“You cannot be at war and go to school. They can bomb the school at any time,” a child in Somalia said to the international humanitarian organisation, Save the Children, during its listening exercise conducted across 41 countries.
The international NGO said that just like the Somalian child, 222 million children of school age around the globe have had their education affected by crisis and are in need of “urgent education support.”
Save the Children spoke to 54,000 children as part of its listening exercise, and the children identified conflict and climate crises as factors hindering their education.
“When I was displaced, I lost my education materials and also our school was affected, learning materials,” a child in Malawi told Save the Children.
It is no different for children in Nigeria.
The Nigerian situation
For over a decade, the Boko Haram terror group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” has unleashed terror in northeastern Nigeria, causing death and destruction in their wake.
In line with the meaning of its name, the terror group has launched attacks on educational institutions across the region; Before the infamous Chibok attack of 2014, the group had already begun to attack schools in Northeast Nigeria as part of its campaign of terror. One of such attacks was the Buni Yadi massacre of Feb. 2014 during which the terror group attacked a Federal Government College in Yobe State, killing at least 29 boys.
Later that year, the group would carry out a brazen attack in Chibok, during which they abducted 276 schoolgirls, sparking outrage across the world.
As the group gained momentum, they raided more communities, causing displacements and other humanitarian crises, including the suspension of school activities. In Nov. 2022, school activities were brought back to Kirawa, one of the affected communities, affirming a statement by Save the Children that “education is often the first service suspended and the last to be restored when a crisis hits.”
As communities fled to IDP camps, thousands of children missed out on education as not all displaced persons’ camps have provisions for schooling: “Since I came here, I have not been to school, there are no schools in the camp and the one outside the camp is too expensive for me,” 19-year-old Aisha told HumAngle in Nov. 2022. Aisha says that she first came to the IDP camp (in Adamawa state) at the age of 13 and has stayed without education since then.
Other terror groups have sprung up following Boko Haram’s emergence, and as though it were a norm, these terror groups, regardless of their inclination (religious, political, or economic), have carried out attacks against education in different regions of Nigeria, breeding even more problems than the educational system of the country seems to be able to handle.
In 2021, there was a spike in school attacks in Nigeria; the attacks started with the abduction of more than 300 schoolboys from a Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina State on the 11th of Dec. 2020.
After the Kankara abductions, the northwestern region of Nigeria saw a barrage of school attacks swarm many communities from different terror groups.
The abduction of 27 schoolboys (and others) from a boarding school in Niger State, Northcentral Nigeria, followed the Kankara abduction, and after that came the abduction of 279 schoolgirls in Zamfara State in the northwest.
As the abductions raged on, there was widespread fear and with this came the shutdown of about 618 schools across the northern region, with some of the schools resuming sometime in the year and others, the following year, 2022.
But even as schools reopened in some places, parents were reluctant to send their children back to the schools which they feared were still unsafe. Students, on the other hand, were afraid to go back to school: “If you go back to boarding school again, we will come back and kidnap you and marry you off compulsorily,” a girl abducted by terrorists in Zamfara recalled terrorists warn her and her fellow students.
While the education system in Nigeria grappled with the impacts that insecurity had on it in 2021, the floods of 2022 further depleted the situation because as the floods came, some schools were submerged in water and some others converted to temporary shelters for people displaced by the floods.
The effects that the years have had on education in Nigeria are such that data released by the National Bureau of statistics in Nov. 2022 revealed that “the majority of children aged ten and above in Northern Nigeria states plagued by insecurity have not finished six years of basic schooling.”
Similarly, an analysis carried out by the (IDMC) in 2022 revealed that while half of the displaced population in Nigeria comprises children below the age of 18, over one million of these displaced children in Nigeria lack access to quality education.
It remains unclear how the Nigerian government plans to improve the state of education in Nigeria as the country continues to grapple with insecurity and changing climate.
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