’s in this area – little more than five sq km (1.9 sq miles) – where the battle for Raqqa will end. The Kurds are confident of victory. Already they are sending fighters to another front with IS, to the city of Deir al-Zour, further south. Air strikes inside the red box have lessened in recent days. It’s where most civilians remain. Jac Holmes, the British SDF sniper, is in no doubt the air power was necessary.

“It’s made a huge difference. I mean, without them we would never have got this far. Let alone take Raqqa”.

The Islamic State’s remaining fighters are said to be mostly foreigners, from central Asia, they have no love for the city, nor its people.

They’ll gladly see it destroyed.

It serves their propaganda purposes too. Here, they will say, Western bombs destroyed an ancient Arab city.

In nearby Tabqa, I met Ismail Al Ali.

“Raqqa’s citizens have paid the price,” he says in broken English. “Their city is destroyed. Raqqa has paid the price for all the world”.

Nearby, a grandmother wipes her tears with her headscarf and says: “We left our beloved people, our children, everything behind, we know nothing about them. We only need to go back to Raqqa, we don’t need anything, we will stay in tents in the streets.” They haven’t yet seen what’s left of their city. When they do, they will likely ask, did so much of their beloved Raqqa have to be destroyed, so that it could be saved?

Special Report

Nigerian Govt’s Crocodile Tears Over Rwandan Genocide: Saying No To Another Bloody Match To Kigali In Nigeria

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A photo of Rwandan genocide used to depict the story [Photo credit: NPR - npr.org]

Nigeria is likely the next target of the second coming genocide on African Continent unless the country reverses itself through its present central political leaders from another ‘bloody match to Kigali’. Intersociety holds that the circumstances or factors that led to the Rwandan Genocide of April to July 1994 are very much visible in Nigeria under the present political dispensation.

Genocide in the world over does not erupt overnight; rather it is hatched over a long or short period of time until it explodes. It can be protagonist or antagonist and in the case of Nigeria, there are already silent antagonist genocides ongoing. They emanate from the central Government of Nigeria through deliberately designed hash policies targeted at certain ethnic nationalities and religious groupings and Government backed non-state actor violent entity-the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen.

Specifically, there are Government genocidal policies against Shiite Muslims, Northern Christian minorities and citizens of Eastern Nigeria; all perpetrated through the hydra-headed monster policies of structural, physical and cultural violence. Such Government genocidal policies are systematically executed through policies of structural, physical and cultural violence including political exclusion, imbalanced security appointments, militarization, militarism, racial profiling and discrimination and cultural or identity stigmatization or degradation.

There is also Government backed non-state silent genocide through systematic massacre by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen of members of Christian faith in Northern Nigeria. In all these, the affected ethnic nationalities and religious groupings are likely in a verge of exhausting their patience and toleration. Running out of patience and toleration could catastrophically and calamitously lead to radical vengeance or reprisals; leading to war of anyone’s enemy against anyone or everybody’s enemy against everybody (genocide); defying controls through Government and its military and even humanitarian agencies until it reaches a point of exhaustion. The above symbolizes the Rwandan Genocide of April to July 1994.

Therefore, the 2019 25th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide is unique in Nigeria not only because it raised domesticated awareness and concerns in the country, but particularly because of the crocodile tears shaded by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The 25th Anniversary was marked with the Government of Nigeria sending its Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, to Kigali to join others in saying “never again to genocide in Africa”; yet signs are obviously everywhere that the same central Government of Nigeria is warily or unwarily breeding or condoning the breed of same genocide in the country.

Having studiously followed the patterns and trends of the Rwandan/Burundian politics since 1990s through our Board Chair (with verse knowledge in international affairs),Intersociety is not a newcomer in matters that caused the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 and the pre Genocide massacres or killings that took place in Rwandan and Burundi dating back to 1966 after their partitioning and independence from Belgium in 1962 and afterwards. We are aware, too, of the violent roles of the military in the political crises of Rwanda and Burundi and acutely disproportionate gaps between the population of Hutus (84%) and Tutsis (15%) and devastating roles played by the former using “population superiority” and consequent “balance of terror” strategies adopted by the latter using asymmetric military superiority and domination.

We are also fully grounded with circumstances that led to the abolition of monarchies in the two countries few years after their independence, the existing identical tribes of Hutu, Tutsi and Twi in Rwanda and Burundi, the favoritism policy of the Belgian colonial masters towards Tutsis owing to their reported historical links with the Israel’s Ham tribe, the ancient agrarian rift between the Hutus (crop farmers) and Tutsis (cow and livestock farmers) and regimentation, militarization and radicalization of the rift by Hutu and Tutsi political extremists; the disadvantageous economic, political and military structure control by Tutsis courtesy of the Belgian colonial masters, to mention but few.

