Kyari Mohammed, who is a teacher in north-east Nigeria – Boko Haram territory – writes in the Guardian about what it’s like to live in fear of Education Forbidden.
I live in fear of Boko Haram. The group’s insurgency began in Nigeria in 2009. Yola in Adamawa state, where I live and teach history, is relatively calm at the moment. But following the imposition of a state of emergency in 2013 many of my colleagues have fled.
The University of Maiduguri in neighbouring Borno state is in a worse situation. At least three of its professors have been killed and one abducted within this period. Many students have withdrawn, teachers relocated, and academic exchange even with other Nigerian universities has virtually ceased. During a one-year sabbatical that I took there in 2012, it was shut down for six months.
Following Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau’s reiteration that all schools are targets, we are all living in fear.
Marvelous, isn’t it? A movement to destroy all education in a developing country, and to do it via mass murder and terror.
The attacks on schools can be explained even though they cannot be justified. The Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Liddawa’ati wal Jihad, better known as Boko Haram, has not hidden its disdain and opposition to western education. Its name Boko Haram is often roughly translated as “western education is forbidden”.
The group ascribes the rot in governance, corruption, conspicuous consumption of the ruling class as well as their exclusion and marginality in contemporary Nigerian society to western education and the secular system it gave rise to.
The educated elites, especially in northern Nigeria, have not been good role models in the eyes of their uneducated compatriots. This is because they are living examples of corruption, conspicuous consumption and oppression of their unlettered compatriots and co-religionists.
There’s a lot of that here in the US, too, but destroying education isn’t the way to improve things.
The insurgency has set back education in an area with some of the world’s worst levels of education and human development. For many children in these communities, education remains their surest way out of poverty and destitution. The fear of Boko Haram has forced many parents to withdraw their children from schools, and this can only add to an already explosive mix of the large pool of uneducated and unemployed youth and debilitating poverty.
Boko Haram is energetically making things much much much worse.