Out-of-school children: Nigeria’s ticking time bomb

Bello Shehu is 12 years old. Under a scorching sun, he sells sachets of purified water to motorists caught in traffic jams in northern Nigeria’s largest city, Kano. He is not alone. Kids in the Muslim-majority north have little choice but to work, with schools closed or destroyed by six years of fighting between Boko Haram and the military. Some 10.5 million children in Africa’s most populous nation and leading economy are out of school - the largest number in the world, according to the United Nations. Experts warn that even with recent successes against the militants, Nigeria needs to take urgent action to prevent an entire generation of children missing out on education.

If nothing is done quickly now, in the next 10 years the Boko Haram insurgency will be child’s play. These out of school children are vulnerable to recruitment into evil-doing.

Mohammed Dongel, who runs a committee to re-open primary schools in Borno state

Boko Haram’s rampage in northeast Nigeria, particularly in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, has had an appalling human cost. At least 13,000 people have died and healthcare provision, agriculture and education have all been devastated since 2009. Of the 1,357 primary schools in Borno alone, accounting for 495,000 pupils, just 400 have reopened, said Dongel. Boko Haram, which is against “secular” education, has repeatedly attacked schools, students and teachers. It comes after Boko Haram militants on Tuesday kidnapped more than 400 women and children from the northern Nigerian town of Damasak that was freed this month by troops from Niger and Chad.

More people are being recruited into Boko Haram because of ignorance, poverty and lack of education. If nothing is done about these children, we are sitting on a time bomb.

Mohammed Dongel