Years of Boko Haram-related violence in north-east Nigeria have led to an entire generation of children missing out on an education, according to child rights and humanitarian organisation Plan International.
Hundreds of thousands of children across the Lake Chad Basin, which straddles Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, have been denied their right to education since 2009 because schools have been burnt, bombed and in some instances used for counter-insurgency efforts. In many places, the teachers have fled.
Hussaini Abdu, country director at Plan International in Nigeria, is concerned about the consequences of a generation of children missing out on school.
“Today’s 15 year olds were only seven when this conflict began,” Abdu says. “Growing up amid brutal conflict will have affected them profoundly and not having a chance to go to school makes things even worse.”
Access to education has been particularly affected in north-east Nigeria, where the worst of the attacks have taken place.
Over a million people in the region have been displaced from their homes, often having been forced to move from community to community, making it difficult to keep their children in school.
Others, particularly the families of girls, avoid school due to the high risk of abduction.
RECRUITMENT POOL FOR EXTREMISTS
“Without education, children are at risk of being seen as an ideal recruitment pool for extremist organisations or criminal gangs,” says Abdu.
“In some cases this is because their chances of employment are severely limited, which understandably makes them feel frustrated and resentful.
“In other cases, both boys’ and girls’ absence from a protective environment such as school makes them vulnerable to being forcibly recruited by armed groups who force them to carry out suicide attacks or use them as human shields.
In the long term, the loss of education is going to make it much harder to put an end to the cycle of violence gripping the region.
“In the long term, the loss of education is going to make it much harder to put an end to the cycle of violence gripping the region.”
Since November 2016, Plan International has been working in Borno and Adamawa states in northeast Nigeria to support children who have dropped out of school due to insurgency to recommence their schooling by providing school materials and training teachers.
Through its advocacy work, the organisation is also calling on the Nigerian government to provide accelerated learning programmes for children who have been denied education due to the conflict.
Additionally, in areas where schools have been damaged or destroyed, Plan International wants the government to prioritise the establishment and equipping of temporary learning spaces, alongside the restoration of school facilities.
Hussaini Abdu and other Plan International experts in Nigeria are available for interviews.