Given the vile herdsmen attacks on Benue communities that set off the full blast on New Year’s Day of 2018, the state can be tagged undeniably as the hub of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in the country.
A visit to some of the IDP camps was quite revealing. No doubt the state is littered with IDP camps housing close to two million persons, it was heartrending to discover that a huge number of those in the camps in obviously dire conditions were children who, aside from being displaced from their homes, have also suffered the dislocation of their education.
Official figures have it that over 800,000 Benue children are currently displaced and taking refuge in the camps and host communities across the state.
And of this number, according to the Executive Director of Community Links and Human Empowerment Initiative, CLHEI, Dr Helen Teghtegh, who works closely with the IDPs, not up to 10 per cent of the displaced children have any access to education.
Teghtegh noted that, aside from lack of access to education, most of the children in the camps have had to carry on without access to medical care.
She said, “It is as bad as that because it’s been a huge issue and a challenge that the state is burdened with.
“In terms of education with a population of over 800,000 children living in the camps as a result of the attacks, whatever effort that is ongoing is like a drop in an ocean.
“Greater numbers are still out of school. I only recently bought a form for a 16-year-old girl to write common entrance, who was out of primary school when she was 14 years due to the attacks.
“Her type is just loitering about and as a result, they are potential victims of traffickers. They are also exposed to early child marriage and child labour. “People also go to pick them as house helps. And in the course of that, some of them are abused sexually.
“I can also bet you that not up to 10 per cent of the displaced children are in school. Though there are one or two facilities set up in some camps which are not formal schools.
“At some point you see teachers go there, volunteers also go there for some time but when their resources are exhausted, because they have to transport themselves, they stop going to teach the children.
“Moreover it is not everybody that is enrolled. And this response in the camps is basically for primary school children. So the post-primary school children are suffering.
“Most of them cannot go to secondary school because their parents cannot afford it.
“And then of course those who managed to go through secondary school are not able to register for WAEC or NECO.
“Again, most of the camps have no clinics. So, when children come down with an ailment, those who have money would afford some medication but those who do not have to suffer the impact because the camps are much and the state government and partners cannot be in all at the same time because the burden is overwhelming without the intervention of the Federal Government.
“Regrettably the Federal Government has failed to pay attention to our situation in Benue.”