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28 Seiten, Note: B
2.0 Contextual Background: The Interactions between Education and Boko Haram Conflict in Northeast Nigeria with a focus on Boys’ Education
2.1 Education as a Victim
2.2 Education as an Accomplice
3.0 Peacebuilding Education
4.0. Peacebuilding Education Approaches for Advancing Boys’ Education in Northeast Nigeria
Around the world, access to education has often been affected by violent extremism (GCPEA, 2018a). Violent extremism here refers to the use of violence to mobilize for and achieve either religious, political, or cultural ideologies (Stephen et al., 2019; Bak et al., 2019). Violent extremists have deliberately targeted education. Evidence shows these attacks can take the form of kidnapping, sexual abuse, and killing of school children and teachers, damaging school buildings and using school buildings for violent purposes (Isokpan and Durojaye, 2016; GCPEA, 2014). For example, in the north-eastern part of Nigeria, Boko Haram attacks have specifically targeted the education system. Since 2009 to date, the Boko Haram attacks have resulted in about 30,000 fatalities, and over 2.3 million people displaced from their communities (Omenma, Onyishi, and Okolie, 2020). It has also been established in the literature that through education, there can be a restoration of hope and normalcy in conflict-affected communities (Cardozo and Shah, 2016; Winthrop, 2011; Smith, 2005). However, much of this education interventions in Northeast Nigeria have focused on girls’ education, as evidenced by (Yahaya, 2019; Weiss, Yow and Jewett, 2018; Africa Check, 2017; Joda and Abdulrasheed, 2015; GEARN, n.d.) and many others who have shown how research and programming have specifically targeted girls’ education in this region. On the other hand, there appears to be insufficient attention to boys who are also victims of this conflict (Nagarajan, 2018). As a consequence, some of these boys are being forcefully recruited or volunteering to be part of the Boko Haram group (Yakubu, 2016), corroborating the theoretical perspective that increasing educational opportunities reduces a young person’s motivation to join extremists. (Barakat and Urdal, 2009).
While four of the SDG education targets advocate for gender parity (UNESCO, 2017a), these have primarily been used to promote women and girls’ participation in education (Wodon et al., 2018), omitting broader categories of inequalities affecting boys and men (Ridge et al., 2017). This essay investigates the gendered dimension of education interventions delivered in northeast Nigeria and the impact on sustainable peace in the region. In this essay, I shall put the spotlight on the less recognized effects of the Boko Haram conflict on boys’ education. I will argue that addressing boys’ vulnerability in this conflict context by investing in their learning through peacebuilding education approaches is an essential part of a response to education and peace challenges in Northeast Nigeria. This essay will utilize the critical themes in the field of education and conflict studies – education as a victim and education as an accomplice (Pherali, 2016; Davies, 2010; Bush and Saltareli, 2000) in discussing the nexus between the conflict and boys’ education in Northeast Nigeria. These will provide the lens to critically discuss how boys’ education has been a victim of the Boko Haram conflict and how uneven distribution of education in emergency programmes produce inequalities, thereby creating a pathway for the reinforcement of conflict in the region. As a way forward, this essay will provide an in-depth analysis of how peacebuilding education can be relevant in engaging boys in this context. This is because of the well-established literature on the transformative role of peacebuilding education and how it enables young people to build critical thinking skills to engage with cultural, religious, or political ideologies that cause conflict (Pherali, 2019, 2016; Bajaj, 2019; Gill and Niens, 2014; Davies, 2009). For this essay, the scope of education in emergency interventions will be limited to the non-formal approaches. The reason for this, is because formal education has been criticized for its inadequacies to meaningful engage learners in a conflict setting (Davies, 2008) while non-formal education has the potential to foster social transformation in conflict-affected areas (Datzberger, 2016). This essay has been organized in the following way: i) it examines the interactions between education and conflict in Northeast Nigeria with a focus on boys’ education; ii) it introduces the theoretical framework - peacebuilding education and discusses education as a peacebuilder in the context, and iii) it suggests peacebuilding education initiatives that can advance boys’ education and promote sustained peace in the region.
