The intensity of violence in Nigeria poses significant risks for school children. Several places of learning have turned to piles of ruin due to attacks by non-state armed groups. Instances are more prevalent in Nigeria’s northeast zone, where the insurgency has been well over twelve years. In the northwest and northcentral zones, banditry also poses significant threats to education due to large-scale kidnappings at places of learning. In the southeast zone, school activities are suspended on Mondays and other designated sit-at-home days by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Ubiquitous terror significantly constrains school enrolment in Nigeria. The country has an out-of-school children problem, estimated at 18.5 million children. The figure is a sharp rise from 10.5 million recorded in 2021. UNICEF links the surge to northeast terrorism and banditry in the northwest and northcentral regions. Beyond the violence, there are limitations, often based on security risks, in supporting many children trapped in conflict-impacted environments. Also, many children live in conflict zones with limited social services. Education services appear to be secondary in the face of a prolonged humanitarian crisis.
Continued constraints in accessing education will worsen the poverty statistics. The younger population are denied educational opportunities, which will affect their self-development, productivity, self-reliance and vulnerabilities. Given the proliferation of non-state armed groups, recruits are needed to fill up their rank and file. Hence, out-of-school, unskilled and unproductive demographics are vulnerable to the antics of violent entrepreneurs. According to the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), quality education protects cognitive development and psychosocial well-being, giving children hope in times of crisis. To provide educational services to millions of deprived children in Nigeria means to sustainably address structural, cultural, security and humanitarian factors that limit children’s access to education.
The Nigerian government must rethink the provision of education services, especially in conflict-impacted locations. There is a need to invest in the capacity development of the existing teaching workforce in information and communication technology (ICT) skills. This can ensure that children in displacement camps, for instance, can remotely be taught in a controlled environment, especially where school infrastructure has been destroyed. Remote learning can also be mainstreamed on a broader scale to cater for school children in Southeast Nigeria who cannot go to school on designated IPOB sit-at-home days. The practicability of remote learning will ensure that children living in areas where government agencies and development actors cannot access can receive quality education irrespective of the teaching staff strength in those locations.
The semi-digitalisation of teaching in public schools does not excuse the urgency of tackling Nigeria’s security woes. However, it is a temporary solution to ensure that accessible conflict-affected children in Nigeria are not deprived of education while security agencies continue to push for stability. Therefore, security actors must focus on restoring peace and stability in areas affected by conflict. In addition, the government must deploy non-conflict intervention measures to de-escalate emerging and existing violent hotspots.
More livelihood, nutrition, and child protection programmes are needed to salvage many Nigerian children’s current challenges. The future of children in crisis-impacted zones may appear uncertain, but adequate intervention efforts will ensure positive outcomes. Beyond education, violent conflict affects all aspects of children’s lives. Therefore, addressing the humanitarian impact of violent conflict issues in Nigeria will help prevent its implication on education and other socio-economic activities. The effects of violent conflicts on education in Nigeria require a tailored solution to each crisis type and location. It also requires that sustainability be achieved by upscaling interventions that significantly impact the lives of communities and children.