A million students have been forced to leave school in Nigeria because of attacks from an Islamist insurgency. Over two thousand schools have closed in the country, as well as in three neighboring states, after Boko Haram terrorist groups attacked, looted, and or set the schools on fire.
According to BBC News, the last six years have been devastating to Nigeria because of the Boko Haram insurgency, and now the damage is spreading into Niger, Cameroon, and Chad. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has given his military just one month to defeat the group.
A UNICEF report shows fears that the lack of education in these areas will only fuel radicalism and terrorist acts. Aside from the two thousand schools that have been forced to close, there have been hundreds of others that were attacked by Boko Haram.
The Nigerian military has until the end of December to settle the problem by defeating the Boko Haram, but analysts are skeptical that victory is possible. They feel that even in the event that the Nigerian military does win, there will be social turmoil because of the generation of children who did not attend school.
Manual Fontaine is the regional director of West and Central Africa for UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s agency. He feels that:
“The conflict has been a huge blow for education in the region, and violence has kept many children out of the classroom for more than a year, putting them at risk of dropping out of school altogether… The longer they stay out of school, the greater the risks of being abused, abducted and recruited by armed groups.”
Before this crisis even began, there were already as many as eleven million children taken out of class in four neighboring countries. These areas were also attacked by Boko Haram, and all of these children were of primary school age. While many classrooms have reopened in Nigeria during over the last few months, many are overcrowded. Other classrooms are now being used as emergency shelters for those who have become homeless due to terrorism. Even in places where class has resumed, security is an ongoing issue. Fontaine explains:
“The challenge we face is to keep children safe without interrupting their schooling. Schools have been targets of attack, so children are scared to go back to the classroom.”
Over 20,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram, and approximately 2.3 million have been displaced.