Challenging The Conflict Discourse: Education policies for disabled children

Conflict can take many forms. For this reason, problematizing development discourse is crucial to defining it’s many dimensions and generating new ideas for solving inveterate issues within global education. The UNESCO Education for All movement, agreed upon by 164 nations of the UN in 2000, outlined an ambitious plan to provide basic quality education to all children and adults by 2015. As it currently stands, many nations have failed to provide policies for educating children with disabilities, highlighting a major conflict in policymaking worldwide. Furthermore, it begs the question: How can policymakers at both the international and local level reconcile the conflicting interpretations and motivations informing their education policies?

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Child with cerebral palsy at the Palsigunung rehabilitation center in Jakarta. Source: Beawiharta, REUTERS 2010

According to a recent article by the Thompson Reuters Foundation, over half of the world’s 65 million school age children with disabilities are being left behind in education. They are being systematically written off by policymakers concerned with their (children with disabilities) potential as a “worthy investment” (Tabary, 2016). This dehumanizing process of elimination is all too familiar in a field where development policy is largely established in the neo-liberal tradition of human capital theory. Children with disabilities are essentially considered subordinate investments due to their inability to enter the workplace. This article references a recent UNESCO report that cites a major trend in defunding education in international aid programs. In a reaction abreast of the current economically focused policies of education and development, inclusive education advisors are positioning their arguments as wise investments. Nafisa Baboo of Light for the World, explains that inclusion of disabled children is not only cheaper than segregation but it can lead to less societal discrimination. Stigma against the disabled is especially ripe within developing communities and increasingly apparent in policymaking.

Kashmir Government  Fails To Support School For Disabled
Blind student. Source: Yawar Nazir, Getty Images

While many government policies dutifully account for the education of all children, in practice there is a disproportionate gap in education for children with disabilities. According to a Huffington Post article, one reason for this gap in developing countries is the lack of inclusive education policies, such as IDEA (1975) in the US that has worked to include almost 96% of disabled children within regular classes throughout their school day. Antia (2015) posits that rather than being a sound investment, inclusive education is a moral imperative for policymakers.

Although international movements, such as Education for All (2000) have provided an impetus for governments to design inclusive education policies, policymakers have failed to produce. This conflict in policymaking is rooted in an outdated, yet widely accepted, theory of children being considered as investments. This logic has led to the failure of policymaking in developing nations to produce substantive education policy to serve children with disabilities. Be it stigma against the disabled, or misguided motivations, there is conflict in international education policy. As Antia (2015) rightfully suggested, policymakers across the globe have a moral imperative to rejuvenate their efforts to produce quality inclusive education.

 

References

Education for All Movement. UNESCO. (2000) Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-all/

Tabary, Zoe. (2016). Half of the world’s disabled children are out of school – report. Thomson Reuters Foundation News. Retrieved from http://news.trust.org/item/20161017000359-br3vh/

Antia, Shirin D. (2015). Education For Children With Disabilities Is A Global Right. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shirin-d-antia/education-for-children-wi_b_8854920.html

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Myanmar’s Invisible Extermination: How News Media plays into Pre-conceived Notions

When it comes to the analysis of what new stories we see (or don’t see) in mass news media, I’ve often been an apologist for the business side of selection bias. I would often defend the coverage of violence in Western countries over the violence in countries of the East, both Near and Far, by arguing that people in the United States have a more vested interest in the goings on of Europe, and companies like CNN are driven by viewership, after all. However, this lack of information about the struggles and hardships of other peoples across the world, especially when those hardships can challenge the preconceptions that companies like CNN, NBC and Fox News cash in on, can be problematic. I can see a no more obvious case than the persecution of Muslims in the country of Myanmar.

Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country run by a President who was formerly a member of the ruling Military junta. However, also in Myanmar, lives a group of people who have been systematically disenfranchised, ostracized, and recently killed, for their religious beliefs: The Rohingya people. The Rohingya people, the Indo-Aryan Muslims who inhabit remote regions in Myanmar, have been barred from citizenship, victimized in the judicial system, and have become the targets of Buddhist nationalist violence, in varying degrees since Myanmar gained independence from Britain.