In the Rwandan Genocide proper, which saw the death of 800,000-1m Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days (7th April-21st July 1994) and additional post Genocide death of over 200,000 mainly in neighboring refugee camps owing to diseases and rival rebel attacks; Intersociety is not unaware of the conspiratorial roles of “the three musketeers”(France, UK and Belgium) as well as the Catholic Church through its heartless nuns in the Genocide. The butchery was so brutish, total and exhaustive that the then Commander of the RPF rebels, now President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, told a foreign radio station that had asked him to explain why the killings suddenly stopped “that the killings have stopped not because of changing of heart but because there are few people left to be killed”.

Genocide Does Not Erupt Overnight

The Rwandan Genocide was bred or hatched over a long period of time with decades of butcheries caused by Tutsi and Hutu led coups and counter-coups, election rigging crises, political segregation and exclusion as well as acute domination of economic resources and political offices. The undue favoring by the Belgian colonial masters of the Tutsi population and their elevation to the two countries’ plum positions including key military posts had forced the majority Hutu population to resort to group violence-leading to structural, physical and cultural violence against the Tutsi population. The Tutsis were stigmatized (cultural violence) as “cockroaches” that must be cleansed or wiped out (“nettover”).

The Tutsis retaliated through their stronghold of the military by launching several military coups and putsch killings targeting Hutu political and military leaders and officers. There were counter-retaliations and massacres organized by Hutu political leaders and extremists, forcing Tutsi population to flee en masse into Uganda and other neighboring countries where they settled as refugees. Such massacres were reported to have taken place in 1966, 1972 and 1978; running into 1980s. While in refugee camps, Tutsi and Hutu refugees formed or joined rebel groups in countries like former Zaire (Congo DRC) and Uganda.

In Uganda, the generation of current President Paul Kagame of Rwanda had belonged to Rwandan Tutsi citizens who fled their country to escape the 1972 and 1978 Hutu organized massacres and settled as refugees in Uganda; from where they were conscripted into the National Resistance Movement (NRM) of the then Ugandan Rebel leader, but now President Yoweri Museveni and assisted him to overthrow the then Ugandan military Government of Generals Tito and Basilo Okello in 1986.

The Tutsis were so visible in the Museveni’s NRM that his earliest Chief of Army was a Tutsi refugee and senior rebel/military colleague of current President Paul Kagame, who rose to become a Brig Gen in Ugandan Army under Museveni. Together they formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) that ended the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 through their “famous match to Kigali” from the Ugandan-Rwandan borders; forming the present economic reformative but dictatorial Government headed by him in Rwanda since July 1994, a period of 25 years.

From the above, therefore, factors that led to the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 are also very visible in Nigeria; meaning that Genocide is loading in the country unless such destructive factors are constructively addressed or totally eliminated. It is a clear case of crocodile tears for hatchers of state actor and non-state actor genocide to join the rest of the world in marking the remembrance of one of the most calamitous human tragedies of the recent times in faraway Rwanda. Religocide and ethnocide are the most dangerous and intractable types of genocide; more dangerous and intractable than war genocide. And the two are being hatched in Nigeria under the present central Government headed by Retired Major Gen Muhammadu Buhari and Prof Yemi Osinbajo.

Under the Buhari/Osinbajo Administration since June 2015, Nigeria has become one of the most dangerous countries for professing Christianity and Traditional Religion. Right to ethnic identity including ethnic minority is also under serious threat in Nigeria. The Administration has provided insecurity and other unsafe conditions for Christian Ethnic Minorities in Northern Nigeria. The Administration has also encouraged or directly introduced imbalanced citizenship including lopsided constituency delineation, creation of scanty polling centers, voter deprivation and intimidation and disproportionate security or police protection ratios, etc against Nigerian citizens of Northern Christian origins and southern Christians residing in Northern Nigeria particularly those of Eastern Nigeria comprising Southeast and South-south.

