Catholic Diocese in Nigeria Enrolling Terror Victims in Schools to End Insecurity Cycle

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Orpin Damien, a Senior Secondary School student in Nigeria witnessed a lot of violence and displacements before he ended up at Uikpam camp for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Makurdi, the capital of Nigeria’s Benue State.

At the camp where victims of armed Fulani herdsmen are said to be stripped of their dignity and left to live in difficult conditions, Damien saw a ray of hope when he was selected by the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi to proceed with his secondary education at Mount Saint Gabriel’s Secondary School last year.

The Senior Secondary 2 student expressed optimism that with education at one of the best schools in the country, he will turn around the situation of his parents and siblings who continue to languish in one of the camps in Makurdi.

In a note shared with ACI Africa on August 6, Damien expressed gratitude to Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe of the Diocese of Makurdi who he said had given him and other children in IDP camps an opportunity to proceed with education.

“There were some good people who built schools and provided water and toilets for us to make our lives in the camp easier. And now the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi has provided us with a scholarship to help us get quality education despite our current situation. I am glad and I am saying thank you to the Bishop for all that you have been doing for us,” Damien said.


He added, “I am very happy now even in this situation that we are in because, they say every disappointment is a blessing, I am on the scholarship programme and I can now read, write and speak better.”

Recounting his life before arriving at Uikpam camp, the Nigerian schoolboy said, “We started seeing a lot of conflict in the year 2011. We experienced massive killing and deserted our homes.”

“When all houses were burnt down by the herdsmen, the government created camps for internally displaced persons for those who were displaced from their villages. My family was also part of the people displaced and we had to move into one of the camps. With this distraction there was shortage of food, because there was no land to farm and feeding the family was an issue; we had to manage and share whatever it was that we had,” he said.  

Apart from the core relief items, psychosocial support and health services, the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, which reaches out to the largest number of IDPs in Nigeria’s Benue State, is providing scholarship opportunities to displaced children to help them reclaim the time lost running away from terrorists in the embattled State.

In an August 6 interview with ACI Africa, the Coordinator of the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi Education in Emergency Program for Internally Displaced Persons, Fr. Remigius Ihyula, said that the one-year-old education program that has enrolled 50 students in top schools in Nigeria so far is aimed at ending the cycle of terrorism and religious intolerance in the West African country.

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“We thought long-term. We knew that if we do not educate these children now, they may pose a long-term threat to the population,” Fr. Remigius said.

He observed that a majority of the terrorists especially in the Northern parts of Nigeria are not educated, and added, “Most of the terrorists here do not have western education and all they have is Arabic education, which instilled in them vices such as killing anybody that does not agree with them.”

“Many children are growing up in this situation of terror and if we do not do something to help, they may end up badly and they will ask what the Church did to help them. They will blame us for folding our hands and watching them waste away in crime. Some of the children in our education program are orphans who lost their parents and guardians in terror attacks,” he said.

Fr. Remigius who also serves as the Director of Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) of the Diocese of Makurdi noted that the Catholic Church is the leading provider of quality western education in Nigeria, and that all children enlisted for the Dioceses education program have been enrolled in the best schools in the country.

He said that in Benue State, which is served by four Dioceses, the Catholic Church provides 75 percent of secondary education.


Fr. Remigius said that the Education in Emergency Program for IDPs was started last year with a call for entry exams in which over 900 students from IDP families qualified to join year 1 of Senior Secondary education.

Because of the Diocese’s meager resources, only 50 students including 29 males and 21 female students were selected and placed in top Catholic Schools in the country. A year later. The Diocese has selected 50 other students, this time 21 male students and 29 female students who will be enrolled in schools in September.

The scholarship, which the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi provides covers the students’ tuition fees, school uniforms, food, healthcare and transport.

Fr. Remigius told ACI Africa that the students in the education program are allowed very little time in the camps while on holiday. Instead, the students proceed to a skills-acquisition center every time they break from school. At the center, the students learn dressmaking, photography, computer, shoe-making, and other skills aimed at preparing them for life after school.

Stephen Iveren Agatha, a beneficiary of the education program who lived with her family in Daudu I IDP camp in Makurdi before resuming her studies appreciated the generosity of Bishop Chikpa, noting that she had undergone difficult experiences at the camp before getting her way out of it.

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“Back then when I was in the camp with my family, we had nothing. Feeding was a problem and we did not have a place to sleep. Could you imagine a family sleeping in one room? We were not able to find a place to farm as a result of our displacement; we were based in the camp but we believed that no condition is permanent and no one knows the branch of a tree that will produce the biggest fruit,” Agatha said in a note she shared with ACI Africa

Now a student at Our Lady of Mount Carmel College, Agatha says that her selection into the program has restored her family’s hope for a brighter future.

“When the scholarship came and I was selected among the students who would be benefitting from the program, I was very happy. My parents are very proud of me and they hope I will bring back happiness for our family and they are trying their best for me to achieve my goal in school,” she said.

Agatha added, “We now have a place in the host community so the accommodation is better than it was because of my parents.”

One of the challenges that the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi is facing in implementing the education program is the scarcity of resources.

“We would like to do more for these children but we are so limited in our resources. More than 900 students in IDP camps have demonstrated their need for this program but we could only take 50 in the first cohort,” Fr. Remigius told ACI Africa August 6.

He added, “We are therefore calling for help in order to reach as many needy students as possible.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.