The point of this post is to bring light to the fact that there are people of many different cultures, religions, and backgrounds are both perpetrators and victims of hate crimes across the globe. These articles, detailing the victimization of Muslims, who are often portrayed as perpetrators of violent crimes, help us to see that alternative and non-Western news sources can give us views into conflict that we normally might never see. In essence, the news media, as a method of educating the public, is open to a wide variety of biases. This case, and these two articles, are strong indicators that a diverse news platform palate is essential if we want to have a better understanding of the world and the forces at play across the globe.

 

Sources:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/mob-burns-mosque-myanmar-160702100230049.html

http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21654124-myanmars-muslim-minority-have-been-attacked-impunity-stripped-vote-and-driven

 

 

Challenging the Conflict Discourse:A closer look at China’s examination system

The face of conflict is not always guns and bloodshed. At least not in the most populous country in the world. Educational conflict in China – where cheating in examinations means serious jail time – is about social class and opportunities.  When the Chinese government announced, the redistribution of education opportunities to the poor and ethnic minorities, the decision was met with protests across social media. It was a decision that shrunk the odds of middle and upper-class children from gaining access to top higher education schools in the country, (New York Times).

University admissions in China are a cut-throat affair.  Getting a placement in good universities which are concentrated in affluent cities, essentially dictates your future. It translates into well-paying jobs, a good social standing and upward mobility in China’s meritocracy. This year alone, over 9.5 million school children trooped to examination centers to take the National College Entrance Examination known as Gaokao. Local students from wealthier regions like Wuhan in Central China and Baoding in Beijing had more slots available to them compared to their counterparts from poor cities like Luoyang in Henan Province. The ministry of education’s plan to reduce the placement of local students and open up more slots to outsiders from impoverished regions, raised concerns about ‘fairness in education’.

Equitable distribution is a contested subject between the social classes. While the wealthy claim that they work just as hard to get placement in the top universities, the poor people’s comeback is that the rich are quick to utilize resources from rural areas, but reluctant in allowing the underprivileged to attend good schools in the prosperous cities.  On the other hand, a publication by the BBC put into perspective the significance of the Gaokao season in China.  These standardized examinations that have been the center point of China’s educational system since the 1950’s have shaped the country’s social fabric.

Families that have the means often hire professional tutors known as Gaokao nannies to help their children revise for the examinations. Nannies can earn as much as 45$ a night to stay up with the candidates and coach them. Hotels also cash in on this season, by providing Gaokao packages that provide competitive rates for candidates who live far from test centers. In most cases, these rooms get fully booked despite the soaring per night prices that could hit the equivalent of 290$. Perhaps the most famous Gaokao season event takes place in Maotanchang School in China’s Anhui province. In this institution labeled a test-prep factory by the New York Times, parents dig deep into their pockets to raise as much as 8000$ for the tuition program.

The Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire and his Pedagogy of the Oppressed shares his disapproval of this form of education and christens it Banking Education. His view claims that children should not be viewed as containers that are recipients of knowledge provided by educators, but they should be molded to be free thinkers. While many other critics question this entrenched examination culture of the Gaokao, for many in China it is a delicate matter that cannot be compromised.  

References

The New York Times China Threatens Jail Time for College Entrance Exam Cheaters June 7, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/08/world/asia/china-exam-gaokao-university-cheating.html

The New York Times: China Tries to Redistribute Education to The Poor, Igniting Class Conflict June 11, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/world/asia/china-higher-education-for-the-poor-protests.html

Gaokao Season: China Embarks on Dreaded National Exams, June 7, 2016. Retrieved fromhttp://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-36457453

Freire, Paulo., (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Retrieved from https://selforganizedseminar.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/freire_pedagogy_oppresed1.pdf

Reading from a Different Script: Battling The Struggle to Assimilate Syrian Refugees in Europe.

Children gathered for a class under a tent at the Oraiokastro refugeee camp. Jihan Sheikh Mohammed saish she would prefeter that her 9-year-old daughet attend a local school rather than receive the makeshift lesson on site. Credit Angelos Tzortzinis for the New York Times

The journey of 9-year-old Mariya bint Loqman from Syria to Europe is emblematic of journeys taken by thousands of refugees fleeing the ravages of war in the Middle East. Touching ground in Greece after a perilous boat ride across the Aegean Sea from Turkey led Mariya to a shabby refugee camp run by the state. In the confines of this temporary haven, only bare necessities were available to her and education was not one of them. When the Greek government decided to provide Mariya, together with 22,000 other children an opportunity to attend public school, the plan faced intense opposition from the local residents. (The New York Times).

