– Boko Haram insurgency triggering the violence and attacks against civilians have forced more than 1 million children out of school in northeastern Nigeria and its neighboring countries, said UNICEF on Dec. 22.
This number adds to the estimated 11 million children at primary school age who were already out of school in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger before the onset of conflict, said the UNICEF report.
According to Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF's West and Central Africa Regional Director “It's a staggering number”:
“The conflict has been a huge blow for education in the region and violence has kept many children out of the classroom for more than a year, putting them at risk of dropping out of school altogether.”
Over 2,000 schools remain closed due to the conflict, some of them for more than a year, and hundreds have been attacked, looted or set on fire across Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, said the UNICEF report.
In northern region of Cameroon, only one out of the 135 schools closed in 2014 has re-opened this year, the report added.
While 170,000 children were supported by UNICEF back into education in safe areas where majority of schools have been able to re-open, most of classrooms are overcrowded as schools also house large numbers of displaced persons seeking shelter.
Some displaced teachers, who have also fled the conflict have to “double shift” to help more children attend school, in these classrooms.
However, insecurity, fear of violence and attacks have been “preventing many teachers from resuming classes and discouraging parents from sending their children back to school”.
Also, only in Nigeria, some “600 teachers have been killed” since the onset of the Boko Haram insurgency.
“The challenge we face is to keep children safe without interrupting their schooling” said Fontaine, urging the longer these children stay out of school, “the greater the risks of being abused, abducted and recruited by armed groups.”