In this section, I am going to provide a background understanding of the interactions between education and the Boko Haram conflict in northeast Nigeria with an emphasis on boys’ education. Several scholars in the field of education and conflict studies have analyzed the multiple roles of education in a conflict setting (for example, Lewis, 2019; Bajaj, 2019; Pherali, 2019, 2016; Davis, 2010; Bush and Saltarelli, 2000). Drawing on these sources, education could be a target of an attack, or act as a catalyst of violence, or be a promoter of peace. While education as a target of an attack is concerned with the several attacks on education by extreme groups and how the school system has deviated from being a safe place for children to a war zone (Pherali, 2016), education as a catalyst of violence presents different ways education has aided the perpetuation or reproduction of conflict as argued by (Davies, 2010; Bush and Saltareli, 2000). Then education as a promoter of peace engages students through teaching and learning to address the inequalities that cause conflict (Lewis, 2019; Bajaj, 2019).
It is essential to understand these complexities to inform appropriate education programming in any conflict setting. This section discusses the Boko Haram insurgent attack on education with interest in boys’ education and also education as a magnifier of inequalities thereby maintaining the conflict in the region to demonstrate the importance of investing in boys’ education in northeast Nigeria to achieve a sense of sustainable peace.
Access to education and the benefits of being educated has been undermined for children, both boys and girls in conflict-affected settings (UNESCO, 2018, 2011). In this sub-section, I will be discussing how education and particularly boys’ education have been a victim of the Boko Haram conflict in northeast Nigeria. The ongoing Boko Haram conflict has affected nearly fifteen million people (men, women, boys, and girls) in the region (Bertoni et al., 2018). The conflict is deeply rooted in the ideology that western education interferes with the Islamic values and therefore, forbidden (Musa and Kurawa, 2018). This conflict has disrupted education and social services, women and girls abducted while the sect has forcefully recruited men and boys (Bertoni et al., 2018; UNOCHA, 2015; World Bank, 2015). As noted by Pherali (2016), there are several ways armed conflict can affect education. For example, these can come in the form of i) attacks on teachers and children for defying extreme ideologies and going to school; ii) destruction of school infrastructures; and iii) armed forces occupying schools for military purposes (Pherali, 2019, 2016; GCPEA, 2018a). The Boko Haram attack on education in the region has reflected these forms. School children, teachers, and schools have been victims of this conflict. Evidence, as reported by Human Rights Watch (2016), shows that an estimated number of 952,028 school-age children lost access to education, 600 teachers killed, 2,000 students abducted, 910 schools destroyed, and over 1500 schools forced to shut down between 2009 and 2015.
The adverse effects of this conflict on education have majorly been viewed from girls’ education perspective like in the case of 110 schoolgirls taken from Government Girls Science and Technical School (Nagarajan, 2018), the case of the abduction of over 200 Chibok girls and many other school girls abductions (GCPEA, 2019, 2018b; Human Rights Watch, 2016). Likewise, this conflict has hugely affected boys’ education in this region. There is much evidence on the Boko Haram group recruiting boys from schools and forcing them to reject western education in this region (for example Yakubu, 2016; Isokpan and Durojaye, 2016; World Bank, 2015). Similarly, a UN (2018) report on children and armed conflict revealed that 738 boys between the ages of 13 and 19 were recruited by Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria as child soldiers in 2017. In Buni Yadi Yobe state, 59 boys from Federal Government College were brutally killed defying Boko Haram’s ideologies to attend school (Nagarajan, 2018).
Furthermore, Human Rights Watch (2016) depicts personal stories of boys who have stopped school because of their experiences with the Boko Haram group and also how the group seized villages and schools and sought boys for recruitment. There were also cases where boys fled from their communities, disrupting their education due to threats from Boko Haram to join them or be killed (International Crisis Group, 2013). In the same vein, a report by Human Rights Watch (2012) documented how in an attempt to protect communities, young men formed vigilante groups and are recruiting school-age boys to be part of them just like the insurgent group. These showcase how the conflict has severely impacted the already weak education system in the country. The school which is supposed to be a safe space for children now turned out to be a nightmare for school children in the northeast. Although recent verifiable data on the total number of school-age children taken away by the Boko Haram group is not available, reports have shown that the group has abducted at least 7000 women and girls (UNFPA, 2016) and around 10,000 boys (Hinshaw and Parkison, 2016).
