Existing in a zone consumed by a spate of violence, hundreds of Southern Kaduna children have lost their homes and now staying at displacement camps where their hope is unclear. Tehillah Davou, now 10 years old, is one such child.
A few years ago, she joined thousands of children uprooted by deadly ethic-violence overwhelming communities in Southern Kaduna. She and several other kids were then relocated to displacement camps in the zone with no access to basic amenities of life, including schools. At age 7 in 2020, however, Tehillah would become an ambassador of basic education, fundraising millions for displaced kids like herself in the southern part of Kaduna.
How did a helpless kid become a fundraiser of muli-millions?
BRINGING SCHOOLS CLOSER TO IDP KIDS
In 2020, amidst the covid-19 pandemic, communities in Southern Kaduna came under several terror attacks, ranging from farmer-herder scuffles to ethic-cleansing, banditry and insurgency. Sadly, a number of residents lost their lives, homes and properties and survivors among them were resettled in displacement camps.
Children caught in this war zone were left without help in their new settlements. Most of their parents could hardly put food on tables for them let alone send them to schools or give them things to upscale their childhood lives. But the House of Justice, a Kaduna-based non-governmental organisation, came to their rescue — a development that changed the story of many of the children, including Tehillah.
The original plan of this organisation was to host its annual House of Justice Summit and Banquet but the pandemic lockdown stopped them. “On the advice of Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, the Chairman of the International Advisory Board of the Molluma Yakubu Centre for Medical Law and Mass Atrocities Prevention Center at the House of Justice, we decided to look at how we could be socially responsive to the plight of our immediate environment,” said Gloria Ballason, the Chief Operating Officer and Director of the think-tank.
“We, therefore, launched the N100 million Southern Kaduna Resilience Fund (SKARF) project to provide education and psychosocial support and assist in rebuilding homes for IDPs in Southern Kaduna,” she added.
‘STOPPING TODAY’S VICTIMS FROM BECOMING TOMORROW’S COMBATANTS’
The N100 million Southern Kaduna Resilience Fund (SKARF) project, as findings revealed, targets children from terror-affected communities in Southern Kaduna. The reason for targeting terrorised children for help is not far-fetched. Since 2014, terror attacks have gone beyond the control of the government in some areas of Kaduna State, including the southern part.
Now, the combined effect of terrorism from Boko Haram, herdsmen, wide-scale kidnapping and the failure of the government to uphold its responsibility to protect citizens has seen an escalation in community casualties and displacement which also has led to massive disruption in education.
Unlike the narratives of helplessness and lost hope pushed by a section of the Nigerian media on the ravaging crisis rocking the southern parts of Kaduna, there are several citizen-driven projects providing succour to victims of terror attacks. The House of Justice’s intervention is one of many citizen-driven organisations helping to mitigate the effects of terror attacks in the state.
“House of Justice has come in to fill the gaps by taking education to victims and meeting them wherever they are visually and virtually,” Ms Ballason.
How does this organisation restore hope and dignity for IDPs and affected communities in Southern Kaduna?
“We have set up schools in the IDP camps; we run schools on radios, hold academic camps and competitions for pupils and learners in affected communities and disseminate thousands of educational materials across these communities,” said the director. “We are invested in ensuring that today’s victims do not become tomorrow’s combatants due to government neglect or despondency.”
SOUTHERN KADUNA’S TRAJECTORY OF TERROR
More than three decades ago, Kaduna, a state in Nigeria’s northwest region, started witnessing deadly religious and ethnic profilings causing a spate of bloodshed and endless violence, according to historical records.
In Kaduna, the Hausa-Fulani residents are the majority in the northern part. Meanwhile, people from Southern Kaduna mostly practice the Christian religion — with some diversity in tribes and language. But the Hausa-Fulani people of the state are mostly Muslims.
Their diversity in religion, ethnicity, tradition and landmarks was turned into adversity resulting in communal war and bloodletting. Thousands of lives and homes have been ruined in the violence traced back to the 1980s and reached its peak in 1992. The trend of terror continued even in the 2000s.
In 2011, for example, election violence propelled by the communal war led to the killing of over 500 humans in the Southern Kaduna zone yet the violence would not end soon. The terror perpetrators become brazen so much that in 2016, over 200 southern Kaduna people were killed in cold blood, according to Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
The existing violence was aggravated when Boko Haram fragments infiltrated Kaduna, unleashing terror in towns and villages of the state. The terror group wrecked more havoc, turning many parts of Southern Kaduna terrain into ungoverned spaces. People from rural and urban communities of this zone were the prime victims of these attacks. Many of them lost their homes and hope of ever returning.
A CITIZEN-DRIVEN PROJECT
When the House of Justice decided to launch its N100 million fundraising for the project, only citizens responded to their call, said Ms Ballason, noting that no government agency assisted them in their mission to provide restitution to displaced persons, especially children.
“Government is not supporting our work in any way,” she said. “It is the House of Justice Corporate Social Responsibility project which is citizen-driven.”
Steven Kefas, an indigene of Southern Kaduna and a humanitarian researcher, testified while berating state and federal governments for neglecting over 100, 000 displaced persons languishing in Kaduna.
“Most of these IDPs live in very harsh conditions with no basic amenities,” Kefas said. “They rely on assistance from individuals and sometimes religious organisations for survival. This necessitated the birth of the Southern Kaduna Resilience Funds to help mobilize resources towards ensuring that these IDPs have a sustainable path to recovery.”
In Gonin Gora and other areas of Southern Kaduna, displaced children are given a rare opportunity to free education after several years of lost hope. The organisation said it employed qualified teachers and other volunteers (who are mostly citizens of the place) to teach these children; they also provided educational materials to aid their academic spree.
“We use the standard curriculum taught in schools,” the director said. “We have introduced psycho-socials as a subject because we recognize the far-reaching effect of untreated trauma on children and families.”
However, the sustainability of a project that brings schools closer to displaced children in Southern Kaduna has been the subject of public concern. But the House of Justice’s director responded, saying the project is designed to fulfil their long-term vision of enrolling children deprived of their rights to basic education, especially in the terrorised zone. She said their primary strategy is to get children interested in education and to see the opportunities that good education presents for them to be global citizens.
“If we do not get them interested in education or usefully engage them, the effect of terror will continue to replicate especially because the Nigerian government has done very poorly in terms of providing justice to victims and resettlement of IDPs,” she said.
The reporting for this story is supported by YouthHub Africa in collaboration with Malala Fund.