Education: challenges in conflict contexts – Nigeria

This month, HART focuses on the challenges education faces in our partner countries and how our partners seek to meet them.

Terrorist attacks against educational targets have increased in recent years. Terrorist groups in South Asia and Africa, including Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Afghan Taliban, and al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria and Iraq, have increasingly used attacks on educational institutions as a tool. of terror, or have taken over educational institutions to promote their “brand” of extremism.[i] In recent years, the increasing number of attacks on schools and the kidnapping of students by militant extremist groups in Nigeria have received wide media coverage.

Why are educational institutions targets?

Schools, colleges and universities are relatively “soft” targets where large numbers of people congregate. Military, government and civilian buildings are increasingly well guarded. On the other hand, educational establishments are less protected, more vulnerable and have symbolic value since they are often perceived as “representing” the state. Attacks on schools have a high “terrorist” value and increase the profile of militant groups.

But there are also ideological reasons. Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Qaida-linked groups in Syria and elsewhere believe that Western-style secular education corrupts Islamic society and is contrary to their view of the faith. In fact, the words “Boko Haram” can be roughly translated as “Western education is prohibited”.

Why do Islamic extremists hate Western education?

Many Islamists view Western education, often introduced by Christian missionaries, as a Western colonialist religious “import” that corrupts Islamic faith and “traditional” values ​​and seek a return to “pure” religious education.

However, having been applied and adapted to all cultures, modern education can no longer be seen as a “western” import. It is nevertheless considered the greatest threat to the exclusivist ideology of militant groups. Professor Boaz, Dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy writes: “Terrorists fully understand that education for peace, human rights, minority and women’s rights as much as democratic and Liberals are at odds with their messages and pose the greatest threat to their ongoing radicalization efforts. If they can end the rival education, they will get a monopoly on the minds of the future. “

However, it is necessary to distinguish between religious violence and politically motivated violence. Much of extremism is rooted in perceptions of injustice and marginalization.[ii] Situations of poverty and injustice become the breeding ground in which sectarian and religious tensions can be manipulated and develop. The 2013 Global Terrorism Index report (p.68) identifies two factors closely linked to terrorist activity: political violence committed by the state and the existence of broader armed conflicts. “The link between these two factors and terrorism is so strong that less than 0.6% of all terrorist attacks have taken place in countries without ongoing conflict and without any form of political terror.”[iii] The lack of employment for educated people in politically precarious countries increases the risk of radicalization of educated people.

Which Solutions?

Tackling violent extremism requires meeting education and employment needs, and that is why this is such an important goal for most of our partners. Addressing high dropout rates can be the first step in reducing the recruitment of young people into violent extremism. Likewise, the lack of access to formal education makes children vulnerable to recruitment and radicalization. Education provision and incentives in poor communities, where safe schools and infrastructure are available for children (men and women) and staff, in which critical thinking, sports, life skills and family roles and communities are included in the program, transforming communities and providing stability.

HART is proud to be involved in educational projects in all of our partner countries. A few months ago, our partner in Sudan, Benjamin Barnaba, speaking about an area deeply affected by the conflict, said: “Apart from HART in the Nuba Mountains, there is no other indigenous or international agency or agency. United Nations capable of providing educational or school materials. or anything to do with education. Yours is the only project out there and everyone is counting on it.

[i] Naveed Hussein. Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack. * Why terrorists attack education. * February 22, 2016

[ii] Samantha de Silva. Role of education in preventing violent extremism. Joint World Bank-UN flagship report “Can development interventions help prevent conflict and violence? “

[iii] Same.

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