In many countries across Europe that have received an influx of immigrants, there has been a stiff resistance against assimilating these refugees into the society. In the case of Greece, it is parents in various school communities that have waged the fight against admitting  children like Mariya into public schools. In his article published on September 25, Niki Kitsantinos of the New York Times noted the openly discriminatory statements that cited the fear of contagious diseases from the refugee children. The parents also claimed that cultural differences would disrupt the learning process of their own children in the schools. A letter addressed to the Education Ministry in the town of Filippiada stated, “They come from another continent with completely different diseases and health conditions.”

There is a small minority of residents that speak in favor of enrolling the migrants, arguing that neighborhoods and schools lack the right to decide who should or should not be accepted. The voices of these minorities are often outnumbered, but some, like Katerina Karanikolaou, observe that the health concerns raised by the residents are only smoke screens underneath which xenophobia thrives. In Canada, roughly 5000 miles West of Greece, children such as Mariya are getting much more than the average refugee resettlement package. The Guardian explores Canada’s scheme to integrate refugees in an article published on September 26, titled “Canadians are embracing Syrian Refugees. Why Can’t We?”

Over 30,000 Syrians have been relocated to Canada, a country christened the immigration jackpot. The government does not settle migrants in camps, but across major cities and large towns.  In addition, over 300 communities across the country have pulled in efforts to provide housing, English lessons, courses in driving and Canadian traditions such as potluck dinners and poutine. Most of these efforts to integrate refugees are driven by families in smaller places like Nova Scotia where they are offered both financial support and friendship. This outpouring of passion is largely attributed to the body of a three year old boy called Alan Kurdi  that washed up on a Turkish beach after he drowned in a capsized vessel that was crossing the sea from Syria.

Islamaphobia, across European countries like Greece, continues to deepen, but stories of people that choose to read from a different script across Canada, are pivotal in addressing the plight of refugees. For now, thousands of children like Mirya are still in dire need of psychological and educational interventions.

References

The Guardian, Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/27/canadians-are-embracing-syrian-refugees-why-cant-we

The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/26/world/europe/greece-migrant-children-school.html

The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/31/alan-kurdi-death-canada-refugee-policy-syria-boy-beach-turkey-photo

 

 

BACK TO SCHOOL OR BACK TO THE WAR-FRONT?

No longer hot momentarily, it is a frozen conflict whose violence  erupts every now and then with small arms fire from both sides. 80960082_minskgradukrreut

In Eastern Ukraine the start of the school year holds dread instead of excitement. Toretsk,  the Soviet-era mining town in Ukraine’s Donbas region is in the war front, in the never-ending conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian backed and Russian inspired rebel forces. The children of School No. 9, or at least their school, are caught in the middle.  Toretsk is near rebel-controlled Horlivka. It is a drab town held by government forces; hence it is right in the middle of the conflict zone between government and rebel forces.

There was supposed to be a new cease-fire agreement according to the second Minsk  agreement, but the war front is anything but peaceful or quiet – mortars explode, gunfire boom, and people die, both soldiers and civilians on either side –  after Minsk 2 had been agreed upon and signed  between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel;  though the conflict is supposed to be a civil war between the rebels in Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and the Ukrainian government. 80961918_minskroundafp

Last September (September 2016) the warring sides agreed on a “back-to-school” ceasefire to enable school-children return to school 107526296-large_transpvlberwd9egfpztclimqf1x_50byq9ah3wjav0ys_ms

But nobody knows if the truce will hold,  or if the children will take flight again or be mown down when the unending hostilities of war begin anew in the region. It has happened before – in Slovyansk , Eastern Ukraine; and “The children of School No. 12 endured violence and witnessed things no child should have to see: shellings, shootings, death”; according to Unicef. Human rights watch reported  in 2016 that many schools were attacked and destroyed in the war, ostensibly because the schools were used by both sides in the conflict for military purposes.2016-02-ukraine-eca-photo-17  Schools, like places of worship ought to be free from attack in military conflicts because schools are second homes to our most vulnerable citizens – children – but when adult anger or greed for power turns into conflict, children’s lives become less important to warring combatants.

