More Than 100 Schoolgirls Abducted in Nigeria

Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing NigeriaMore than 100 female students have been abducted from a school in the state of Borno in northeastern Nigeria. Militant Islamist terrorist organization Boko Haram is suspected to have caused the attack. Gunmen reportedly entered the school’s hostel where the teenage girls were sleeping on the night of April 14th, ordered the students onto trucks, and drove away. Governments and news agencies around the world have condemned the mass kidnapping.

All educational centers in Borno state were closed three weeks ago due to Boko Haram attacks in the area, however this group of students had returned to their school in order to sit final exams. An estimated 14 girls escaped from the trucks as they were being driven away, but most of the 129 abducted students are still missing. Eighteen-year-old Godiyah Isaiah is one of the girls who managed to escape. She said that the gunmen initially posed as Nigerian soldiers who had arrived at the school to evacuate the students to a safer region.

Boko Haram is thought to have taken the students to their camps near the Cameroonian border. The group has abducted girls in the past to use for forced labor or sexual slavery. Groups from the Nigerian police force, army, and air force have been searching for the girls, as have many of the girls’ own parents, who have headed into the Sambisa forest to look for their children.

Boko Haram has carried out increasingly violent attacks in Nigeria in recent years as part of its campaign to create an Islamist Nigerian state. The group frequently targets schools, teachers, students, and ordinary civilians, and is said to have killed an estimated 1,500 people so far in 2014.

Creative Commons Love: UNHCR Photo Unit on

New Report Details Extent of Attacks on Education Worldwide

A new report issued by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, Education Under Attack 2014, details the extent of attacks on educators, students, and schools worldwide between 2009 and 2013. The report singles out 30 countries where the problem is especially dire, including Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, where militants often operate unchecked. The Pakistani Taliban, for example, attacked at least 838 schools (estimates range as high as 919); the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated that those attacks resulted in more than 500 schools destroyed in 2009 alone.

Syria Children of Freedom
The report indicates strongly that attacks on education are a tactic of war worldwide. And in addition to the costs of rebuilding schools and infrastructure, the human cost is incalculable. “Schools, students, and staff are not just caught in the crossfire, but are all too often the targets of the attacks,” said Diya Nijhowne, director of the Global Coalition. Schools are often battlegrounds for sectarian or political violence—24 of the 30 countries profiled saw armed groups, state actors or otherwise, use schools as bases, barracks, weapons caches, detention centers, or torture chambers. In 28 of the 30, universities and their staff were used for military purposes or had their staff attacked.

The Global Coalition ends the report calling for the adoption of a series of guidelines, urging parties not to use educational facilities for military use during conflicts. The guidelines draw on international law and humanitarian good practice in asking states not to use educational facilities for military purposes. While these guidelines will not end attacks on education, attempting to remove schools and students from the line of fire is a first step.

Creative Commons Love: Freedom House on

Northern States in Nigeria Undertake Education Reform

In March, governors of the 19 Northern States of Nigeria met to eliminate secondary school fees in an effort to boost student enrollment. Governor of the Niger state and chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum, Babangida Aliyu called education the bedrock of any development announced two further reforms: a “Grade 2 Teachers Training Programme” to improve teacher qualification and training in the region, and a resolution to harmonize fees among tertiary institutions. Aliyu also stated that a conference dedicated to addressing the region’s substandard educational performance would be held soon.

Dendo Secondary School

Northern Nigeria has fared worse than in other areas of the country as schools have felt the impact of Islamist attacks throughout the region. Those attacks have also deeply affected the local economy. Educating more students at the secondary and tertiary levels may represent steps toward economic recovery. Recent studies have shown that it is actually cheaper to educate children than keep them out of school. In the case of Nigeria, where 10 million children do not attend school, when those children enter the labor force in 10 years the country is expected to lose a full percent loss of GDP—around $3 billion. The northern states can assuage this loss by better preparing more students, steps they are taking with these resolutions.

