An Education Crisis: why are so many Nigerian children missing out on school?

11 November 2019

Out of almost 83 million under 15 years olds in Nigeria, 13.2 million are out of school. UNICEF found that one in every five children out of school globally are from Nigeria.

Currently in Nigeria, 94.7 million people are living in extreme poverty (living on under $1.90 per day) and education is one essential tool for anyone, anywhere to have an opportunity to escape it. Sadly, today in Nigeria there are many obstructions for children of all ages to have access to schooling.

Throughout the ongoing conflict in Nigeria, abduction and kidnapping has been a persistent and growing issue. Extremist groups and human traffickers are two of the biggest perpetrators of this offence. Similarly, the Nigerian government have been detaining young children for years over fears of their involvement in non-government armed groups.


Extremist Groups

Over 1000 children have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2013.

Extremist groups in Nigeria, most notably Boko Haram, have been terrorising communities with the high threat of abduction or kidnapping of mostly girls directly from schools. Boko Haram literally means ‘western education is forbidden’ and they strongly disapprove of female education, so kidnapping school girls seems to be the obvious narrative.

The prime target is young girls who can be used as either imprisoned wives for the terrorist group’s members or as suicide bombers. Surprisingly, the majority of Boko Haram suicide bombings are carried out by young girls and not boys.

Infamously, in 2014 Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a government secondary school in Chibok. Schools are supposed to be safe zones but in reality, they offer up hundreds of vulnerable individuals all in one place. At least 20 of the 107 girls who have been released, thanks to government intervention, have continued their education in the United States, due to the fear instilled in them from the ordeal. Sadly, for the remaining released girls, the fact that they were married and forced to have children with members of Boko Haram is too shameful for them to return to their communities, leaving them without support and education.


Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry and between 2012-2014 58% of detected victims were children.

In a number of interviews with everyday Nigerians carried out by Inter Press Service, 27 thought that human trafficking was when a “lady goes to Europe to prostitute herself.” This highlights the miseducation of who is being trafficked and why they are being trafficked.

On average, around ten children are bought and are sold for purposes of prostitution – daily. Children are ‘employed’ as domestic workers/labourers or are used for sexual exploitation. Many survivors recall their experience of suffering frequent physical and emotional abuse. There have been a growing number of cases of child theft carried out by syndicates who go on to sell them off to, mostly unsuspecting, couples who are looking to adopt a child.

Barrister Julie Okah-Donli, Director General of NAPTIP warned that parents who give their children away to work as domestics are endangering them. This view seems a little narrow-minded however. The majority of parents would surely not knowingly put their children into high risk work unless they were desperate and although Nigeria is one of Africa’s biggest economies, poverty remains one of the nation’s largest menaces at 47.7%.


Nigerian Armed Forces

Since 2013, Nigerian armed forces have detained over 3,600 children, including 1,617 girls, for suspected involvement with non-state armed groups.

On 3rd October 2019 the Nigerian army released 25 children who had been detained for suspected involvement with Boko Haram. The conditions that detained children are kept in are squalor with stories of beatings, overwhelming heat and frequent hunger. This is no way for children to live. Furthermore, interviews with ex-detainees carried out by Human Rights Watch found that none of the children had been taken before a judge, appeared in court or were even aware of the charges being made against them.

Many children are kept for months or even years without being officially charged, some have been held for up to 3 years. The longer children are detained in this unjustly way by government forces, the opportunity for education diminishes rapidly. Jo Becker who works as the children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch expressed her contentment of the released children as they “will be able to reunite with their families and pursue their education, instead of languishing in prison.”


Safe spaces

Unfortunately, in 2019 schools remain an easy target for people who want to make a big impact. Children in Nigeria now fear of going to school because of the risk of being taken away forcibly from their friends and family. Boko Haram have destroyed more than 1,400 schools since 2009 and killed 2,285 teachers.

In an effort to ensure that all children have access to education, Nigeria, along with 89 other countries, have signed the Safe School Declaration which aims to achieve safe learning environments for all children, especially those in conflict zones. And whilst efforts are being made to send Nigeria’s 13.2 million children back to school, efforts also need to be focused on making sure that the schools are safe and secure from violent attacks.

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