The just held 2019 Presidential Poll has also thrown up or singled out Nigeria as one of the most dangerous countries to cast a presidential vote as a minority Christian or Igbo Christian residing in the North or Southwest. The Poll saw the places dominated by Igbo Christians in Lagos and other parts of Southwest as well as Kano and Nasarawa’s Sabon Gari, Jos, Jalingo, Maiduguri, Kaduna and other Igbo Christian dominated areas of the North being heavily militarized leading to Government hired thugs and brigands raining the areas with sundry electoral violence including burning of polling centers, tearing of ballot papers, snatching of ballot boxes, prevention and intimidation of voters, etc.

It was so bad that Government and its officials or its movers and shakers came out boldly to claim responsibility and even went to the extent of shutting down major Igbo dominated markets; threatening them with death and loss of properties (wares) unless they vote for Government candidates or stay away from voting. During the Governorship poll in Lagos, for instance, many, if not most Igbo registered voters stayed away from voting to avoid death or loss of their properties. In Plateau State, Igbo traders in Jos stayed off their shops for several days, if not weeks for fear of Government oiled post-election violence; likewise in Jalingo, Taraba State, to mention but few.

The national security policy of the present central Government of Nigeria is only comparable to that of a failed State. The policy not only defies modern day definition but it is also analogous and genocide friendly. Despite human security concept that rules modern democratic world, Nigeria’s national security concept begins with militarism and militarization and ends in ethnic chauvinism and religious bigotry. The Buhari and Osinbajo’s national security policy is so downgraded that mental-man-machine security which rules today’s securitization world, is strange and alien to the same Government or Administration.

Over 17,850 lives have been lost since the present central Government of Nigeria came to power in mid-2015. The deaths involve 2,403 Government killings (Christians, Shiites and Xian/Muslim Women and Children), 6,250 (Xians killed by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen), 4,600 mostly Muslims (killed by Zamfara Islamic Bandits including 3,526 killed in Zamfara and over 1000 killed along Birnin Gawari and its environs in Kaduna) and 4,600 Christians and collateral Muslims deaths killed by Boko Haram insurgents and allied others.

The number of those killed under street criminal activities such as armed robbery, abduction/kidnapping, murder, campus and street cultism, rape and preventable industrial and auto crashes is in thousands annually and tens of thousands since June 2015; likewise numbers killed in communal strife and those who died owing to excessive use of force by the Police especially the operatives of Police special squads like SARS, CID, Anti Cult, etc. Put together, they are in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands since June 2015.

Genocide in the world over erupts when hatched by non state actor elements and encouraged by the sitting Government such as in the case of present Nigerian Government and its protected Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen. Genocide can also erupt when bred by a sitting Government using and skyrocketing ethnic divisions and religious bigotry all layered in the policies of structural, physical and cultural violence.

Structural violence is represented by political exclusion and segregation while physical violence is a Government policy of using deadly or excessive force against targeted unarmed and defenseless citizens on the basis of their ethnicity and faith; leading to their mass death and maiming. Cultural violence is done through Government hate speech or cultural policy including false labeling or stigmatization of particular citizens on the ground of their ethnicity or religion or degradation of their citizenship to “second or third class”.  In all these, the present central Government of Nigeria headed by Buhari and Osinbajo is fully or inescapably liable.

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Health

New fears over animal tuberculosis infection in Nigeria

– over 10% of cows and 43% of herds have tuberculosis

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Photo of an abattoir in Nigeria used to illustrate the story [Photo credit: Guardian NG]

Photos of uncooked meat, sold in some markets in Nigeria, capture a rising threat to public health coming from indiscriminate slaughter and consumption of animals infected with tuberculosis. The photos are emerging barely three years after a study by World Data Atlas showed that tuberculosis death rate of Nigeria had increased from 60 cases per 100,000 people in 2002 to 62 cases per 100,000 people in 2016, recording an annual death rate of 0.28 %. A similar study by researchers at the Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ibadan, conducted between 2013 and 2015 revealed that in Nigeria, over 10 percent of cows and 43 percent of herds have tuberculosis.

TB infected meat

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), despite the significant progress made over the last decades, TB continues to be a top infectious killer disease worldwide, claiming over 4,500 lives a day. Nigeria is one of the countries on the list of 30 high burden TB, TB/HIV and MDR-TB countries as compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Nigeria emerged 7th amongst the high TB burden countries globally and 2nd in Africa. The problem of TB in Nigeria has been made worse by the issues of drug-resistant tuberculosis and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. With animal tuberculosis thrown into the mix, there can only be a rising index.

