Terrorist organization threatens education

2,000 schools close doors

Liz Liska, Editor in Chief

More than 1,000,000 individuals will be without an education in the wake of recent terror attacks on schools.

Since 2002, Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram has been attacking the country and its surrounding areas. Since its inception, the group has been responsible for multiple terrorist attacks and has surpassed ISIS as the most lethal terrorist organization in the world.

Boko Haram was created by Mohammad Yusef, a preacher who holds a strong fundamentalist viewpoint on the Qur’an. He believes that the West has threatened the Muslim way of life.Since its inception, the group has been responsible for the death of over 600 teachers and tens of thousands of school children and other locals. They have also claimed responsibility for attacks on hundreds of schools.

The group most commonly targets local schools using guerrilla warfare. This large displacement of students adds to the 11 million children already left without education prior to Boko Haram’s insurgency.

Last year, the group gained control of a large region in the northeast area of Nigeria, declaring the area a caliphate, sparking a new wave of terror. In light of the most recent attacks, many schools have opted to close until it is safe to teach again. This has left many of the nation’s youth vulnerable to poverty, violence, and early marriage.

“Schools have been targets of attack, so children are scared to go back to the classroom…” UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Director, Manuel Fountaine, stated, “…yet, the longer they stay out of school, the greater the risks of being abused, abducted and recruited by armed groups.”

Nigeria is largely split into two major regions: the Islamic north and the Christian south. The country is the most heavily populated country in Africa and is the biggest oil producer and largest economic contributor. Many problems arose prior to Boko Haram’s forming due to corruption and a stark difference between the socio-economic status of each region. Education and infrastructure in both regions are still falling apart, but are significantly worse in the northern territory.

Although there is no direct translation of Boko Haram into English, it can be closely summarized into “western fraud” or “western education is a sin.” They attack schools because this is seen as the “Western Education” that they believe is damaging their youth. These attacks leave their people largely vulnerable to poverty and force many young people into joining their army.

The group first gained headlines in April of 2014 when insurgents kidnapped 276 young women ages 16-18 from a Nigerian Boarding School. Approximately 50 of those kidnapped were able to escape, but the rest remain missing. These girls have been forced into marrying Boko Haram soldiers, forced to convert to Islam, sold into slavery, or otherwise threatened. A Boko Haram leader later took responsibility for the attack, claiming that God had told him to attack the school. He also justified his actions by stating that they should never have been in school, since, in his belief, nine years old is a suitable age for marriage.

With the help of governments and other partners, UNICEF has been able to set up safe learning environments for some of the students who have been displaced. Teachers trained to help the students cope with the psychosocial trouble of facing terrorism help the students learn.

However, nations with Boko Haram strongholds are not the only countries struggling to keep students in school. In 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a young woman from Pakistan, was shot in the head by a Taliban soldier on her way to school. Miraculously, she survived, and has since served as an activist and stresses the importance of having educated youth.

Yousafzai has recently reached out to Boko Haram, stating, “My simple message to Boko Haram is to think about your own sisters. … They should understand that what they are doing is badly impacting, badly affecting the name of Islam. It’s not the real Islam. So they should think about their own sisters and they should release those girls. It’s a request. It’s a request. Please.”