Yinka Ibukun, Bloomberg Business
Map: Bloomberg Business
The conflict sparked by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has forced more than 1 million children to abandon their studies and closed at least 2,000 schools in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring countries, the United Nations Children’s Fund said.
Schools have been hit by attacks as Boko Haram, which means “western education is a sin” in the Hausa language, pursues a six-year-old campaign to establish its version of Islamic law in the region. The violence has spread to neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
“Schools have been targets of attack, so children are scared to go back to the classroom,” Manuel Fontaine , UNICEF’s regional director in West and Central Africa, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Yet the longer they stay out of school, the greater the risks of being abused, abducted and recruited by armed groups.”
In Nigeria, 10.5 million children are out of school, the highest number in the world, according to the UN. Almost 60 percent of the school-age children who weren’t enrolled in school even before the Boko Haram violence lived in the country’s mainly Muslim north.
Boko Haram’s abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from their dormitories in the town of Chibok last year sparked the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign championed by Michelle Obama and thousands of others. Most of the girls haven’t been found.