How TB is transmitted from animal to human

Ms Daphne Peter Habila, a Veterinary Doctor with Paws and Claws Consult, Abuja

Tuberculosis can be transmitted from animal to animal, animal to human and human to animal, according to Ms Daphne Peter Habila, a veterinary doctor with Paws and Claws Veterinary Consult in Abuja who spoke to SATELLITE TIMES.

“Animal tuberculosis is a disease caused by organisms belonging to the family Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex(MTC). It affects animals such as cattle, sheep, goat, dog, birds, horses and even wild animals such as buffalo, bison, elk, lions, etc. The disease is zoonotic – which means it can be transmitted from animals to humans, humans to animals, as well as between humans and between animals. Tuberculosis is a highly communicable disease and humans can become infected when they consume unpasteurized dairy products from infected animals, raw or undercooked infected meat, when there is a break in the skin and the organism finds its way into the body and through inhalation of the organism from an infected animal.”

Difference between human to human TB and animal to human TB

“The major difference between human to human and animal to human TB is the species of Mycobacterium organism involved and their routes of transmission. Tuberculosis is life-threatening but often not treated in animals. Although the primary organism responsible for human tuberculosis is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, humans can equally be infected with other species such as Mycobacterium bovis which causes bovine tuberculosis in cattle and is equally fatal in humans especially when an individual is immune-suppressed.”

Identifying TB infected meat

TB infected meat

“A TB infected organ can be identified by the appearance of whitish nodules on the surface (resembling small stones) which makes a gritty sound (like cutting through sand) when a knife is used to cut through the meat. Nigerians should be educated on the dangers of consuming TB infected products by knowing how to identify TB infected tissues using the characteristic nodules (as shown in the picture above).”

Intervention

 “Since animal tuberculosis is equally as fatal as human tuberculosis, intervention should be aimed at controlling and ultimately eradicating the diseases in both animal and human populations. In animals, the test and slaughter policy, that is meat inspection at abattoirs, should be strictly implemented; humans who are more at risk such as veterinarians, herders, butchers, should be periodically screened, tested, and positive persons treated. Very importantly, infants should be given the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine early in life. Also, there should be regular surveillance of both human and animal population alike. Workers at slaughterhouses should regularly be educated on the dangers of consuming and selling infected animal products.

And the government should consider paying compensation to those whose animals will be condemned as a result of TB infection, the same way compensations were paid to poultry farms affected by bird flu.”

Animal TB and HIV/AIDS interventions

Steve Aborisade [Photo credit: Mr Aborisade’s Facebook page]

According to the WHO, HIV-infected people are 30 times more likely to contract TB than those who have not acquired HIV. In trying to understand what happens when TB comes first before HIV, SATELLITE TIMES spoke to Steve Aborisade, the Advocacy and Marketing Manager at AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).  Aborisade said that if TB comes first, it can impact on HIV in the sense that a high prevalence of TB can lead to more incidences of new HIV infection.

 “Any condition resulting in weakened immunity automatically makes HIV transmission highly probable. TB is, however, an opportunistic infection in people living with HIV, but they are prone to getting TB because of their low immunity. Getting TB in animals is not impossible but rare of the incidences we have. Naturally, millions of people have latent TB in them but not active TB, and it can be anybody since it is airborne. But it may become active once the immunity is weakened by malnutrition, alcoholism and other diseases.

“We have very effective treatment even though we are now faced with multi-drug resistance TB. I think the angle of TB from consumption of animals should be carefully handled, not to create unnecessary panic for a disease which little is known by majority of the people,” Aborisade cautioned.

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Special Report

Yelwan: A community where trees are classrooms

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As the number of out of school children surge across the country, many communities with no presence of educational infrastructure, now turn to tree shades as learning centre. Satellite Times visit to communities in Nassarawa State reveal the harrowing experiences of children who travel several kilometers every day to get education.

Sa’adatu Umar is 15-years old. Her first school experience was July 2016, then; she was 14. Like other children in Yelwan community, education is an unnecessary luxury.  No child is enrolled into formal school in Yelwan, parents looked eager to put their wards into school but there are no schools in the community. The closest primary school is about 5 kilometers away on a bushy, lonely and dangerous path.

“We only need a normal classroom to be built for our children” says Mallam Adbulahi, the community head of Yelwan. Abdulahi points to an open space where community school can be sited.

There are more than 200 children who are not enrolled in school, the request to site a school in the community has not been heeded, the community have written to Keffi Local government, they have appealed to prominent politicians in neighbouring town who only visits during election, no one has responded to their call for educational shelter but determined to give hope to the children, the community heads tasked each household a sum of 1000 naira per month. This contribution enabled them purchase writing materials – black boards, mats and a 3,000 naira stipend to a volunteer teacher.

