The impact of the violence on children goes even beyond the immediate conflict-affected areas, as it creates a climate of fear around education outside affected states. In a recent interview, Dr. Judith Giwa-Amu, Coordinator of the Education in Emergencies Working Group that facilitates coordination among several humanitarian organizations and federal government towards improved access to education for displaced children in the northeast, shed some light about the impact of the violence on education even in states not directly affected by the conflict.
“In neighbouring states like Taraba, Bauchi and Gombe, there was an influx of displaced people in their local government areas. This meant you have host community children who were not directly by the conflict but could not access education because their classrooms were being utilized as shelter for displaced people. In other states like Kano, for example, we have an ongoing campaign to encourage school enrolment.
According to a 2012 UNESCO report, at least 60% of out-of-school children are in the north, and this was before the conflict-related emergencies and now we do have some parents not sending their children to school because of fear. Once parents do not feel the schools are secure, they are not going to feel confident sending their children to school.”
With education in conflict-affected areas, the immediate concern is often for the children, but teachers are often survivors of violence as well and also need support. Teachers for these children need different set of skills from teachers who teach elsewhere, and cannot be paid the same as their counterparts elsewhere. As is the case with reaching children, Nigeria is also not reaching as many teachers as it needs. Currently, the military fills in the gap with its corps of teachers where there are not enough civilian teachers to attend to the students. This, however, comes with its own risks, among which is increased militarizing of the school environment and the increased presence of armed men, which could discourage parents and guardians from sending their children to school.
In all this, there is the problem of availability of money. In the recently-passed 2017 budget, only 56.72mn was approved for Ministry of Education for the entire country, and 45bn was passed for northeast recovery. To put the figure in context, the humanitarian working group needs U.S.$56.3mn to adequately reach 1.6mn people. Worth remembering that, of the figure budget, we do not yet know how much of the figure in the Nigerian budget will be disbursed as a general matter, and specifically how much of this will go to Education in Emergencies. Funding for education is typically low on the list of budget priorities in Nigeria, and that must change if we must adequately deal with the challenges before us.
If done right, the structures put in place to provide education to children in conflict-affected areas will fill the gap to ensure that these children can access more formal education schools. Education for children is often interrupted in times of emergencies that happen every year in Nigeria, from community clashes to flooding that happen across Nigeria, often causing loss of life and property. Ensuring that the children who get caught in the middle should not merely be an afterthought, but part of a coherent strategy for long-term development of our country.