Yes, a shaky ceasefire allowed school children to return to school in Eastern Ukraine, but for how long will the children be allowed to hope for a brighter future by studying, so that they can become useful citizens, and aid their country develop?  Will the combatants in Donbas respect the sanctity of life for the children; and stop rendering the children’s future doubtful, which is what happens in every conflict zone? These are questions which only the combatants can answer; and they must answer these questions and more;  at least for the sake of their children and ours; who need stable environments to attain basic education so necessary in the development of every country on earth.

 

 

References:

BBC News.  February 12, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31436513

Human rights Watch. February 11, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/02/11/ukraine-attacks-military-use-schools

The Telegraph. September 4, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/04/ukraines-uneasy-back-to-school-ceasefire-begins-on-eastern-front/

Unicef connect. May 26, 2016. Retrieved from https://blogs.unicef.org/blog/a-school-unlike-any-other-in-eastern-ukraine/

The Violent Cost of Education

On October 10th, one of South Africa’s major universities broke out into violent protests over the rising cost of higher education. Students are demanding a free education for institutions across the country; however, with a police response, the protests took a violent turn. Police have been firing rubber bullets and tear gas in response to the students throwing rocks and lighting things on fire. The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg is the center of the student movement, but the student protests are spreading and affecting other institutions within the country.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the administration is trying to negotiate and respond to the student protests, but the students are not cooperating. The Minister of Education, Blade Nzimande, denounces the violence happening throughout the country and states that the academic programs are not able to run due to being “held ransom by irresponsible and disrespectful striking students.” Without the funding from student tuition, the administration states that programs will have to be cut and there would not be any funding for research programs.

Money is not everything, in terms of higher education, financial support needs to come from somewhere in order to effectively run an institution. Higher education and the human capital theory are almost synonymous. If a student invests in themselves, their knowledge cannot be separated from their body, making them more marketable for future job prospects. However, if there is no funding for institutional programs to run, the purpose of higher education diminishes, meaning less human capital. As long as there is access to higher education, the economy will benefit. In the case of South Africa’s institutions, this is not the case.

The administrative perspective is not what the students are focusing on with this protest. As stated in Al Jazeera article, university fees are not the center of this protest. The cost of education and the inequalities within the nation are prohibiting black students from attending higher education institutions. These protests were triggered by the government recommendation to increase tuition fees by eight percent; however, the frustration surround the inequalities have been going on for more than two decades after the end of white minority rule in South Africa.

In Johannesburg, the University of the Witwatersrand has reopened; however, the student protests are still currently taking place. Whether or not the protest is fully about the rise of tuition or a way to finally fight for equality within the higher education system of South Africa, the protests have turned violent and students are being injured. Disruption and chaos will continue to spread among institutions within the country, and either way, academic programs will be damaged.

For a student perspective, watch this video.

To read more, follow up here.

Sources:

South African university engulfed in violence in protests over education costs. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2016, from http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-south-africa-student-protests-20161010-snap-story.html

South Africa: University fee protests turn violent. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2016, from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2016/09/south-africa-students-fees-protests-turn-violent-160921071225187.html

 

Colombia’s Invisible Battle: Educating the displaced

After 5 decades of low-intensity warfare, Colombia has tentatively elected not to demobilize and integrate over 7,000 FARC soldiers into society. The much anticipated plebiscito, or vote to pass the brokered peace agreement, resulted in a marginal victory for the “no” camp. The refusal to end the conflict is nothing short of a tragedy for the nation’s over 6 million internally displaced peoples (IDP).

idp-map
Data Map of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). Source: Benjamin Hennig

Colombia has only recently been surpassed as the nation with the greatest IDP population, an issue made nearly invisible by the country’s recent economic growth. The IDPs lack the resources or support to exercise their right to education or labor, perpetuating the long-held sentiment that Colombia’s formal economy has essentially abandoned them. To address this issue, in 2012 the Santos administration passed the Free Education Policy, ensuring that primary and secondary education would be tuition-free for all of the nation’s 8.6 million children. However, free education doesn’t beget equal opportunity and the IDPs have become the unintentional victims of poor forethought and institutionalized discrimination.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), dutifully reported the often overlooked struggle that these IDPs face in receiving equal education. Being born into conflict has denied IDPs the opportunity at literacy, subsequently forcing the more vulnerable women and children into child labor and sexual exploitation (see Edet blog below).  Their inherent disadvantages result in a lack of financial resources and while education is free, the costs to obtain it are not. Students need uniforms, books, and transportation to schools which are often inaccessible for IDPs. COHA’s criticism is sound when you consider that most IDPs also lack the necessary national identification card which permits free education and health benefits. The tuition-free education inherently disadvantages IDPs and further perpetuates gender discrimination.

