Five of the 136 school children kidnapped almost three months ago from Salihu Tanko Islamiya School, Tegina, Niger State, are dead.

The head teacher of the school, Abubakar Hassan, also said many of the children are ill with swollen legs and other ailments.

The gunmen kidnapped the students from the Islamic school on May 30, in one of the several cases of such attacks on schools in the north.

Speaking on Arise News Channel on Tuesday, Hassan stated that many of the children are young and weak, ranging from four to 17 years, noting that the bandits called him to confirm the deaths while insisting that the ransom they demanded must be paid in full.

He said, “I was told they are all weak, apart from the young adults who may be a bit strong. Their clothes are dirty and torn. The bandits asked us to find a way to sew some clothes and pass them over. They (the kids) are almost naked.”

He described the situation as painful, explaining that over 130 kids were still being held after spending close to three months in their abductors’ den.

“People have contributed what they could through their efforts. We don’t have any money again and we are still gathering money and a number of motorcycles so we can have them released.

"We are not happy that our kids are in the bush and we don’t know the date they will be released. We have lost hope in human beings, but we have not lost hope in the Almighty God,“ he stated.

Out of the N200 million demanded by the captors, Hassan said that initially, the parents of the children and some sympathisers were able to raise N20 million which had been received but the criminals refused to release any of the children.

The distressed head teacher mentioned that the condition of the children remained very bad from the information he had, noting that the parents and several public-spirited people had donated some money which the bandits collected.

“We still looked for other ways of getting money and we gathered the sum of N30 million. We have also taken the money to them and yet they declined to release the kids. They are asking for an additional N20 million for now,” he explained.

The head teacher said he had begged the bandits several times to release the students after they initially told him two of the kids had died. “I pleaded and I was crying. So, they said they were slashing the ransom to N80m,” he added.

After the initial loss of the two kids, Hassan said he was informed that two had earlier been lost, in addition to the one that died in the early days of the abduction.