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  • Writer's pictureChinenye Nnamani


Updated: May 4

In Nigerian violent conflicts, unsafe schools are one of their indicators. "Western Education" is what Boko Haram is fighting against. Hence the blatant attacks on schools, kidnapping of schoolchildren, marrying female students to their soldiers, and using youngsters as suicide bombers. Bandits target schools in the conflict-ravaged northwest and north-central zones because the assailants have access to many possible abductions of victims they may use as a negotiating chip or fund-generator by asking for ransom (Maduagwu, 2022).

One in every five of the world's out-of-school children is in Nigeria (UNICEF); it is pertinent to state that other factors asides from terrorism cause education in the north, like economic barriers, sociocultural norms, and practices that discourage acquiring Western education, especially for girls. In the three BAY states (Bornu, Adamawa, and Yobe), 2.8 million children need education, with 802 schools closed, 497 classrooms destroyed, and 1392 classrooms damaged (UNICEF). In 2022, Nigeria's out-of-school children were estimated to be around 18.5 million, according to the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). The figure is a sharp rise from the 10.5 million recorded in 2021. According to UNICEF and other sources, Nigeria's out-of-school children's statistics result from Northeast terrorism, where insecurity has been prevalent for twelve years, banditry in the northwest and northcentral regions, incessant sit-at-home orders and attacks on non-compliant residents in the southeast and other socioeconomic factors.

According to a GCPEA report in 2018, Boko Haram has killed an estimated 2,295 teachers, over 19000 teachers are displaced, and more than 1400 schools have been damaged or destroyed. The report mentioned that around 600 females, including women and girls, were kidnapped from their educational institutions. The victims recount their experiences of being forced to marry the insurgents, convert to Islam even be subjected to sexual-gender-based violence. These grave experiences subject these victims to traumatic living impinges on their ability to pursue their education or even move on with their lives in other areas. By UNICEF's estimates, 11,000 schools were closed between December 2020 and early 2022 over insecurity, mainly in the north(

The heightened insecurity level in the North has increased the poverty levels in the area, thereby exacerbating economic obstacles to acquiring education for so many. The poverty polarity in the country shows the north with more excellent poverty rates than the national average. These statistics on poverty will worsen if access to education is continually restricted. The denial of the younger generation access to education would increase their vulnerability, reduce their level of productivity in the future, and put them in a disadvantaged position in a technologically driven world.


  1. To discourage people from receiving Western education.

  2. Availability of large ungoverned areas and inadequate regional security forces.

  3. Locations of schools.

  4. To instill fear in people.

  5. To use the victims as leverage for negotiations.


  1. Increases parents' unwillingness to send wards to school.

  2. There is a gradual shutting down of schools in the northern region.

  3. Loss of education as most people are too afraid to go to school.

  4. Leads to early marriages: according to "Girls, not Brides," the prevalence of child marriage increases during crises. The fact that families see child marriage as a way to cope with growing economic hardship; parents marry their daughters off as they think it will protect them from increased or generalized violence, including sexual violence, and reduce the number of mouths to feed too.

  5. Traumatic living for the victims.

  6. Destroy educational infrastructure in affected areas.

  7. Diminish quality of education and learning, lower transition rates to higher education levels, school overcrowding, and teacher recruitment reductions.


The Goodluck Administration, following the abduction of the Chibok girls, launched the "Safe Schools Initiative" alongside the then United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and several others. The initiative aimed to ensure young people are safe in schools and study in an environment devoid of fear. It adopted three intervention programs to provide continued access to education through:

  1. Transfer those students in the highest risk areas to schools in safer parts of the country.

  2. Reconstruct the program to develop physical protection infrastructure and school security plans.

  3. Provide innovative education strategies and materials to children in IDP camps.

Nigeria, under the Buhari Administration, signed the letter of endorsement of the "Safe Schools Declaration" on March 8, 2018. The Safe Schools Declaration is an inter-governmental political commitment that provides countries with the opportunity to express support for protecting students, teachers, schools, and universities from attack during times of armed conflict, the importance of the continuation of education during armed conflict, and the implementation of concrete measures to deter the military use of schools. Countries who sign the endorsement agree to do the following:

  1. To promote better systems for monitoring and reporting attacks on education.

  2. To promote effective programs and policies to protect education from attack.

  3. To fight impunity for attacks on education by promoting and supporting a range of accountability measures.

  4. To encourage adherence to existing international laws protecting education and the strengthening of international norms and standards as needs be (safe schools declaration; advocacy brief)

Also, the Federal Ministry of Education under the Buhari Administration developed a National Policy on Safety, Security, and Violence-Free Schools( NPSSVFS). The policy aims to provide policy guidance, set a standard for comprehensive safe school plan implementation, and provide prevention and response mechanism at the national, state, local, and school levels. Section four of the policy dedicates to measures that would ensure the safety and security of schools during armed conflict or in conflict regions.

Insurgent attacks and the failure to implement efficient and effective policies by relevant government agencies cause school insecurity. According to the EiE Working Group report, in 2020, 600 teachers died, 19000 teachers were displaced, 910 schools were damaged, and more than 1500 schools closed; 900000 children were estimated to have lost access to learning. Seventy percent of primary school-aged girls are out of school in Borno state.


School authorities should work with security agencies to provide adequate security for students and staff. School authorities should conduct a proper risk assessment to reduce vulnerabilities to attack. The government should revive and duly implement the safe schools initiative of the Goodluck Administration. The government should curb the mismanagement and misappropriation of public funds.


EiE Working Group Strategy.NE Nigeria 2021-2023(June 2020)

Federal Ministry Of Education. National Policy On Safety, Security and Violence-Free Schools with its implementing Guidelines (August 2021)

GCPEA News (May 27, 2014); Update from Nigeria: Launching the Safe Schools Initiative.

Itsibor, M.: 3 years after, Federal Government yet to implement safe schools initiative.

Maduagwu, K. (May 24, 2022); Education on the Brink?

Nigeria: Parents getting more worried as insecurity forces schools closures in Abuja (

Safe Schools Declaration in Nigeria. Advocacy Brief.

Safe Schools Initiative: Protecting the Right to Learn in Nigeria.

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