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Forced To Flee Their Homes, Children Affected By Boko Haram Relive School Day Memories

Usman Danladi, 17, is one of the many children affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast. Now living in Ilorin, Usman’s journey out of formal education has been long and tedious.

A day in January 2015, Usman’s hometown, Baga, came under attack and many had to flee. He and his family sought shelter at a nearby refugee camp in Maiduguri, about 157 kilometers from Baga.

Before the attack, Usman was already in basic six, preparing for Junior Secondary School. He wanted to be a teacher. That dream is at best only a dream for now.

Usman is one of the many children who had to abandon education due to the Boko Haram insurgency. Six years after leaving his ancestral home, he now has to work to feed himself and his family.

When Usman arrived in Ilorin in 2015, he and his other family members beg to feed. When he became strong enough to bear some weight, Usman started helping people with loads at Tipper Garage Market in Ilorin, for a fee.

“I (normally) leave home in the morning by 9 to the market where I help customers with their goods to the bus stop or their homes sometimes. In a day I may make up to 1000 naira.”

Usman doesn’t see the need to go to school anymore but sometimes gets nostalgic when he sees children dressed for school.

  “I am not satisfied that I didn’t finish my education, but I see no need for it anymore since I have to work to provide a little for my family but sometimes, I remember how school life was in Baga,” he said.

According to the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund, UNICEF, there are 10.5 million of the country’s Children 5 – 14 years that are not in school. 

“In the north, the picture is bleaker with a net attendance rate of 53 percent, and getting school children back to education poses a mass challenge,” UNICEF says.

13-year-old Hamza Aminu, who fled Kaduna with his uncle in 2019 is one of the children that made up the UNICEF data.

Hamza arrived in Ilorin when schools in Kaduna had to be shut down due to the insurgency rate in the northeast and northwest of Nigeria.

Activities of insurgents also affected his uncle who sheltered him. He owned a farm, 20 kilometers from the house but was destroyed by insurgents and the only way to survive was to leave Kaduna.

“All schools had to be closed down when the bombing wouldn’t stop. My uncle’s farm was raided, destroyed, and we couldn’t dare to keep endangering our lives, so we had to leave to keep ourselves alive,” Hamza said.

Hamza, who wished to return to school to become a teacher, sells fruits at Sanrab in Ilorin. His uncle, Abdus’ salam Aminu, who owns the business, also wishes to give Hamza and his cousin a proper education but there is not enough financial strength to do that.

“Well, he had cried that he would like to go back to school. But as you can see, I sell fruits which are the only source of putting food in our stomach.” Mr. Aminu said.  “I wish I have the capacity”

Mental Health On Education

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation challenges the consequences of the closure of schools in the northern part of Nigeria. The organization posits that the major consequence is that affected children would have their education interrupted and consequently drop out of school.

That is the case of Hafsat Naziru the third child of four who left Maisandari, Yobe State, with her mother in 2019 when they were asked to evacuate due to the Boko Haram attack in the town. Two years down the line, she finds schooling traumatizing because she could not understand what she’s being taught 

The 15-year-old enrolled in Sheikh Abdulsalam Secondary School, Ilorin but dropped out in 2020 after the lockdown. She was in JSS3. She couldn’t complete her education because the language used in teaching sounds foreign to her ears. And each time she remembers when they had to go through leaving Yobe, she gets scared.

“I dropped out of school because I didn’t understand the language used in teaching and I find it difficult to adapt to such teaching,” she said.

Same Stories

12-year-old Alaji Ibrahim has been begging for a living since he left Adamawa State with his family in 2020. He would prefer being in a class to begging but that seems far-reaching as there are no financial means to execute the wish.

“I cannot go back to school. I wish I could make new friends here but my parents can’t afford the money being asked for in the schools here.” He said.

Maryam, a 17-year-old first of six children, didn’t remember the last time she’s been in school and how it feels but sometimes misses the atmosphere and hoped she had done more schooling. 

“I arrived in Ilorin in 2016 when things weren’t going well in my family,” she said. “I go around to make laundry for university students in Ilorin here. Sometimes I go with a few friends so we can gather enough money,” she said.

Maryam has been the one catering for her family. When asked about her father, she made it known that he disappeared since 2016

“When my mum was heavy with Aisha, there was nobody. It was me who was around to help her. My father ran away, so as not to cater for another child.” she said

Despite Maryam’s struggle, she wishes to go back to school and pray things go right as she has always wanted. With all hope in her heart, Maryam wishes to be a nurse one day.


Validating Education

Meanwhile, Mr. Owolabi Kazeem, an education expert says formal education is the first and basic step to attain knowledge. He stated reasons why the education system has failed, and children do not have the power nor zeal to learn anymore. 

 “There are quite a number of reasons children are not in school. First, the system is a  failed one and these children in question need basic things as students to keep them motivated to learn.

“However, the whole country is piled up with this cause, the government or certain organizations can work with the state government to provide children their basic amenities.” He said.

“It is the right for every child to be given a proper education at least to the secondary level of education,” he said.

Support for this report was provided by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism with funding support from Free Press Unlimited.

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