Education is a human right and enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNICEF, 2007). Thus far, evidence on the attacks on education shows as girls’ right to education has been affected by the conflict; boys as well are being denied the right to education. While education plays an empowerment role (Coomans, 2007; Tomaeskvi, 2001) as it widens the choices of individuals to live a fulfilling life, boys in northeast Nigeria lack this ‘enabler’ resulting in the limitation of opportunities in life. For more clarity, Bertoni et al., (2018:22-24) in their research, reports that the absence or lack of teachers and closure of schools due to the conflict have significantly caused school children to lose many years of education resulting in low literacy in the region and predominantly ‘more male students have lost more years of education with respect to female students’. Also, the growing number of out-of-school children in northeast, 30% boys and 37% girls in the northeast as at the year 2015 (GCPEA, 2018b) led to an estimated number of 12.6million children being out of school in the northern part of Nigeria (Save the Children, 2016). In essence, this sub-section has attempted to demonstrate how education has been a casualty of the ongoing Boko Haram conflict with a particular focus on boys’ education. It is important to note here that it is not the intention of this essay to downplay the impact of the conflict on girls’ education but to show that failure to pay adequate attention to the effects of the conflict on boys’ education can lead to inequalities in the region and possibly resulting in more conflict. In recent years, the global community has made efforts to salvage the education sector in the northeast of Nigeria through education in emergency initiatives (Isokpan and Durojaye, 2016). But are these efforts countering the conflict or creating inequalities that maintain the conflict? These shall be discussed in the next sub-section.
In conflict-affected contexts, education can be a tool for reproducing inequalities that instigate violence (Pherali and Sahar, 2018). This could happen directly through hate languages in curriculum and textbooks (Pherali, 2016; King, 2014; Lall, 2008), unequal access to education (Bush and Saltarelli, 2000; Davies, 2005) or indirectly through education policy or aid interventions (Davies, 2010). In this sub-section, I will be discussing the role played by education in producing inequalities that maintain the conflict in northeast Nigeria.
In acknowledging the negative contributions of education in a conflict setting, Bush and Saltarelli (2000:19), note that ‘uneven distribution of education’ leads to the social and economic exclusion that can have socioeconomic impacts on the affected individuals. However, Davies (2010:493) highlighted the adverse effect of education where donors’ education interests or interventions become ‘ counterproductive ’. This draws attention to the connection between donors’ education aid and unequal distribution of education which can exacerbate violence in any conflict setting. The growing advocacy for investing in girls’ education (UNGEI, 2019; GEM Gender Report, 2019; ECW, 2018a; Wodon et al., 2018; King and Winthrop, 2015; World Bank, 2013), especially in addressing the impact of conflict on girls’ education (GCPEA, 2019; UNGEI and ODI, 2017) have yielded donor commitments towards girls’ education through Education Cannot Wait, a global fund dedicated to education in emergencies prioritizing girls’ education. Northeast Nigeria is no exception as girls in this region face triple tragedy, for example, oppressive patriarchal structures, gender-based violence, and insecurity brought by the Boko Haram conflict (GCPEA, 2018b; Pillay, 2018). However, there have been several education interventions, both formal and non-formal programmes to create safe spaces for meaningful engagement of children (ECW, 2018b). It is important to note once again, that the education interventions discussed in this essay are limited to non-formal education programmes. This global education priority on girls’ education and the struggles of girls in northeast Nigeria have influenced education programming in this region. Through safe spaces, development partners are providing tailored education and mentoring to equip girls with life and entrepreneurship skills, for them to pursue their life goals and navigate through the oppressive systems (see for example Nordeen, 2020; Tunold, 2019; UNFPA, 2019; Nwadinobi, 2017, British Council, 2014). Whereas, boys are included in general education programming for out-of-children in the region yet still with a focus on girls’ education (see, for example, Creative Associates International, 2018; USAID, 2017). Taken together, this evidence provides important insights into the less recognition of the effects of Boko Haram conflict on boys’ education and their well-being.
