LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Emmanuel Benson was planning to get his diploma in horticulture and landscaping from Nigeria’s Federal College of Forestry Mechanization next year. Now, he’s not willing to risk the return to school, after he was kidnapped by bandits with dozens of others earlier this year.
“Our lives are at risk — Nigerian students, especially in Kaduna state where we are,” the 24-year-old said. As much as he wanted to complete his studies “the kidnapping and everything that is going on haven’t stopped yet ... staying here anymore doesn’t benefit anybody.”
Benson is among a growing group of Nigerian students seeking alternative solutions to their education that won’t further endanger them, as bandits in Nigeria’s northern states grow more ambitious, staging increased kidnappings of students for ransom.
At least 25 Nigerian students who spent nearly two months in the custody of gunmen in the country’s troubled northwest region are now putting resources together in the hopes of leaving the West African nation to study in another country, like the U.S., according to teachers and parents at the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization in the state of Kaduna.
Some of the students, as well as parents and teachers at the Kaduna college, told The Associated Press that after spending about seven weeks in captivity before regaining freedom in May, life hasn't remained the same. They fear pursuing an education in Nigeria, and they are now relying on the help of a school committee overseeing their application process for overseas education.
There are no clear plans yet on how that enrollment would work out, except that they are hoping for scholarship opportunities in the U.S. or elsewhere.
Nigeria is no longer an option for them because “the country is not safe,” according to Paul Yahaya, one of the 25 students.
Many families in Kaduna state say they now stay mostly indoors over fears of attacks. Ransoms are hefty, and in Nigeria, with a national poverty rate of 40%, parents are struggling.
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