Creative Commons Love: Shirley Pickford on

Assistance and Training Provided to the Disabled in Nigeria

Wheelchair partially in the shadowThe Federal Civil Service Staff with Disabilities Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society has initiated a pilot program to aid people with disabilities in the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria. If successful, this program will soon be extended to assist disabled people in the rest of the country. Nigeria is currently home to approximately 22 million people living with disabilities.

Recently, the Society provided the territory with relief materials and 8 million Nigerian Naira ($50,000) in aid . This assistance was provided with the intention of both teaching the disabled skills required to become self-sufficient and helping homeless people with disabilities get off the streets. Of the money given to this program, 5 million Naira will go to pay for housing costs and school fees for children while the remaining 3 million will be used for training and empowerment.

“We are just kick starting the programme here in Abuja, then we will move to the 36 states of the federation…We also have officers in place to monitor the distribution of the items and to ensure that the beneficiaries get them…We have programmes for PWD and the widows every Thursday…Some people submitted letters that they cannot pay their children’s school fees; some can’t pay for their house rents, while some have no food in the house and many more other problems. We are taking care of these needs” explained Alhaji Iliasu Abdul-Rauf, the National Coordinating Chairman of the Federal Civil Service staff with Disabilities Multi-purpose Cooperative Society.

This program comes soon after the government of Nigeria announced its hopes of soon passing the Disability Act and establishing a National Commission for Persons with Disabilities to enforce it. The government has worked together with local and international organizations working with disabled persons to develop appropriate policies and programs to provide needed protection and assistance.

“In order to strengthen our commitment to the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities…which we have ratified, the National Assembly is working assiduously to ensure the passage of the Nigerian Disability Bill into law. When passed into law, it will provide for the education, health care and the protection of the social, economic, political and civil rights of persons with disabilities” explained Dr. Habiba Lawal, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Womens Affairs and Social Development.

Creative Commons Love: Marcel Oosterwijk on

New Report Shows the High Cost of Keeping Children Out of School

Gabou (Mali) - Enfants de bergerA new report released by the Washington, DC-based Results for Development Institute (R4D) has shown that it is more expensive to keep children out of school than to educate them. The study, entitled Hidden Burden: The Economic Cost of Out-of-School Children in 20 Countries, shows that out-of-school children significantly affect developing countries’ economic growth.

The right of a child to education is a basic human right, but across the globe 57 million children of primary age are out of school, most of whom live in Africa and Southeast Asia. In addition to the losses the children themselves suffer from not attending school, R4D’s report shows that countries are also hurting their future economic potential by not educating their children.

By studying developing countries’ labor markets and using data from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics R4D has evaluated the losses from under-educated children who will not contribute as much to their country’s GDP. In addition, they totaled how much potential future earnings the children themselves will lose by having fewer employment options available to them.

The conclusion, according to R4D’s Milan Thomas, is that on average “the cost of out-of-school children dwarfs the spending required to achieve universal primary education by a ratio of five to one.”

For several Sub-Saharan African countries, in fact, the cost of not educating children is higher than a full year’s economic growth.

In the case of Nigeria, Thomas explains, where 10 million children do not attend school, in ten years when those children enter the labor force the country will suffer a full one percent loss of its GDP, equivalent to almost $3 billion.

In publishing this research, R4D hopes to inspire governments and policy makers to push harder for universal primary education.

Creative Commons Love: fouss_djikine on

Nigerian Health Officials Tackle Child Pneumonia Epidemic

EVA - 2012 Education Award Recipient: Africa- Middle EastThe Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) is calling for nation-wide action towards tackle the country’s growing pneumonia epidemic. The deadly disease accounts for 17 per cent of all deaths under the age of five, accumulating to the deaths of approximately 130,000 Nigerian children annually. This statement was released in lieu of World Pneumonia Day 2013 by the NMA President, Dr. Osahori Enabulele.

