15 May 2017

Nigeria: International Day of Families and the Struggle for Education

With this year's International Day of Families aiming to draw attention to education and well-being, DW examines the plight of young people in Nigeria who have had their futures disrupted by the Boko Haram insurgency.

Every year on the 15th of May, the United Nations uses the International Day of Families to promote the importance of social, economic and demographic issues affecting families all around the world.

This year's theme focuses on the role of families and family-oriented policies in promoting education and overall well-being.

But families in Nigeria have little to celebrate. Since 2013, almost 600,000 children have been denied basic education by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.

North-eastern Nigeria remains the worst-affected region and has been the group's stronghold since the insurgency began seven years ago. This has not only led to the loss of many lives and properties, but has also forced hundreds of thousands of families out of their homes.

A life of uncertainty

In most migration crises, it is the children who experience the worst impact as they are torn away from their communities, removed from school and often find themselves either orphaned or abandoned.

Serah Umaru is a mother of seven from Baga, a town in the northeastern state of Borno. After being forced to flee their home, she and her family are currently living in the Bakassi internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Maiduguri. She told DW about her concerns over the prospects of her children.

"Before we were displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency, our children were going to school. But now none of them are going to school. We are worried; we don't know the future for our sons and daughters. No food, no shelter, no education. This is bad. Our youth are not working. We are crying for help, let someone come to our aid please."

Boko Haram opposes what it perceives to be the Westernization of education in Nigerian society. Its members have murdered at least 600 teachers and displaced over 19,000 people in the north in an effort to prevent children from attending school.

Abubakar Baba Abdullahi is a political analyst from Maiduguri University. He told DW the ongoing threat posed by the extremist group will have severe consequences for Nigeria's young people.

"Most of them are out of school and they may be looking for where to survive. Some of them will be interacting with bad children who will influence their behavior. They will become a nuisance to society. Some of them will jump into activities that will lead to criminality which will affect the peaceful coexistence of the entire northeastern states and the entire nation."

Chibok school girls just one case among many

The infamous 2014 abduction of 276 Chibok school girls by Boko Haram is just one example of many cases in which children are kidnapped from their families and forced to participate in the insurgency.

The Executive Director of Oxfam International Winnie Byanyima says a solution needs to be found as soon as possible.

"The Chibok girls are one of many cases. Thousands of girls and boys have been kidnapped and forced to join the Boko Haram rebellion. This is something the people here know very well and that is sad. We would like to see not just a military solution but maybe also a political solution that could lure young boys and men back and to invest in peace."

Although a number of government and humanitarian agencies are providing basic education for in IDP camps in north-eastern Nigeria, it is evident that much more needs to be done to allow thousands of children to return to normal schooling and better guarantee their futures.


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