ABUJA, Nigeria — In recent years, Nigeria has made headlines due to political, economic and social instability. Ongoing upheaval has made it difficult for children and young adults to receive a proper education in Nigeria. Further instability is expected as the population rises from its present 186 million to an estimated 392 million in 2050.
While NGOs and local groups have worked to increase these opportunities, the 2014 Boko Haram kidnappings have complicated prospects for education in Nigeria.
Of Nigeria’s current population, 70 percent are living below the poverty line. As a result of these circumstances, many Nigerians join violent groups in the hope of accessing better opportunities.
The CIA has stated that “increased educational attainment, especially among women, and improvements in healthcare are needed to encourage and to better enable parents to opt for smaller families.” Overcoming this status quo is difficult, with 45 percent of the Nigerian population under the age of 15.
Further, there remains an inadequate number of schools along with under-funding of teachers and resources. According to UNICEF, “It is not rare to see cases of 100 pupils per teacher or students sitting under trees outside the school building because of the lack of classrooms.” These schools also do not have electricity, water or bathrooms.
UNICEF reports that 4.7 million primary-aged children are not enrolled in school, and 11 million children are part of the labor force. These children are unable to attend school, because, without their labor, their families would go without.
President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to remedy the situation by collaborating with economic ministers to create a transparent and diversified economy. Buhari’s economic plans may allow more children to attend school. But between 2009 and 2015, nearly 2,500 schools were either destroyed or forced to close.
Boko Haram is a terrorist organization whose name directly translates to “Western education is forbidden”. In 2014, Boko Haram was responsible for the kidnapping of approximately 300 schoolgirls. Preceding the attack, the Government Girls Secondary School was closed for a month due to threats.
Boko Haram’s insurgency has left nearly one million children in urgent need of education since 2009. Its violence has discouraged many from attending school. One teacher, Maiduguri said, “They had not received an education in that area for many, many, years….Now [Boko Haram] have chased away the teachers. Their children have no future.” Many children have been displaced to refugee camps, where they are often taught under a tree in large groups without textbooks.
The Safe Schools Declaration, a government-sponsored decision, said that schools should not be used for any military purpose, and were for education only. President Buhari, upon his election in 2015, announced the advent of the Victims Support Fund and the Presidential Protection plan, both of which provide support to victims of education-related violence.
In 2016, the Social Protection Plan, created by the Nigerian government and supported by the World Bank, was established to improve the quality of teachers and to provide extremely poor parents with money for sending their children to school.
In the U.S., the African Education Foundation focuses on “developing human potential and expanding educational opportunity for the underprivileged.” Similarly, Girls Education Mission International works to educate and support girls in order to cultivate female leaders in communities.
Without action, the poverty cycle will prevail. Ensuring safe opportunities for education in Nigeria will allow younger generations to pursue prosperity and remove power from the hands of violent groups like Boko Haram.
– Kristen Guyler