According to Enabulele, there are many causes of the startling figure, including “poor personal, household and environmental hygiene; poor nutrition including the unsatisfactory adherence to the globally hallowed exclusive breastfeeding practice in the first six months of life; and poor nutrition worsened by dwindling economic fortunes of families and communities in Nigeria.”

Additional factors include “the prevalence of household as well as environmental pollution; cigarette smoking by carefree adults, use of firewood in domestic cooking, unmitigated bush burning as well as other forms of air pollution; poor ventilation worsened by over-crowding and unwholesome building construction practices; and crass ignorance as the real cause of the disease, still hold sway.”

Dr Ado Muhammad, Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), is advocating for policy and program implementation to stem the number of child deaths. According to the NPHCDA, less than half of all Nigerian children displaying pneumonia related symptoms are treated, while only 23 per cent of all children receive antibiotics.

The agency is currently planning systematic immunization in eight states, while a new vaccine will be administered in 13 Nigerian states beginning in December.

Nigerian doctors are also calling for strict enforcement of the country’s ban that prevents smoking in public areas. The NWA explained that “enforcing the ban is a step toward protecting innocent children and non-smokers against the dangers of secondhand smoking.”

Creative Commons Love: STARS Foundation on

Food Insecurity Threatens 1.4 Million Nigerian Children

A child is checked for signs of malnutrition in Katsina State, Nigeria, March 2011In September, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned of the potential for severe food shortages in the conflict-affected northern states of Nigeria. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Office (ECHO) estimates that 2.1 million people in the region are currently in need of emergency food assistance while another 3 million are at risk due to growing food insecurity concerns.

Growing instability in the region  has caused acute malnutrition in nearly 1.4 million of the region’s children under the age of five, with nearly 500,000 of these children requiring emergency life-saving assistance. “The difficulty is that many children cannot be reached. The response to the food crisis is low compared to the level of the crisis,” said Cyprien Fabre, the West Africa head of ECHO.

Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group, has terrorized this region since early 2012 in an effort to forcibly establish an Islamic state independent from the rest of Nigeria. The resulting instability in the region has caused seed, fertilizer, tool and money shortages. Violence has also forced approximately 20,000 farmers off of their land, leaving no one to tend them. As a result, a large portion of the regions crops have been left to rot and be eaten by animals.

“I so much want to go back and cultivate, but I’m concerned for my safety. Even if I go back, the major problem I will encounter is lack of planting seeds and fertilizer, which I don’t have money to buy” said the farmer Bukar Ngamdu. Another farmer, Ahmad Bura, explained “we have lost this farming season, and we are not sure we are going to have the opportunity of planting next season due to the insecurity… We have turned from food growers to food beggars.”

Even those farmers who have managed to produce crops encounter extreme difficulties in transporting their food to local markets. To get food from the farm to local consumers, farmers must pass roadblocks and checkpoints where they pay hefty bribes or face the threat of attack. Additionally the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have been in a state of emergency that has kept them cut off from the rest of the country. With only limited access to local or imported foods, people in this region face a severe food shortage.

This situation has also begun to affect the rest of the country, leading to skyrocketing food prices. With food availability dwindling and prices rising, food insecurity now affects over 65% of Nigeria’s population of 160 million people.

Creative Commons Love: DFID – UK Department for International Development on

Rift Widens in Nigerian Lecturer Strike

kids @ staff schoolTensions continue to rise as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Nigerian federal government make no progress in negotiations. The union insists that the government honor its commitment to an agreement established in 2009. However, on Wednesday, Senate president David Mark called negotiators of the disputed 2009 agreement ignorant.

Mark described the writers of the past agreement as “people who do not know their right from their left and, in the process, put the federal government into the problem it is facing today, because when the agreements were read out I thought they were mere proposals, only for Chukwumereje to confirm that they signed the largely un-implementable agreements characterized by payment of all manner of allowances.”

The ASUU went on strike on December 4 2011. The strike was temporarily lifted in February 2012 to allow negotitations. These talks disintegrated leading to the current strike, which has been in process since June 2013.

