Schools are one of the first institutional casualties of war. It is a lot worse when the principal belligerent is ideologically opposed to education. Pupils and teachers, school buildings, laboratories, and libraries, all become the targets of a senseless war. This has been the tragic case with the Boko Haram insurgency in Northeast Nigeria—a war that has been going on since 2009, and for many years largely ignored by Western media, governments, and policymakers. It took an attack on a girls’ secondary school in the sleepy rural town of Chibok to arouse short-lived international outrage and interest in the violence. Chibok has since remained a byword for the Boko Haram insurgency, and the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by the insurgents have become the poster-casualties of the war. But beyond the sad faces of the Chibok schoolgirls lies a much more bizarre story. The Boko Haram insurgency has brutally disrupted education to its very core, not only in Nigeria but also in the broader Lake Chad region—including Cameroon, Niger, and Chad. It will take time, several years if not several decades, for the region to recover from the attack on education. Millions of children have been uprooted from their homes and schools, thousands of teachers have fled, never to return, and thousands of schools have been shut down and often destroyed. Some will never be reopened. Although many displaced persons have now returned home, many displaced children have not returned to school, for their schools no longer exist. Countless others have lost valuable years and have struggled to cope after being reinserted into school.
This situation is not peculiar to the Boko Haram insurgency. Extremist-inspired violence now accounts for more conflicts around the world than any other cause. Unfortunately, despite a plethora of military and nonmilitary interventions, such violence has become increasingly bold and frequent and is likely to continue into the foreseeable future. Education, particularly at the primary level, will continue to be one of the worst social casualties.
In this new book, Dr. Margee Ensign and I demonstrate how we used radio and mobile technologies to improve educational outcomes for over 20,000 displaced and out-of-school children in northeast Nigeria at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency. The book is available on Amazon and on the publisher's website. You can download the Front Matter here to continue reading our Preface as well as the Foreword by USAID's Mike Harvey.