No child should have to make the impossible choice between safety and education. In Nigeria, that’s exactly the decision families are facing. Children are being kept home from school due to the insurgency and armed banditry that has caused displacement, forced school closures and particularly the increased threat of school kidnappings.
The abduction of 276 girls in Chibok in 2014 made global headlines and the world joined forces to #BringBackOurGirls. Seven years later, the worrying trend of mass abductions and violence against children continues. Since December 11, 2020, when over 300 students were kidnapped from a school in Katsina, North West Nigeria by armed men, there have been countless other mass abductions in the country.
WHY ARE STUDENTS BEING ABDUCTED IN NIGERIA?
The trend indicates that there is a financial motive behind the kidnappings – large groups of children are kidnapped and held for ransom.
While Boko Haram is the insurgent group that sparked mass abduction of school children in 2014, many other fringe groups have sprung with large presence in the north central and west regions. An overstretched police and security system, as well as proliferation of small arms and terrorist groups, armed bandits and other criminal gangs have also fueled the rise in abductions, largely targeting children.
Another factor is the country’s growing youth unemployment. Estimated to be over 50%, it has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving young people extremely vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist groups and forced participation in these kidnappings.
EDUCATION SYSTEM IS IN CRISIS
Over 13 million children in Nigeria are out of school. That’s more than anywhere else in the world and, in the face of growing violence, the future of an entire generation is at risk.
In July, the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna suspended all schooling amid the rising instances of kidnappings. Attacks targeting schools has taken a tremendous toll on education across Nigeria, with hundreds of schools left destroyed and damaged, and thousands more forced to shut down amid continued insecurity. There are fewer functional classrooms, despite the increasing number of displaced children in need of schooling.
The education crisis has had the greatest impact on girls, who are more likely to be out of school and, as a result, face a heightened risk of child trafficking, early and forced marriage, early pregnancy and gender-based violence.
When children are denied access to schools and quality education, their opportunities to learn and thrive are limited. Not only does this deny them their basic rights, but without the skills to earn a livelihood, they are more vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups and criminal gangs, which continues a cycle of violence.
ENSURING A SECURE FUTURE
Children deserve to survive, to recover, and to have their youth full of safety, stability and hope.
Education is the critical first step to shifting power and addressing inequality. By working with schools in Nigeria to create a safe environment and flexible learning options for children, Plan International is opening doors to a more equal future that serves and supports all.
Together, we can and must work toward the ultimate goal: a future in which children are protected, supported and empowered to access their right to education, free from fear and violence.
Learn more about our child protection work.