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Psychologists raise the alarm over kidnapped schoolchildren

Kunle Falayi

More than one month since six pupils kidnapped at the Lagos State Model College, Igbonla, Epe, have been in captivity, psychologists and paediatricians have warned about the effect the experience might have on the children.

According to the experts, life in captivity for such young children may have an adverse and lasting effect on their health and mental state.

According to Consultant Psychologist, Prof. Toba Elegbeleye, the experience of captivity may have a telling effect on the children because their young minds are impressionable.

He said, “It can alter their lives totally and ultimately change the direction in which the parents have tried to lead them. If eventually they are going to be rescued, they would always see Nigeria like a prison.

“It will have a great effect on their psychological profile. Whatever they see in the camps of the kidnappers may become a part of them, which would be negative.

“When you are deprived of support of your comfort zone and under the control of people who are not your parents, any sort of atrocities can happen, you are likely going to skip meals, suffer lack of sleep. Any type of harassment can also occur.”

Another Consultant Psychologist, Prof. Oni Fagbohungbe, corroborated this assertion.

He said, “Incarceration has a way of putting people in trauma and it has psychological effects. That is why in certain places, security agencies use torture or incarceration to get whatever information they need. And for persons of those pupils’ age, that serious trauma would always be in their memory.

“I pity the children. By the time they are released, they would need experts like counselling and clinical psychologists to assist them. Not that it would get them out of the experience, but it will help them to cope with life afterwards.”

Paediatrician, Prof. Edamisan Temiye, said, “The separation from their loved ones and being in a strange environment is a major factor that can weigh heavily on their psychological wellbeing. This is why they need to be attended to by psychologists and psychiatrists when they are eventually released.

“Physically, the fact that they have been living in an environment that is not conducive and exposed to a lot of health hazards, including the type of feeding they are receiving which would not be optimal, are risks that can cause serious damage. But we pray they don’t fall ill while they are there.”

Another paediatrician, Dr. Rotimi Adesanya, also said any of the children with a pre-existing medical condition was at more risk in captivity.

He said that such conditions might generally get worse because they are deprived of the factors like emotional support, good feeding and water, which are needed to make someone recover.

Adesanya said, “This traumatic experience can make some of them lose their memory, appetite and be lethargic. After they are released, they are still at risk of these problems. Malnutrition is a likely challenge they may be facing right now apart from the fact that their psychological state may not allow them to eat.”

There have been no news about the children and neither have the kidnappers been communicating with the parents since they paid a ransom of N10m, which the abductors said was not enough.

“All we can do now is sit at home, pray, cry and hope God will have mercy on us. There is no update on our children,” one of the parents of the victims, who pleaded anonymity, told Saturday PUNCH on Friday.

The spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Olarinde Famous-Cole, said the police were following every lead to ensure the rescue of the children, but the parents said they expected updates which have not been forthcoming.

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Source: The Punch

Psychologists raise the alarm over kidnapped schoolchildren

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