While this essay agrees with the logical assumption that conflict has undermined the capacity of the girls in this region to contribute meaningfully (GCPEA, 2018b), also evidence, as seen from the previous sub-section (Human Rights Watch, 2016), shows that the conflict is equally undermining boys’ capabilities. The failure to recognize this creates socioeconomic divisions which put the boys at risk of being recruited by the Boko Haram group maintaining a hostile and violent environment that can negatively impact on girls’ aspirations and prospects. This argument is in line with some studies which have indicated that lack of education opportunities can propel young people to join armed groups (Barakat and Urdal, 2009; Thyne, 2006; Collier et al., 2001). On this note, it is possible to conclude that because education aid is in favour of girls’ education especially in conflict settings as earlier seen, boys in this region are not meaningfully engaged which has left them very vulnerable to be brainwashed and recruited by the Boko Haram group in perpetuating violence. This is well exemplified in a research investigation by Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP) and UNICEF on perceptions and experiences of children associated with the armed conflict in northeast Nigeria. Some factors were recognized as the reasons behind the recruitment of boys into the Boko Haram group. These factors include ‘abduction, coercion, poverty, deception of the wrong interpretation of religious ideology, charismatic preachers, peer pressure or influence, idleness/unemployment, lack of parental care or families in general, lack of access to education/school/illiteracy, monetary inducement and love of material things’ (NSRP and UNICEF, 2017:9). Although it is a widely held belief that most recruitment into this extremist group is as a result of abduction from schools or homes, this research pointed out that poverty is seen as a major reason for joining Boko Haram. One possible explanation for this is that unemployment and idleness fuelled by lack of education opportunities has placed the boys at an economic disadvantage which makes them vulnerable to the monetary incentives offered by the sect to join them emphasizing that ‘neglecting education can sow seeds for a next conflict’ as Cardozo and Shah (2016:516) infers. This argument resonates with the study by Wessells (2005) on Child Soldiers, Peace Education, and Post Conflict Reconstruction for Peace. The author argues that the lack of opportunities and idleness can create a pathway for young people in conflict contexts to become quickly recruited into armed groups. Also, from another different theoretical perspective, Davydov (2015) considers the adolescent period as a time when young people are at the peak of discovering themselves and are open to different ideologies or extremism. Therefore, in this regard, without adequate educational support to engage the boys in northeast Nigeria in critical thinking towards the violent ideologies, they remain susceptible to be enlisted by the Boko Haram group.
This sub-section has been able to analyze how education is contributing to the Boko Haram conflict in the region through the global focus on investing in girls’ education leaving the boys susceptible to being accomplices of this extreme violence. Understanding this makes it possible to ensure an all-inclusive tailored approach to boys’ education in preventing the maintenance or reproduction of conflict in this region. As pointed out by Stephen et al. (2019), the development of some skill, capacity, or characteristic by individuals helps prevent them from being drawn to violent extremists. Peacebuilding education ‘which is characterized by action-oriented multidisciplinary learning process’ (Pherali, 2016:200) provides a valuable framework for guiding the engagement of boys in Northeast Nigeria. The next section discusses this in detail.
So far, this essay has demonstrated that boys’ education has been a victim of the Boko Haram conflict and that education has indirectly reinforced the conflict environment through the less recognition of investing in boys’ education. However, education also has the potential to be a peacebuilder in a conflict context (Novelli et al., 2019; Davies, 2010; Bush and Saltarelli, 2000). In a conflict context like Northeast Nigeria, it is necessary to provide education equitably to prevent creating inequalities, ‘to provide a sense of care and dignity to displaced populations, and minimize the loss of important social qualities like good health, public self-esteem and hope for the future ’ (Pherali, 2019:12-13). This section presents evidence from the body of literature on education and conflict studies on the role of education in peacebuilding, and its relevance to boys’ education in a conflict-affected context.