Dr. Nasir Fagge, President of the union, points to nine stipulations in the agreement, including general funding minimums, pay increases, transfer of land to universities, and research funds. Of the nine conditions, only two have been satisfactorily met.

The monetary value of the union’s demands amount to N$1.5 trillion (approximately US$9.5 billion) to be dispensed in three years. This does not include allotments for injury and overtime pay demanded by the strikers.

Creative Commons Love: Dolapo Falola on

African Girls Speak Out for their Rights

West African girl daily pounds grain for her family's daily meal According to a survey released on October 11th, International Day of the Girl Child, adolescent girls informed researchers that they want and need better education, access to health care and less impoverished and threatening living situations to be able to contribute to their society and also survive.

For many girls in various developing countries across the world, what happens during the ages of 13-15 is crucial in determining their future.

“They’ll often drop out of school when they’re forced to become sexually active or forced to marry.  It’s an abrupt change from being seen as a child to being seen more as a woman without having any of the experience, education, access to information or resources that would actually prepare them for healthy adulthood,” said Ann Warner, lead author of the report and senior gender and youth specialist at the International Center for Research on Women.

Of all the girls interviewed as part of a study conducted by researchers working with local partners and NGOs in places such as Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Indonesia, and Rwanda, education was the topic most discussed.   Often girls expressed a similar view, regardless of their country, that education was a tool they could use against getting married.

At the primary school level, there has been significant progress made over the past years, especially for girls.  However, for many families the financial burden of education becomes an issue that often must be critically examined.

One student, Filipina expressed, “My problem is the tuition fee.  We have to choose between school and a bag of rice.”

Another issue still prevalent within education sectors of the developing world relates to vast corruption.  A Nigerian girl confessed, “I have to hawk (sell goods) to earn money to pay the corrupt fees that teachers charge.”

Creative Commons Love: ILRI on

Activists Urge an End to Child Marriage in Nigeria

Nigeria, December 2006According to a recent report released by the Ford Foundation, Nigeria has the highest rates of child marriage of all West African countries. Throughout West Africa, nearly 5 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are already married. Of the sixteen countries surveyed, Nigerian girls accounted for nearly half of this statistic.

In 2003, the Nigerian government established the Child Rights Act making eighteen the minimum age for marriage, yet over one third of the country’s thirty-six states have failed to implement and enforce this legislation. As a result, child marriage remains a significant problem with nearly 29% (2.5 million) of all Nigerian girls aged 15 to 19 being reported as already married.

“Here, you’re being programmed to think that the ultimate for a woman is marriage and nothing else…The government needs to do a better job with creating awareness about the importance of education for girls” said Amina Hanga, executive secretary at Nigeria’s Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative.

This and other non-profit organizations, like the global partnership Girls Not Brides,  struggle to improve these statistics by advocating for the empowerment of women and children through education. Education provides girls with new opportunities and skills that help delay marriage and empower them to make informed decisions about their lives.

Child marriage continues to persist in this region due to a combination of factors that include poverty and increased vulnerability due to crisis or conflict situations. When a family chooses to give a daughter into early marriage, they reduce the financial burden on the family because there will now be one less child in need of food, education and clothing. Many families also see marriage as providing young girls with security and safety in otherwise unstable conditions.

In reality, child marriage poses a grave threat. Girls under the age of 18 are neither emotionally nor physically ready for marriage or motherhood. As a result, child brides lack adequate access to healthcare and face disproportionately high rates of both sexually transmitted diseases and complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Additionally, these girls experience a high risk of social isolation, domestic abuse, lack of education, and poverty.

Understanding these risks, multiple international conventions have declared child marriage to be a violation of human rights because these girls  are unable to decide when and whom they will marry. According to both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, all women have the right to consent to marriage. The problem with early marriage is that children under the age of 18 are not considered mature enough to either make an informed decision or give their consent freely.

Creative Commons Love: Joachim Huber on