Thousands of school-age children in Nigeria aren’t going to school after Boko Haram, an extremist Islamic militant group in the country continues its attack on education. More than 1,100 schools were attacked in 2015 alone, the UN envoy in the country warns, and about half a million students have been displaced since the summer of 2015.
The group, which primarily targets schools and universities, strives to stall all state efforts of improving the education level in the country. The name ‘Boko Haram’ literally means ‘Western Education is forbidden’.
The attacks have caused the deaths of students and teachers and forced others to leave school or flee. No fewer than 2.2 million Nigerians have been forced to abandon their homes since the Boko Haram attacks began in 2009. The group usually breaks into schools, takes supplies, vandalizes classrooms, and sets fires or bombs them.
Al Jazeera reports that the UN envoy highlighted how a city in Nigeria, Maiduguri, saw its population almost double as waves of Nigerians sought shelter in safer cities. More than half a million children have been displaced in the last five months with more than 200,000 estimated to be out of school.
Boko Haram’s actions have had a deep, lasting impact on Nigeria’s future workforce as Margee Ensign, the president of the American University of Nigeria, says. He highlights that with education under attack, development in the country is next to impossible, warning that:
“I don’t think many in the international community understand the dimension of the problems here in the northeast.”
According to the International Business Times, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria said in October that pre-emptive action is necessary to get the economy back on track in key industry sectors.
Boko Haram has, since 2009, engaged in acts of violence, murderous attacks and mass abductions with the most widely being the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in 2014. The majority of the students are still missing. Some of the girls who managed to escape did not return to school because the extremist group threatened them and instead insisted that they should get married.
Some say the extremists’ power is weakened. Citing top officials in the country, Dionne Searcey of the New York Times says that Boko Haram no longer has the same capacity to seize cities and retain them under its rule, but it nonetheless continues its targeted suicide bombings and other murderous attacks.
Even before Boko Haram started its attacks on education, Nigeria had one of the lowest literacy levels and one of the highest levels of poverty. Boko Haram has made the situation in the country worse. Mohammed Yusuf, a researcher at the Center for the Study of the Economies of Africa, warn that the group is causing irreparable damage to the education and future workforce of Nigeria:
“These students – the young that constitute future economic input – they are not getting the required education. They are not trainable.”