Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said 12 million children are scared of going to school in the country, where jihadists and heavily armed criminals have kidnapped hundreds of students for ransom. The first mass school abduction in Africa’s most populous nation was in the northeast in 2014, when Boko Haram jihadists snatched 276 girls from Chibok, triggering a global campaign called #BringBackOurGirls. Since then, attacks on schools “have grown in number and spread across the northern part of the country,” said Buhari, addressing on Tuesday a conference on safety in education in the capital, Abuja. Gunmen in northwest and central Nigeria have increasingly targeted schools, kidnapping more than 1,000 students since December. As a result, said Buhari, “there are more than 12 million children currently traumatized and afraid of going to school”. Girls were particularly affected, he added. Young girls who leave school early are at risk of being married off, experts warn. Save the Children said earlier this month that an “estimated 44 percent of girls in Nigeria are married before their 18th birthday, one of the highest rates of child marriage globally.” Most kidnapped students are released after negotiations with their captors.