Nigeria: Security Challenges of Girl Child Education (Insurgency Attacks)

Education is one of the key component needed for development to be obtained anywhere in the world. The problem of Girl Child Education in the North East Zone of Nigeria in States like Borno, Yobe and Adamawa has become a serious issues since in 2009 after the re-emergence of Boko Haram activities which led to killings of 611 teachers, forced out 19,000 teachers to move out of the Zone and also more than 2,000 students were abducted by insurgent group of Boko Haram. 

The study has identify as cited by UNICEF Report of 2015, indicated that between 2009-2015, the insurgent attacks in the North- East has destroyed more than 910 schools and force to closed about 1,500 schools in the Zone. The study also identify that an estimated 952,029 School –age children had fled and left the schools as a result of violence lunched by Boko Haram insurgents through targeted killings, suicide attacks, widespread abduction, school burning and looting. 

The study has uses secondary data to examine the problem of girl child education as a result of insurgent attacks in the North East Zone. The study recommend for girl child education to be sustain as one of the key element for attaining National Development in Nigeria, society need to be highly enlighten and educated about the importance of educating girl child which is equally educating the larger society, secondly, Government should provide enough security facilities in various schools in the zone as well as creating incentive measures that would promote the girl child learning process at various level of institutions in zone in particular and the country in general.

Nigeria, as a mother of African countries has been experiencing peaceful atmosphere, multicultural, dynamic and progressive nation, blessed with human and natural resources, which paved ways for many opportunities for its citizens and foreigners’ to live in harmony from the colonial era, to the inception of Nigeria independence on October 1, 1960, until 2000 where the country started experiencing the strange clamor of violence , and global trend of terrorism, insurgency which led to the gruesome killings of innocent Nigerian citizens, carryout by an insurgent group called Boko Haram. 

The militant and unwanted activities of Boko Haram started to become more pronounce since 2009, they have disrupts educational system in North Eastern Nigeria with huge negative effect on girl’s education.
North eastern region of Nigeria comprises of six States namely: Adamawa State, Bauchi State, Borno State, Gombe State, Taraba State and Yobe State. 

The group of Boko Haram dislikes girls attending schools, and also committed criminal offences ranging from kidnapping of school girls, killing of teachers, religious leaders both in Christianity and Islamic Faith; they have unleashed fear in the minds of every Nigerians living in the region. 

There was massive destruction of school activities in north eastern Nigeria. In recent past, they used local girls to carry out mindless bombing of major central market, shopping mall, cinema halls and bus station. They also involved in murdering of traditional rulers and prominent citizen in North eastern Nigeria. Abduction of school girls, the elderly and female teachers were also common in their recent styles of operations.

This massive violence has kept a number of female children out of school. Osunyi kanmi (2008) argues that the Northern part of the country is still generally far behind other zones in terms of education while the girls are the most affected. UNICEF reports (2015) confirmed that one in every three primary school children and one in every four junior secondary school children are out of school in the North east. 

The narratives show that in most traditional African settings, young girl education is dependent largely on encouragement from families, government’s policies are the key determinant for development of Girl Child education in the contemporary traditional African Society .

The socialization provided by the family is expected to be complemented by government through the provision of safe and secured teaching and learning environment. The frequent cases of kidnappings, abductions, killings and enlisting of girls of school age into bombing operations cripple this lofty aspiration has discourage girl child education and its becomes very hectic and a setback to educational development of the country.

The Origin of Insurgency in North Eastern Nigeria

Activities Boko Haram insurgency in the North-eastern Nigeria can be traced to the preaching of late Muhammad Yusuf since 2002, who is a native of Jakusko in Yobe State. He was the spiritual leader and founder of the Boko Haram sect. Boko Haram officially founded in Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno State, by Muhammed Yusuf who was opposed to everything connected with Western education and civilization.

Adeyemi (2013) argues that Boko Haram is an expression of a global Islamic fundamentalism, notable for two things: internal reform in Islam and the imposition of Islamic rule. The official name of Boko Haram is ‘’Jama’atuAhlisSunnaLidda’AwatiWal-Jihad’’, which means in Arabic means “People committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s teachings and Jihad’’, translated by residents in the North-eastern city of Maiduguri, where the group had its Headquarters, as “Western education is a sin”.

