In the outskirts of Benue lies Gbajimba Internal Displaced Person (IDP) Camp in Guma Local Government Area with hundreds of teenagers whose lives have been altered beyond their intuition.
Can their lives ever get back to the way it was before farmers and headers clashed, which hurled them out of the lifestyle they once knew to that of the unknown and an unpredictable future?
Although Gbajimba IDP camp was created in 2018 by the Benue State government and is operated and managed by the State Emergency Authority (SEMA) headed by Emmanuel Shior, teenagers in the camps are out of school.
For 13-year-old Umege, life took a drastic turn after her hometown Tormatar, Gbajimba in Guma was invaded by headers on December 31, 2018.
Gbajimba soon became home for her, her siblings and her injured mother.
Recall that the primary fallout of the perennial conflicts between cattle herders and crop farmers in Benue State over the years is the increase of internally displaced persons in the state and its attendant effects on young children, especially the girl-child.
Recounting how the once serene life she knew was snatched and exchanged with uncertainty, Msena said: “We were attacked on new year’s eve, in 2018 and since then I have been staying in Gbajimba IDP camp with my mother.
“It is a very traumatising experience; I lost my father and my elder brother during the crisis. I am left with my mother who is having issues with her leg because she was shot on her right leg and till now her leg is still bad.”
Explaining further, Msena said, “For four years, we have lived here and we haven’t been able to go back to our homes because we are scared.
“Those that made efforts to go back home failed. Some of our brothers who insisted on going back home were attacked and killed in their farmlands. The fear of going back to our various homes is still there.
“Even though the government and non-governmental organisations are trying to send in food items to us, it is still not enough for us. Most of us are not yet going to school again. Our education has been affected. As you can see, they just created a few classrooms for the younger ones so that they will be taught the basic things of education.
“Those of us who have passed the age of primary school are not in school. There is no means to further education and no one to sponsor us. Our parents are poor farmers and the crisis that is going on in our land, nowhere to get funds to fund our education. Those of us who are willing to go to school should be given the privilege to further our education.
“I am calling on the government to put in more effort to ensure that the crises come to an end so that we can go back to our normal lives and various activities.”
“Apart from people coming to support us, what we do to survive now is that people hire us to go and work in their close-by farm lands. From what we are paid, we buy the small ingredients to cook and earn a living. We call on Nigerians to come to our aids.”
Despite the specific provisions of the Nigeria constitution, Section 15(1) of the act states, “Every child has the right to free, compulsory and universal basic education and it shall be the duty of the government in Nigeria to provide such education”, many teenagers like Msena Umege in IDP camps are currently out of school with no hope of returning back to school except the government takes drastic steps to address the issue of insecurity in the state.
Government, NGO collaboration
Speaking on steps the government should take to address some of the issues at the IDP camps in Benue, Huna Aondona Samuel, Program Coordinator, First Step Action for Children Initiative task government to come up with development plan for education on Emergency by providing infrastructure to creat a conducive environment for learning. Recruit teachers in the schools establish in IDP camps
“Government should introduce free education in Emergency to ensure that there is no break in education.”
Beyond advocating for development plan or policy on education in emergency nonGovernmental Organisation should provide educational materials, supply of WAsH facilities in all the schools provide by government.”
Apart from education, irregular feeding is also major challenge faced by teenagers in Gbajimba Internal Displaced Person (IDP) Camp.
Like Msena Umege, 14-year-old Msendoo Mfanyi, from Aplela community in Guma Local Government Area, revealed that life hasn’t been the same since their community was invaded by headers.
According to Msendoo, “I am here at the camp because Fulani herdsmen chased us out of our village. After they invaded our village, my family and I are taking refuge in the camp. The government provides feeding for us, but it is not regularly. The food is not available all the time. We work in government farmlands that are close by. From what we are paid, we buy the small ingredients to cook,” she added.
Also 10-year-old Kumasoon Ajege, a native of Ukongu, Usenda in Guma Local Government Area revealed that he was in the camp because his community was displaced by Fulani herdsmen.
“We haven’t been able to get back to our village, they have been bringing food for us but it is not always.”
Human rights activists, and coordinator NOPRIN, Emmanuel Ikule, an Indigene of Benue state, strongly believe that there is so much the government should do in terms of providing security for the needed population. Learning with an empty stomach is not possible. So the displaced population should be supported with food to aid them to concentrate.”
According to Ikule, “a child can only learn in a secure environment. Government should liaise with SUBEB to provide a curriculum and teachers who will educate those IDP camps.
“If the government provides the above within a duration of three to six months, they can start working on the integration, and resettlement of IDPs for return to their places of abode. The government should also work with local leaders to rebuild, rehabilitate school structures that were destroyed.
“Also civil society, that work in health, education, psychosocial, and livelihood should volunteer their expertise to complement the efforts of the government.
“There is a need for donor agencies too to support the above non-governmental organisations with needed funds to work better.
“Also, CSOs in the education sector can support education with scholarships to serious-minded students. Alternative education/ vocational training also should be available to complement the conventional schools in place.”
Liambee David Age, Mimidoo Initiative for Empowerment and Development (MIED) noted that civil society organisations should provide counselling support and other alternatives for IDPs interested in vocational skills and business training.
“Organisations should collaborate with the Civil Society organisations to provide support and follow up on IDPs for effective implementations.
“Government should support the IDPs teachers and also provide other support from the ministry of education with more teachers and effective processes to ensure IDPs are not left out of school
“If resources are available with a good monitoring system to ensure sustainability and continuity of the process I think this will help. Because resources might be wrongly used, at first.”