Fighters from Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), stand in line during opening of ceremony congress at camp where they prepare for ratifying a peace deal with government, near El Diamante in Yari Plains, Colombia
Female soldiers from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Yari Plains, Colombia. Source: John Vizcaino, Reuters

 

The Atlantic recently published an article that gives teeth to the argument of institutionalized gender discrimination penetrating Colombia’s social fabric. Interestingly, they make their case through a lens that COHA artfully avoided; the internally displaced, reintegrated female guerrillas. Having been recruited at a young age, taken far from their homes, and subjected to an altogether different form of education, demobilized female guerrillas face a litany of socio-cultural barriers upon reintegration. In addition to the stigma of betrayal, females are expected to pursue an education only insofar as they are prepared to fulfill their role as home-dwelling caregivers with an elusive standard of beauty. Free education policy provides no practical path to success for this overlooked portion of IDPs but instead perpetuates the issue by funding ads that promise them they can “smile and become the mother (they’ve) always dreamed of being“.

Both articles highlight the woeful social unpreparedness of the Colombian government to address the root cause of IDP education: there is a lack of focus on basic human rights in policy development. Their disjointed notion of Education For All doesn’t provide a pathway to success for IDPs. It lacks a focus on the basic democratic principle of human rights in policy development to eliminate stigma and promote community engagement, as is evidenced by the fact that 60% of the population didn’t even cast a vote in the recent plebiscito.

*For a further investigation into the impact of internal displaced women, read Edet’s A Bleak Future: No homes, no schools.

 

References:

Højen, Louise. (2015) Colombia’s “Invisible Crisis”: Internally Displaced Persons. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.coha.org/colombias-invisible-crisis-internally-displaced-persons/#_edn25

Alpert, Megan. (2016). To Be a Guerrilla, and a Woman, in Colombia. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/09/farc-deal-female-fighters/501644/

The World Bank. (2015). GDP per capita, PPP (current international $). Retrieved at http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.PP.CD?end=2015&locations=CO&start=2000

Alsema, Adriaan. (2012). Colombia implements free primary and secondary education. Colombia Reports. Retreived from http://colombiareports.com/colombia-implements-free-primary-and-secondary-education/

UNESCO. (2000). Education for All Movement. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-all/

 

Education Isolation: The Closure of Bookstores in Peshawar

After 55 years of being a cultural hub for the locals and foreign workers of Peshawar, Pakistan, the Maktaba-e Sarhad bookstore is being closed. Owner Haji Rasheed collected and maintained over 30,000 books to encompass a whole world of ideas into his shop in the heart of Peshawar. Over the last month, everything was discounted down to fifty percent off and Haji is left with around 3,000 books. He is switching over to selling computers and televisions. In an interview with Radio Mashaal, Marvais Khan, Haji stated that those that enjoy reading books have no money to actually buy the books, and those with money, especially in Peshawar, are not buying books. However, general business failure is not the reason behind the closure.

Peshawar’s bookstores are being pushed out of the city due to both Talibanization and the economics of bookstores. Over the last sixteen years, bombings have been more routine in Peshawar and militant groups have been attacking institutions viewed as “Western—influenced” and going against Islamic values; bookstores have been an effective target. While these bookstores have been targeted, free alternatives have been put in place by the militant groups in the city as well; however, the choice is not as worldly. Jihadist literature has been handed outside mosques once a week. The education of the people of Peshawar is dwindling because of the limited options that are being presented, especially with the push of bookstores out of the city. These bookstores are either shutting down, or moving to the major cities within Pakistan, stripping the rural areas of literature. Students are losing access to literature, other than the free Jihadist readings; in turn, losing the ability to expand their educational background. The Radio Free Europe article makes the connection and focuses on the issue of deprivation of literature and education could lead to an increase in the inability to resist extremist.