Nigeria since independence in 1960 until 1999 has largely been governed by military Heads of states from Northern extraction who are Muslims. During this period, there was a widespread doctrinal belief among the chronic Muslims from the Northern extraction to the effect that Christians were heavily proselytizing throughout the country, especially in the Middle Belt Region.

The response of the Northern Muslim political leadership to the spread of Christianity was the deliberate move during the period of 2000-2003 to impose Sharia Law in 12 out of the 19 Northern States in which Islamic religion predominates. This development, to all intent and purposes, brought the dissenting Muslim groups together to promote the spread of Sharia in all the Northern States of the country.

The narratives show that the imposition of Sharia went down well with the interest of the Islamic political and religious class. However, it was clear that radicals, such as members of the Boko Haram sect were opposed to the slow pace approach adopted by the Islamic and political leadership. As a result, the killing of many Muslim clerics by Boko Haram was perceived as a purifications agenda with respect to Islam.

In 2004, the group moved to Yobe State where it set up its operational base in a village called Kanamma on the border with Niger Republic. The base was used to launch an armed uprising in September 2004, attacking nearby police station, burning schools with the threat that the war will continue as long as the political and educational systems remained unchanged.

According to Adeniyi, a researcher (2011), the sect renamed the village Afghanistan. The Boko Haram group want Sharia Law to be applied all over the country. They vowed that they would rather have a separate Islamic State carved out of Nigeria where they can practice Islamic religion unhindered. The Federal Government of Nigeria considered the position as a brazen threat to national stability, peace and harmony, by sending police officers to the affected area to maintain normalcy.

The group launched military operation on July 26, 2009 to create Islamic State. Thus, it kick-started the series of violent attacks on police formations and public buildings in the affected states. The government’s response led to the killing of hundreds of the sect members on the streets of Maiduguri and displacing thousands of residents who fled the city. The sect regrouped under a new leader named Abubakar Shekau after their former leader Muhammad Yusuf was captured and killed by the Police.

Another researcher, Adeyemi (2014) notes that from year 2009 and following the assumption of a new leadership headed by Abubakar Shekau, the insurgent group has continued to unleash violence and began what can best be described as the ‘’soft target’’ capturing of border towns close to the Republics of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, killing unarmed patriotic civilian population of North eastern states in Nigeria, forceful abduction of girls of school age, kidnapping of women, frequent suicide bombing and sporadic shooting in public places.

In September 2010 (coinciding with Ramadan), Boko Haram carried out a prison break in Bauchi State where over 700 inmates, including suspected members of the insurgent group were set free. The group, whose methods of operations include drive-by shootings, suicide bombing and bombing from motorcycles has demonstrated its destructive activities (outside its north-eastern domain) in Katsina and a number of times in Abuja. 

In 2013, the United States designated Boko Haram a terrorist organisation, expressing that it had developed international links with other terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, to wage a global jihad. It is important to note that the leader of Boko Haram, AbubakarShekau formally pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iran and Syria. 

The IS-Iran and Syria accepted the pledge, naming the territory under Boko Haram’s control as the Islamic state of West Africa Province and as being part of the global Caliphate it was trying to establish. This development necessitated the United State to include Nigeria as a ‘’country of interest’’ in the war against terrorism. The Federal Government also responded to increasing instability in the area by declaring a state of emergency in May 2013 in the three northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where Boko Haram had strongest operation. 

However, the deployment of military troops by the Federal Government and the formation of vigilante group in the area caused the sect to retreat to the vast Sambisa forest close to the border with Cameroon from where they launch mass attacks on villages and towns, looting, killing, abducting women and children, and conscripting men and boys into their group.

The abduction in April 2014 of more than 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram from Chibok town in Borno State and the subsequent declaration of Gwoza as the administrative capital of the caliphate show that the sect is unyielding to counter terrorist measures. The terrorists had boasted that they are in an Islamic Caliphate, stressing that they have nothing to do with the Nigerian state. However, the regional coalition made up of troops from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger was able to engage the sect and caused them to retreat to Sambisa Forest.

According to the Nigeria Security Tracker, NST (2014), there have been 64 incidences of terror attacks by the Boko Haram sect in the Northeast region between 2009-2014, with different methods of attacks ranging from armed attacks, bombing and explosives, midnight terror attacks, mass murder/suicide raids, assassination/murder and abductions. These attacks has claimed the lives of not less than 2,320 in 2009; 3,000 in 2010; 3,560 in 2011; 3,700 in 2012; 4,420 in 2013 and 5,000 in 2014 (Nigeria Security Tracker, 2014).

