January 24 each year is scheduled to mark the International Day of Education. The theme of the event has always revolved around education as a basic human right and a public responsibility. However, many Nigerian children and their counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa cannot relate to these ideals. According to the United Nations Emergency Fund (UNICEF), one in five out-of-school children in the world is in Nigeria. Across Nigeria, violent conflict and socio-economic issues prevent and limit children's access to education. In northeastern Nigeria, steeped in more than twelve years of jihadist warfare, children are abducted and forced to join terrorist cells or early marriages. Some are lethally used as human bombs. The least unfortunate children are in camps for displaced people, where basic needs, including access to education, are extremely scarce.
Similar contexts exist in parts of northwestern and north-central Nigeria, ravaged by the threat of bandits. The attacks moved from rural communities and included large-scale abductions in ransom schools. In 2021, robbers allegedly abducted about 800 students and demanded a total of more than £ 800 million in ransom. Recently, access to education in the relatively stable southeast of Nigeria has become problematic for many school children due to insolent orders to sit at home. The indigenous people of Biafra (IPOP), a banned separatist group, have issued an order to stay at home permanently in protest of the continued detention of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who is on trial for treason. These days schools are closed for fear of attack. Violent attacks on students and teachers were recorded in the previous days. In many of these hotspots, student safety is very uncertain.
Access to education in Nigeria is becoming increasingly difficult. Many schools have been closed or turned into ruins due to the activities of armed actors. This also includes the fatal loss of children and teachers due to violent attacks. The article argues that education standards in the southeast will eventually decline due to irregular school hours in the region. In the northern states of Nigeria affected by terrorism, there are concerns about how to achieve relative normalcy and provide education for the millions of children who do not attend school. The risks that Nigerian children face in accessing education affect their hopes for achieving the 4th goal of sustainable development, which is quality education. The continued exclusion of many Nigerian children from educational opportunities due to violence will affect their ability to access economic opportunities and exacerbate human capital deficits.
It is imperative to pay more attention to the conditions in which children find themselves, especially in conflict zones and the continuing spread of violence in Nigeria. Education remains a key tool for a country's human capital development and economic growth. Therefore, the Nigerian government must mobilize development partners to support an increase in intervention programs to provide basic education to children affected by conflict. Efforts should be preceded by studies that will assess the best alternatives for providing a safe learning environment for children in abusive homes and resettlement areas.
In addition to education, violent conflicts affect every aspect of human endeavor. Therefore, resolving the various conflict issues in Nigeria will help prevent their implications for education and other socio-economic activities. In the absence of peace and stability, meaningful development cannot take place. Conflict management in Nigeria will assist the government and its development partners in their development aid efforts across Nigeria.