Samar Minallah, a women’s right activist living in Islamabad commented on the education for the youth now living in Peshawar:

“When I was studying in Peshawar, Saeed Book Bank was full of youngsters. Even those who were not buying books, they would also know about the new books by visiting the shop. Adjacent to Saeed Book Bank there was a shop for the repair of musical instruments [now closed]. The old Book Shop was not merely a book shop; it was a symbol of our culture. Our younger generations are being deprived of these cultural roots.”

The Washington Post sheds a different light on the reasoning, with the focus on the lack of modernization in Peshawar and a push for technology and development. While technological and cultural changes might be present in current day Peshawar, this is not the struggle story of a small bookstore in the United States. The lack of access to literature is pushing the youth away from reading, especially in rural areas. Modernization does not necessarily allude to books becoming unpopular. The shutting down of bookstores leads to under-educated youth who do not have access to ideas other than what is being handed to them. The militant groups, almost with a post-Marxist view in mind, are focusing on stripping the powers of the bookstores because of the western ideals promoted within them; the content of the bookstores is stripping the country of a local education.

Read More on Current News in Peshawar:

http://tribune.com.pk/story/123082/closure-final-page-turns-on-saeed-book-bank-peshawar/

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/155465-CTD-claims-arrest-of-terrorist

http://dunyanews.tv/en/Pakistan/355327-Peshawar-Hindu-community-stages-protest-against-I

Sources:

Radio Free Europe: http://www.rferl.org/a/peshawar_bookstores_close_isolation_grows/24563915.html

The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/peshawars-last-bookstore-closes-a-victim-of-iphones-and-islamist-extremism/2016/09/23/1e94dcca-7a7a-11e6-8064-c1ddc8a724bb_story.html

Featured Image: http://i2.wp.com/www.parhlo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/14138491_10153652432071541_591132192_n.jpg?resize=505%2C673

A Bleak Future: No Homes, No Schools.

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Girls in  the Dalori camp for internally displaced people, in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri in Borno State.

 

The Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria has affected millions of parents and their school-age children, closed down thousands of schools, and made life uncomfortable and unbearable in the affected areas of north-eastern Nigeria. In the states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, regarded as the epicenter of the crisis, educational development has been stunted.  More than 2000 schools have been closed in the area and across borders in the three countries – Chad, Cameroon, and Niger – which share borders with the three Nigerian states at the center of the crisis. The Brookings Institution estimates   that 3.3 million people have been internally displaced in north-east Nigeria as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency. This number of displaced persons due to the Boko Haram conflict accounts for 10% of Internally Displaced Persons worldwide.  Though the article that reports this fact has a political tinge, it asserts correctly that the insurgency is far from being defeated by the Nigerian government. The Chibok secondary school girls,   90784817_sniptoblured     abducted in April 2014, still remain in Boko Haram captivity   The United Nations believes that a “staggering” 1 million children have been forced out of school because of the crisis.

The article published by The Brookings Institution fails to mention if the Nigerian government has resettled school children in both primary and secondary schools in areas recaptured from Boko Haram. The article is more interested in the politics involved in failing to totally defeat Boko Haram and ignores the tragedies of loss of lives and human capital, and the stalling of development in the areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.

By contrast, the Wall Street Journal has a different tinge on the terrorist organization. Writing on August 3, 2016, the Wall Street Journal noted that Boko Haram has changed both name and leadership, further complicating the Nigerian government’s ability to defeat the insurgent terrorists quickly. The terrorist organization now wants to be called Islamic State West African Province after it had pledged allegiance   in March 2015 to the Middle East terrorist organization known as ISIS.

Out-of-school children living on the margins of society, between danger and death, between hunger and uncertain future, and living without knowing if their lives will ever be normal again, typify the tragedy of conflict zones. Until the conflict in Nigeria ends, all talk about hope, schooling,  the future,  or the  development of educational  skills for these children remain but hot air signifying nothing in the minds of these children.

