In a bid to intensify their war on the Nigerian government and institute an Islamic caliphate, the Boko Haram terror group had by 2014 killed tens of thousands of people through attacks. Boko Haram began to target schools in 2010, killing hundreds of students by 2014. A spokesperson for the group said such attacks would continue as long as the Nigerian government continued to interfere with traditional Islamic education as the group was opposed to Western education.
On the night of April 14-15, 2014, the Islamic terror group kidnapped 276 mostly Christian female students aged 16 to 18 from the Government Girls Secondary School at Chibok in Borno State. Before the raid, the boarding school had been closed for four weeks due to deteriorating security conditions. But the school girls were in attendance so that they could take their final exams in physics. About 57 of the school girls escaped immediately following the incident by jumping from the trucks on which they were being transported, and others have been rescued by the Nigerian Armed Forces on various occasions.
Since 2014, thousands more have been abducted.
This abduction made global headlines and sparked the #BringBackOurGirls movement and protests. It attracted public support from celebrities and public figures, including Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clinton, and the then First Lady Michelle Obama. However, according to Save the Children, a total of 1,683 schoolchildren have been kidnapped in Nigeria since then. The fear of attacks has even stopped some children from ever attending school. New data analysis by the organization reveals that attacks on schools have been continuing out of the spotlight.
It highlights the violence that schoolchildren and teachers face across Nigeria. In addition to the abductions, over 180 schoolchildren were killed and nearly 90 were injured in 70 attacks between April 2014 and December 2022. An estimated 60 school members of staff were kidnapped and 14 of them were killed. Twenty-five school buildings were reportedly destroyed during that period. The majority of these attacks took place in the North West region with 49 attacks, followed by the North Central region with 11 attacks.
Country director says more needs to be done to support the affected.
These attacks have long-lasting consequences for communities and for children’s access to education. It often leads to the mass withdrawal of children from school and school closures. In Katsina state in the northwestern part of the country, nearly 100 schools remain closed due to insecurity, affecting the education of over 30,000 children. Little wonder that Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world at 20 million. The aftermath of attacks leave children and communities traumatized, and the majority do not receive psychological support.
Famari Barro, Country Director at Save the Children Nigeria, said that more needs to be done to prevent attacks but also to support children and their families in the aftermath. During focus group discussions with affected communities, staff of the organization discovered that many children were too scared to return to school. One girl, who survived the Chibok school attack, said, “I am afraid of being a victim some other day and afraid of dying or rape by the insurgents.”
Over 90 Chibok girls are still being held or missing.
Barro stated that nearly a decade after the tragic abduction of the Chibok girls made international headlines, more than 90 of them are still held or missing, and countless children and teachers still live under the threat of violence, forcing many to flee or interrupt their education, sometimes forever. In 2015, the Federal Government of Nigeria endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, which seeks to ensure the continuity of safe education during armed conflicts. The declaration outlines commitments to strengthen the protection of education from attack, but it remains largely unimplemented at the state and community levels. Rural community schools remain vulnerable to attacks.
Safe Schools Declaration: Website