With no shelter yet, about 200 yearning children who had never been to school are excited to have a chance at education even if it is offered under the shades of trees. “About 90 children rushed to take a front spot at the ‘new’ Yelwan primary school on the first day of school’ remarks Adbulahi, an elderly community head.

Even Abdulahi, not sure of his own real age but wished he had a chance at education, he explained how his lack of education had cost him a decent life. “If I had attended school, I would have been a big man today” Abdulahi said through an interpreter. Every strand of his wrinkled face bares his pain “I now know the value of education and we are determined to get this children education” said Abdulahi.

The ‘new’ Yelwan School is sheltered under two large trees. The two large trees represent class A and class B.

When Satellite Times asked the Musa Muazu, the social welfare officer at the Keffi Local government, he admitted that the local government had received requests for shelter but there were no funding for the request. “We are aware of the situation here, when we got their request and visited, we decided to make recommendation to the State Universal Basic Education, SUBEC.” Said Muazu.

Musa Muazu, Social Welfare Officer, Keffi, Nassarawa State

Yelwan community is a reflection of the poor state of education in Keffi, many public schools visited were in dilapidated conditions with overcrowded classrooms, poor ventilation, open or leaking roof. There is deficiency of both physical and mental infrastructure. The teaching staff too are least qualified, delivering lecture in local Hausa dialect.

In Keffi, the sight of children wandering barefooted in torn clothing and clutching empty stained food bowl dots the town. For a state that has signed the Child Right Law, it is disturbing to observe an open disregard for that law.  It appears that families are only concerned about their own children and government about politics, not the people.

Knowing the power of traditional institutions, Muazu through the Social Welfare Department once engaged the Emir of Keffi, one of the most revered traditional ruler in the state “We are using our traditional rulers to ensure that children go to school, no matter the condition of the school, we will play our role and hope that the government will play their role of providing infrastructure” he said, narrating how the Emir of Keffi has become an advocate of child education.

As reported, a man had shipped 27 children into Keffi from Katsina under the guise of enrolling them into an Islamic school. However, his real intention was to make the children make money for him.  So he put them out on the street, handed them a bowl each and issued a daily target for food and money.

Luck ran out on him after he physically abused one of the children. The news got to the Social Welfare Officer who reported the incidence to the Emir of Keffi. The outraged members of the emirate council ordered a public punishment to serve as a deterrent. The man was whipped in the public and the children were withdrawn from the street and reunited with their parents in Katsina.

Abugye Community

Like Yelwan, Abugye community too has no school shelter. This community is in Keana local government, lafia, Nassarawa State.

The road to Abugye community is rough and dangerous. This community seats in the heart of a thick forest. There are no electricity, no clean water, no medical centre and no access to mobile telephone signal.

Abugye is home to more than 300 school age children, some of whom have been withdrawn from school because of the pain of travelling 3 kilometers to the nearest school.

“You can live here without money” says Yahaya Ibrahim, 37, the spokesperson of the community who claim he has not used money for exchange of any goods or services. “I have not used money for more than 2years, everything we need is here” he enthused.

The community may have everything they require for their nomadic lifestyle but it is lacking in the essentials for building their minds and their future. They lack schools for their children.

Adama Yahaya treks 3 kilometers everyday to school. She hurriedly makes her way through the rocky; narrow path that leads to the nearest primary school in Abugye, a fulani community in Keana Local government area of Nassarawa State.

Adama Yahaya

 

Adama is 7 but she does the chores of an adult. Her day begins as early as 5am. She accompanies her young mother to the stream to fetch water, she combs through the woods to fetch fire wood and by 7am, she begins a long journey to school.

Adama is one of the few girls in the community whose parents refused to withdraw from school. “She is very smart” says her 37 years old father of 8 children.  “I want to become a teacher, so that I can teach a lot of children in my community” Adama said with glittering smile.

Satellite Times learnt that many children of school age do not attend school in Abugye community because of the long distance and the fear of exposing the children to reptile attack.

The rate of child neglect and abandonment in Keana is high; it gives an idea of the real situation in Nigeria.

In 2003, the Child Right Act was signed into Law; it was also domesticated in about 24 States of the federation.

Still, more than 10 million children are out of school in Nigeria, the rate of abandonment, high incidences of child abuse, public and institutional disregard to the rights of vulnerable children and neglect remain constantly on rise.

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