The targets of the Boko Haram include Christians, students, traditional leaders, Muslims who oppose its activities, and civil servants and their family members. Boko Haram has abducted at least 500 women and girls since 2009 from more than a dozen towns and villages in Borno and Yobe states. Victims interviewed by Human Righttch reported they were abducted at home, working on their farms, at school, travelling on roads or during attacks on their villages and towns (Human Rights Watch, 2014).

The following abductions were reported by the Human Rights Watch (2014):

a. Abduction of a teenage girl found hiding in a Church in Maiduguri on the first night of the July 2009 Boko Haram uprising.

b. The abduction of a woman from her home in Maiduguri after her husband was killed for refusing to renounce her Christian faith- July 28, 2009.

c. The abduction of 12 women from a police barracks in Bama was the first case of abduction of more than one woman in a single attack and signaled a campaign of violence against women and girls (BBC News, May 15, 2013).

d. The abduction of some 20 women and girls from a check point set up on the Damaturu- Maiduguri high-way – September 2013.

e. The abduction of several teenage girls from their homes and while selling their goods- November, 2013.

f. The abduction of twenty female students of Government Girls Science College and five street hawkers during an attack on Konduga in Borno State in February 2014.

g. The abduction of 219 girls from the Government Secondary school Chibok on the night of April 14, 2014.

h. The abduction of six women and two children from the village of Wala in Borno state on April 16, 2014.

i. The abduction of five women from Gujba village in Yobe state on the April 25, 2014.

j. The abduction of eleven teenage girls during attacks on Wala and Warabe villages in Southern Borno state on May 6, 2014.

k. The abduction of sixty women from Kummabza village in Damboa local government area Borno state in June 2014.

l. Boko Haram also abducted at least twenty Fulani women from BakinKogi, Garkin Fulani and RugarHardo villages near Chibok in Borno state on June 6, 2014.

The abduction of school girls from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno state on the night of April 14, 2014 remains the biggest single incident of abduction by Boko Haram. Studies on the effect of Boko Haram insurgency on education reported that school attendance has been significantly affected in the areas prone to attacks because parents disallowed their children from attending school for fear of attacks and possible abduction (Patrick, 2014). They also reported the loss of trained teachers and other personnel (Ugwumba, 2015). Indefinite closure of schools as a result of the destruction of infrastructure and facilities was also reported (Olaniya, 2015.) This study is concerned with the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on the girl-child’s access to education in the North-eastern Nigeria.

Objectives of the Study

a. To determine the different forms of challenges imposed by Boko Haram insurgency on the girl-child education in the North East of Nigeria.

b. To determine whether Boko Haram insurgency has significantly affected the girl-child’s access to education in the Northeast of Nigeria.

c. To propose solutions on how to address the problems of girl child education in North East Zone of Nigeria.

The Child Right to Education in Nigeria Education is described as the aggregate of all processes through which a child develops abilities, attitudes and other forms of behaviour that are of a positive value to the society. Indeed, it arguably remains one of the most important requirements in the development processes of any nation (Osunyikanmi, 2008). 

Education enables individuals to acquire appropriate knowledge, values and skills for personal development and contributes meaningfully to the development of society (Fafunwa, 1990). 

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966), the Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC, 1989), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACRWC, 1990) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right on the Right of Women in Africa (2003) affirmed education as basic human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Durojaye, 2016).

It is important to note that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989) recognized and made comprehensive provisions for the rights of the child to education. States are required to make primary education compulsory, free and available to all. States are expected to encourage the development of different forms of secondary education; to offer financial assistance in case of need, as well as to take measures to encourage regular attendance at school and the reduction of dropout rates (Isokpan and Durojaye, 2016). 

The aim of child education in this regard is to ensure adequate preparation of the child for a responsible life in a free society.

Again, considering the precarious condition of the young girl in accessing education especially in most of the less developed countries of the world, the African Women’s Protocol requires states to eliminate all forms of discrimination in the provision of access to education, and to promote the enrolment and retention of girls in schools. The constitution of Nigeria, as amended, (CFRN, 1999) provides that government shall direct its policy towards ensuring the availability of equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels. 

