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Roars as 3 children withdraw from school in Kaduna over HIV stigmatization

…Commissioner, Islamic leaders, Malams support moves.

by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna

Three children of between ages five, eight and nine years’ old have been reportedly withdrawn from their school in Kaduna State over HIV and AIDS stigmatization, a move that is causing roars.

The school, Umda Academy, is located around Hieh Bello area of Rigasa, a suburb of Kaduna Town, with Mallam Bello Aminu Umda as proprietor.

District Head, Islamic leaders, scholars, Commissioner for Women Affairs and other high profile Mallams in the state could not stop the move to pursue the children from the school, despite frantic efforts made by parents in contacting them.

Making the revelations in an interview with our correspondent in Kaduna, a mother of the children and Board Chairperson of NINIELA Nigeria, Hajiya Aisha Usman, said that even some Islamic leaders, who were contacted, could not help matters.

NINIELA Nigeria, a network of religious leaders living with and personally with HIV/AIDS’s board chairperson lamented that the withdrawal of the children from school over HIV stigmatization could lead to increase in HIV and AIDS in the state.

She further explained that, “I’ve three children in the school, called Umda Academy. On 29th of June, 2021, the children went to school, just because the proprietor saw me on television doing some HIV program. He called me, and I went there and explained to him I’m actually HIV positive and care for HIV-positive children.

“He just called the children in the school and said they must tell him who was HIV-positive among them. That is stigmatization.

“They’re my adopted children of ages between 5, 8 and 9 years. They are in Nursery 2 Primary 1 and 2, respectively. They started frightening and ran out of the school when he intimidated them. Since them they refused to go back to the school.

“So, I called on an Islamic scholar and told him about what happened. Instead of him to do something about the children, he threatened me that nobody can tamper with any religious scholar in Kaduna State,” she said.

According to her, “The proprietor of the school, located at Hieh Mallam Bello Rigasa, popularly known as Mallam Umda, called the children from assembly. My children have been there since last year – three of my children who are HIV-positive. 

“I even promised them to come and be sensitizing the women, the teachers in the school on how to protect themselves from HIV. All of a sudden, he just called the children out of Assembly and start threatening them.

“Even the little one knows he is on drugs but don’t know the kinds of drugs. So, they run out of the school. Since then, even when I take them to the school they’ll not stay.  

“Even when I want to change their school, I called the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS. They called him. He agreed that he actually did it. I reported him to the Sariki of Hieh Mallam Bello, Alhaji Muhammed Jibril. He called him; we sat with him and told him that what he did was bad. He admitted he did it. 

“I wrote to Qualify Assurance on something in education. In fact, I’ve gone to many places, but I didn’t get the desired attention. 

“It happened on 19th June, 2021. Two days before then, Malam Umda called, after seen me on television, and I told him that’s what I do. I even told him I adopt orphans that are HIV-positive.

Two days later he called them out from the assembly and started asking them that, who has AIDS among them, twice. I called a bigger boy of mine in the school and Mallam Bello collected the phone from him and was telling me, “Yes, I’m the one asking them who is the one with HIV-positive?” I went and sat down with him and he told me that, ‘Hajya, your suffering on this children, how do you know they are going to survive with this sickness that has no cure?’

“He intimidated me. I called one reputable Mallam in Kaduna and he told me that even the governor cannot try any religious scholar. I’m not happy at all. Now, there are news that there is more HIV-infected children in Kaduna.

It’s going to be like that because the stigma is on the rise. And that happens in such a way that, if women are positive, they’ll hide it and get married to men that are negative, and the men will keep quiet even when positive. 

“Even though, if a positive woman takes her drugs very well, she can test negative, and if she marries to negative man she’ll not infect him, if she continues taking her drugs. 

“And this in turn infects the unborn baby. Government should not stop talking about coronavirus alone. It should be talking about HIV, too, and not the stigma, before it gets too serious again, making us to be fighting the two at the same time.

“Kaduna has spent a lot of resources and manpower on HIV and AIDS to bring us to the stage we are today. I wouldn’t want us to go back to square-one; and am calling on government to do something about it quickly. They should be monitoring whatever they are doing. 

“Mallam Umda’s actions sent the children away from school. If I send them to school, they’ll go and hide behind the mosque. Now, Mallam Umda has become a monster to my children. The small one will stay and just run inside and say he saw Malam Umda in shop. Anywhere they see him they started running away, for fear of him. 

“I took Umda to another Sariki where he agreed he’ll return the N9,000 in the presence of the Sariki, and he returned it because the children didn’t go to school again. He agreed in the presence of Sariki we should get another school for the children, and he was going to shoulder the responsibility but he didn’t. 

“I recorded the other Mallam when he said that ‘even the Governor can’t dear Malam.’ That was Mallam Alghan Siriu, Secretary of Ulamas in Kaduna State. He said that “Mallam has the right to know the status of the children, and that I either remove my children from the school or I will put to shame.” Radio, television stations in Kaduna are afraid to use the story when you mention it to them. 

Contacted, PA to the Commissioner of Women Affairs (name withheld) did acknowledge, but declined further comments on phone, insisting on face-to-face clarification, while the Sariki, who spoke in Hausa, also acknowledged his awareness of the matter.

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