Insurgency Has Shut Our Family Out Of School – 7 Displaced Siblings Lament  

Seven offsprings of a displaced family tell their story of life far away from their homes and how the Boko Haram insurgency has not only robbed them of everything, but also denied them the opportunity to be educated.

By Rukaiyatu Idris

Multiple attacks and wanton destruction of education infrastructure have been one of the principal signatures of the 13 years old Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria. 

Since 2009, when the Boko Haram conflict started in Borno state and later spread to other parts of Northeast and Northwest Nigeria, more than 1.4 million children have been displaced and equally barred from accessing education.

Even as the government and nongovernmental organizations had invested massively in revamping the education sector in the subregion, the efforts have so far addressed a little fracture of the problem’s entirety. 

Due to the unyielding nature of the setback, children of school age continued to remain outside classes both within the camps and host communities. 

Abacha at work, knitting his cap, a business he adopted after losing hope in going to school.

“I was in primary five (5) when the insurgents attacked our village,” recalled Abacha Mustapha. 

“I have been out of school for over ten years now.” 

Abacha hasn’t forgotten how he and his family fled Marte, a local government in northern Borno, to Maiduguri, the state’s capital. 

“I was such a little child when that incident occurred, but I still have parts of what happened stuck in my head.

His family first settled at Bakasi IDP camp (now closed) before his father moved them to an area in Maiduguri – Polo Gwazari

“I used to attend the Bakasi Camp Primary School, though there’s no adequate learning engagement there before we moved,” he said. 

Abacha has nine siblings, and feeding such a large number in his father’s household was a huge challenge, not to mention enrolling them in school.” 

Nine years old Ya’kura knitting a local cap to be sold when it’s ready

“The only option I had was to learn how to knit locally made caps,” he said.

The teenager used proceeds from the cap businesses to support his family.  

“I usually do  sell each cap at the sum of 7-8 thousand naira, depending on the type of cap I weaved, the money I am earning will be enough to sustain me to be in school, but instead, I buy food items like maize in the house to support my family as the eldest son.” He laments.

‘Age’ also stands as a barrier for Abatcha to return to school.

“I have grown out of age to go back to primary school now, so I joined Tsangaya evening classes while I spent most of my time weaving the caps.

Abatcha is not the only child who weaves cap to support Mallam Mustapha’s household; 9 years old Yakura Mustapha, who’s also out of school, learned the business from her brother.

“I want to see my little sisters enrolled in school, particularly Yakura. She’s brilliant, she learned how to weave the different types of caps in not more than a month, and she now weaves more than me,” he said. 

The grandmother of the Mustaphas

“But the only primary school in the Polo extension area is in Jiddari and is far from our home, so she spent her days weaving the cap while some of my siblings help our mother with the house chores.”

Sixteen years old Maryam Haruna’s story is akin to those of many less privileged  children in Borno. 

“My father was killed during the crisis. We came down to Maiduguri from Bale Shuwari, and finding a space to settle down in this town has been a series of challenges for us,”  Maryam said.

“My grandmother has been the one taking care of my two sisters and me after the death of our father. She wanted us to enroll in school, but things have been challenging for her. She sells firewood to ensure we don’t stay hungry.” Maryam explained.

“Even though she has to struggle daily to feed us, my grandmother manages to enroll my sisters and me in a Tsangaya (Quranic) class in our neighborhood, where she pays the sum of 1500 naira every month.”

Maryam and one of her sisters.

Maryam lamented how sh had always wanted to be in school when she was still petite.

“Everyone wants school because everyone wants to have a good life. Growing up, I remember how I used to disturb my grandmother over school uniform until I became of age and started realizing that I have to be in school before having a uniform,” she recalls.

“Besides financial problems, I have now outgrown primary school. All I can think of right now is for me to get married,” Maryam said.

Amidst the shattered dreams of many children in Borno, Ali’s hope for schooling remains candled despite the challenges.

“My parents did not make any effort to enroll me in school, and that is because they don’t give value to western education, though we are still recovering from the insurgency, but we need the education for our future.” Ali Lawan said.

“I have never been sent to my life, which can be attributed to the crisis.”

“We have been here in Maiduguri for over ten years now. We are used to the environment though things are no longer the same for us, but are we going to remain like this forever?.”

Ali, who could barely tell his age, contemplating between 16 and 17, said he attempted to join a school, but he was rejected.

“I tried to join n school in 2021, but the Secondary School I went to said I don’t have the basic knowledge, so they cannot accept me,” Ali explained.

“I’m planning on going to a primary school now, even though my age is discouraging,” he laments.

Ali Lawan stays with his parents and six siblings, who are also out of school.

It was reported in 2022 that the number of out-of-school children in Borno state was 1.8 million, a figure the state government described as a problematic situation.

Borno state has about 53 ultra-modern primary and secondary Mega-schools across the state.

Free education was out of reach of many poor children in Nigeria until 2017 when a federal High Court declared it free and compulsory

Since then, Basic education, up to Junior Secondary School, under the Free Universal Basic Education Act, of 2004, enacted by the National Assembly, elevated the right to an enforceable status. 

It is hoped that the family can unitedly light their last candle of hope for education in little Ya’kura, whom they all agree is brilliant to bear the torch and lighten up their collective future that has been darkened by the senseless war of Boko Haram.

*Editing by Abdukareem Haruna

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