By this provision, government at all levels (Federal, State and Local) are required to ensure eradication of illiteracy through free but compulsory universal primary education, free Secondary education, free adult literacy programme and university education. The principal law protecting the Rights of children in Nigeria, the Child’s Right Act 2003 (CRA, 2003) in section 15 guarantees the Child’s Right to free compulsory education, which the government has a duty to provide (Durojaye, 2016).

Also, the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act, 2004 (UBE Act) addresses the issue of access, equality, equity, inclusiveness, the affordability and the quality of basic education. Basic Education, which is contained in the 1977 National Policy on Education(NPE) Document (revised in 2013), caters for children including girls. 

This National Education Policy is described as the foundation upon which the pursuit of higher education is built, and it has since been made the centerpiece of educational policies by successive government in Nigeria. It is important to note that the Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme, which makes it compulsory for the first nine years of schooling of a child is a strategy adopted by Nigeria towards the fulfilment of the objectives of basic education for all and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with respect to child education. 

The major aim of this initiative is to eradicate illiteracy, ignorance and poverty in order to facilitate national growth and development. However, Osunyikanmi, (2008) argues that in Nigeria, young girl education is yet to constitute a basic right in spite of government’s pronounced commitment.

Young Girl Education and Its Advantages in Nation Building

Education is the key to nation building and national development; it had existed in the southern part of the country for sixty years before it was introduced to Northern Nigeria (Osunyikanmi, 2008). 

The Emir of Kano, Mallam Muhammad Sanusi II, emphasized the centrality of young girl education to nation building at the 3rd International conference on Islamic Banking and Finance, organised by the International Institute of Islamic Banking and Finance, Bayero University, Kano on Thursday, 19th January, 2017. He called on wealthy individuals in the north to use their wealth not only in building mosque but to also educate girls and discourage their early marriage. He stated thus:

I am just tired of people coming to me to say I want to build a mosque. You know we keep building mosques and our daughters are illiterates. So my appeal is that if you really want to help Kano, don’t come to me with a request to build a N300M mosque because I have enough mosques everywhere. And if I don’t have a mosque, I’ll build it myself. If you really want to help, go and educate a young girl in the village (Odogwu: The Punch Newspaper 2017).

According to him, over 50 per cent of girls between the age bracket of 18 and 20 were given out in marriage in this part of the country. The worrisome dimension of it was that 75 per cent of them could neither read nor write (Odogwu 2017). Osunyikanmi (2008) had early posited that in the Northern part of the country where Islamic culture is dominant, for example, early marriage of the young girl stands out as a major inhibition to girl child education. 

Calling for a review of laws to prevent early marriage and encourage young girl education, Sanusi said ‘’it is not a mere coincidencethat this is where you have the highest levels of illiteracy, early marriage, divorce and the highest levels of domestic violence’’. 

He argued that:

People need to understand that the law has to change. If you look at the medical data on maternal health, girls who get pregnant below the age of 15 are five times as likely to die as girls who get pregnant at the age of 20. Those who get pregnant under 18 are twice as likely to die as those who get pregnant at the age of 20. So it is important that we look at this issue of early marriage (Odogwu: The Punch Newspaper 2017).

From the foregoing, it is important to emphasize that it should be in the interest of the nation to train a young girl, because when you train a woman, you have trained a nation. Women are generally known to be good managers of resources, especially when they are formally trained. 

It is therefore, very logical to argue that sustained young girl education will engender better management of family income and by extension, accelerate national income and remove domestic burden from men. 

Nigerian government and families should therefore, endeavor to ensure that young girl education is given the required attention so that they can contribute their quota to the growth and development of the nation.

One other advantage of young girl education to nation building is the fact that it serves as a major determinant in securing employment for the female and guarantee greater progress in homes. Young girl education has its inherent role in placing peace and freedom in the minds of women. In other word, young girl education is a sine qua non for the political and economic freedom of the womanhood. Arguably, there is a great link between illiteracy and poverty as there is between opulence and education. If a girl is educated, the chances of overcoming economic slavery are very high. In actual sense, it is inconceivable to compare an educated mother with an uneducated mother as the two are in different worlds. It is therefore correct to say that if 70 per cent of the females in a nation have access to quality formal education, the possibility of females overcoming economic slavery is high; and the nation would be on the path to economic prosperity.

