The Benue state Commissioner for Education, Tarnongo Saawuan, has disclosed that herdsmen have closed over 30 primary and 10 secondary schools in the state.The commissioner attributed the closure to incessant attacks on Benue communities.
Tarnongo stated this in a chat with newsmen in his office in Makurdi. He lamented that as a result of the development children running into thousands are out of school. He noted that insecurity was one of the biggest challenges bedeviling the education sector in the state, as over 18 Local Government Areas (LGA) have been affected by attacks by herdsmen.
“But people refer to it and journalists are made to report it as herders/farmers clashes. But I would like to say that there is nothing like herders/farmers clashes. The farmers are not fighting the herders.
“A situation where you sit in your home at night and people invade your community and kill at will cannot be classified as herders/farmers clashes. They are simply terrorists and people who want to chase us out and take over our land and in so doing, the majority of our schools in these local governments are under lock and key. They do not operate.
“As much as we want the majority of our Benue children to have access to education, a lot of them are out of school; go to Guma, Agatu, Gwer West, Kwande LGs, and even in Makurdi, you cannot access the schools. The schools have been down for a number of sessions; for a number of years and it has affected us in Benue.
“There are over 30 primary schools that have been closed down and more than 10 secondary schools are also affected with quite a number of children going into thousands that cannot access schools in their places.”
The education commissioner, who also noted that the education sector was challenged by inadequate funding following a series of recessions and the COVID-19 pandemic said as a result of that, the ministry was unable to meet up with most of its programmes.
Tarnongo however, expressed enthusiasm that, despite the challenges, the state government under Governor Samuel Ortom, through the ministry under his watch provided the needed manpower required for the schools, especially in the primary and secondary schools in the state.
He explained that the ministry, under his watch, got the state Executive Council to approve the recruitment of over 5,000 teachers for both primary and secondary schools and technical schools inclusive.
According to him, the state is enjoying the World Bank Fund for the acquisition of six project ideas in which three technical schools in Benue will benefit to the tune of N800million for each of the schools including Government Science and Technical School, Gbajimba, Guma LGA, in Zaki Biam of Ukum LGA and one in Otukpo.
The commissioner said the ministry has also waged a war on the proliferation of illegal schools in Benue state and has gone ahead to close some of the illegal schools operating in the state to bring sanity to the education system.
He described education as the bedrock of development and one area that should be taken seriously.
The commissioner said, “My prayer is that anybody coming to man the education sector as a commissioner should be one that has a passion for the development of education generally.
“And for the upliftment of the standard of education, he should be concerned with what our children get to prepare them to face the future and be able to compete with their peers globally.
“I would expect that anybody who is coming after me would ensure that quality education is given to our children and by so doing, he will be doing justice to not only the children but to humanity in general because quality manpower reduces vices in the society.”