References:

Jideofor Adibe. Brookings. Re-evaluating the Boko Haram Conflict. February 29, 2016 Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2016/02/29/re-evaluating-the-boko-haram-conflict/

UN News Center. Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency forces one million children from school – UNICEF.  Retrieved from http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52879#.V_Uz_yQlS2t

BBC News. Nigeria Chibok Girls: Boko Haram Video Shows Captives. August 14, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-37076644

Drew Hinshaw & Gbenga Akingbule. The Wall Street Journal.  Islamic State Names New Leader of Boko Haram. August 3, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-newspaper-names-new-leader-of-boko-haram-1470239684

 

 

 

TWO YEARS ON: THE EDUCATION CRISIS AFTER THE CHIBOK ABDUCTIONS

2016-04-africa-nigeria-01
Children look  through a destroyed classroom window at Yerwa Primary School, Maiduguri, Borno state, damaged by Boko Haram during attacks in 2010 and 2013. The school, established in 1915, was the first primary school in Northeast Nigeria. Copyright 2015 Bede Sheppard/Human Rights Watch

 

The “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, seems like an ancient outcry lost in a history of hashtag movements that have occupied 21st Century media. 300 girls in the village of Chibok, Nigeria were featured in world headlines when one of the world’s deadliest terror groups, Boko Haram, kidnapped them from a boarding school on April 14, 2014.  According to the Washington Post, the unsuccessful search for these girls, to this day has become a symbolic failure of both the Nigerian government and its western-backed allies

In the fourteen years of its existence, Boko Haram has routinely targeted schools, teachers, and students in its war against western style education. By early 2016, over 959,029 children of school going age had been displaced from schools in the North Eastern part of Nigeria. Did the fate of these 300 girls, cast light on the extensive acts of terrorism perpetrated by this terrorist group? The influence of western media on this issue certainly played a role in concerted efforts by western countries to send troops to aid the Nigerian military. However, the slow progress of these efforts led to the waning attention of the media and by extension, the rest of the world. Far more disconcerting, is the little attention that has been given the thousands of children displaced from schools.nigeria0416_map-01_0

According to a publication by NORRAG, titled Refugees, Displaced Persons and Education,  the crisis created by Boko Haram in the Chad basin region, is comparable to that of the Syrian conflict. However, this humanitarian crisis has seen a shortfall of international funding compared to the Syrian crisis, where refugees have fled to neighboring countries in the region and to Europe.  Over the years, the fight against the terror group has been plagued with failures by the Nigerian government. The looting of money intended to fight terrorism, the occupation of schools and the violation of human rights by the military greatly affected the plight of children.

Nonetheless, small battles for education have been won by groups like the Education Must Continue Initiative (EMCI). Such community-based organizations have developed as a result of insufficient focus on education reform by the government. Other initiatives like the Nigerian Education Crisis Response Program, have set up informal learning centers in the North region of the country. These education initiatives have the huge challenge of providing safe learning environments and helping children cope with trauma.

There are still many children like the Chibok girls whose right to education has been robbed from them. Although a more globalized media opened Chibok to the world, it is often the interests of imperialist nations that have defined the narrative on the global media platform. For now, the focus of the international community has been on Syria and Iraq. While the United Nation agencies strive to raise funds to aid the people of North Eastern Nigeria, the country’s leadership should strengthen its governance structures in order to address the plight of a generation of children that might risk losing its chance at education.

References

Washington Post: What Happened After Interest Faded in the #BringBackOurGirls Campaign. May, 2016. Retrieved from  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/05/18/what-happened-after-interest-faded-in-the-bringbackourgirls-campaign/ 

NORRAG news: Refugees, Displaced Persons and Education: New Challenges for Development and Policy. May, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.norrag.org/cn/publications/norrag-news/online-version/refugees-displaced-persons-and-education-new-challenges-for-development-and-policy/detail/idps-and-education-in-north-east-nigeria-after-boko-haram.html

International Business Times: Nigeria’s Education Crisis: Boko Haram Targeting Schools, Teachers, Students Is Devastating Africa’s Largest Economy. December, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.com/nigerias-education-crisis-boko-haram-targeting-schools-teachers-students-devastating-2177842

Human Rights Watch: They set the classrooms on fire: Attacks on Education in Northeast Nigeria. April, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/04/11/they-set-classrooms-fire/attacks-education-northeast-nigeria