In summary, young girl education is one of the best approaches out of the economic dangers that face both nations and families in contemporary time. Educated girls have greater propensity to get empowered, they become successful in life and make meaningful contributions to nation building. 

Perhaps it is on the basis of the above that the Emir of Kano, Mallam Muhammad Sanusi II, called for the review of existing laws to prevent early marriage and encourage young girl education in the North.

Effects of insurgency on Young Girl Education in North- Eastern Nigeria

The insurgency in the North-eastern region has a serious impact on the education of children as a vulnerable group. The innocent children are made to pay the ultimate price for a war that is not of their making and miss the beauty of childhood as some of them now grow up among families and communities torn apart by insurgency. 

Many children from the region are separated from their families and loved ones, left to face the harsh effects of insecurity, hunger and disease as refugees or internally displaced persons. According to Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND, 2014), over 900 schools in the North-east have been burnt and closed, several students and teachers killed and hundreds of girls abducted.

Recent studies (Durojaye, 2016) on the effects of the insurgency on girls-child education in most of the affected states in North-eastern Nigeria reveal a very terrible state of insecurity. The studies show that:

a. The insurgency has affected girls’ education through mindless attacks on their schools.

b. Frequent abduction of schoolgirls in their dormitory and occasional kidnapping on their ways to school has drastically reduced their attendance to schools.

c. Most teachers and school heads in the region are among the internally displaced persons.

d. Female teachers and schoolgirls were traumatized and afraid of going to school on fear of attacks from the insurgent group.

e. Education planners and inspectors of girls’ education programmes cannot conduct periodic check on schools as most education officers in the region are currently out of their states.

The resultant effect of this state of affairs in the North-east is the closure of schools. This has further exacerbated the previous poor rating of the region in terms of access to education. 

National Population Commission (2014) documented indicated that the North-eastern region rates among the lowest on almost all the formal education indicators. Its rates of poor attendance, from pre-primary school to junior secondary school (JSS), are very high; female primary completion and literacy rates are also much lower than the national average (Sanni, 2015).

According to Atiku (2015), existing evidence revealed that 70% of Northerners are illiterates, while ten million Nigerian children are currently out of school. Insecurity in the region has drastically reduced school enrolment more than any other region in the country.

Teachers and other stakeholders found it difficult to persuade parents to allow their children to stay in school. 

Children who go to school now live in perpetual fears while a good number of them drop out of school. 

Since the beginning of 2012, about seventy thousand children have been forced out of schools across communities in Yobe, Kaduna, Adamawa and Borno States (Sanni, 2015) and many teachers have escaped to other states for safety.

The net effect of the foregoing is that numerous girls of school age currently have no access to education in parts of North-eastern Nigeria where schools have been closed for security reasons. 

In the affected areas where schools still function, children and teachers are often afraid to attend classes. In few schools where there are pupils and teachers, it has been reported that such schools are often overcrowded, understaffed and have insufficient teaching materials; and that because of the violence, many parents are unwilling to enroll their daughters or are withdrawing those already in schools. 

With the insurgents kidnapping of females so that they can be used as human shields and ready tools for suicide bombing, females in the region might be educationally handicapped in contributing their maximum quota to the nation’s development (Sanni, 2015)


For the purpose of promoting girls child education in the North East Zone in particular and the Nigeria in general following things need to be considered:

a. Nigerian government should provide free and compulsory education to all girls in North eastern region in particular and the Nigeria in general up to university level of education.

b. The federal government should provide scholarship for continuous education to all dropped out school children who were internally displaced, sheltering outside North eastern Nigeria.

c. The federal government should show higher commitment in mobilizing the armed forces to the North eastern region and provide security in all schools.

d. The federal government should ensure that all security personnel posted to guide all schools are well motivated properly.

e. The religious leaders should play active role in preaching against the senseless attacks perpetrated by the insurgent group.

f. Peace and security studies should be incorporated in to Nigerian school curriculum.

g. The Nigerian immigration service and other security agencies should effectively controls the border against in influx of illegal emigrants that support insurgent group.

h. Government should honestly fight the proliferations of small arms in the country by putting all measures that controlled the spread of Arms in the country.

i. Government should work in partnership with Community structures in safe guiding the schools facilities, students and teachers from brutal attacks by Boko Haram.

With Agency Reports (ZAMBRUT.COM)