Education in times of conflict: Nigeria’s experience

• Conceptual evaluation of education and conflict

Education is generally regarded as a tool of empowerment and enlightenment by an individual or groups. It is the total of value re-orientation that is required to transform an individual and to move people from one point to the other in terms of exposure and increase in the sense of self-worth. In this context, it is about western and book-based education often within the walls of a classroom and school setting. But it has long been acknowledged that education is much more than a system of knowledge received within the classroom or in a school. In any case, it is assumed that being educated reduces the tendency to be involved in some form of conflict due to a general ability to understand and deal with complex issues such as law and order, civic obligations, marital and family responsibilities, communal expectations among others

Conflict on the other hand arises as a manifestation of disagreement, strife, intolerance, disaffection, disobedience as a result of misunderstanding or inability to reach compromises among a group of people or within a system and it often creates undesirable and unkind consequences.

2. An unusual collocation

It is not common to have the two words ‘education and conflict’ in the same space. But like we know we in abnormal circumstances in the society so we can excuse the organizers for electing to have the two unfitting words together as a theme for discussion. This already established the plot for our conversation today. 

3.  Conflict in Nigeria’s education sector

onflict in Nigeria’s education sector can be said to have begun with the Ali Must Go protest in the 1970s when reduction in students’ ration and other welfare issues gained national prominence with the mammoth protests that eventually led to the disengagement of the then Minister of Education, Ahmadu Ali. From then we had series of conflict in our education sector such as lack of attention to the welfare of students and teachers, brain drain, industrial unrest, infrastructural decay, low capacity utilization among others. Today, it is sad reality that many believe only Nigerians who can’t make it elsewhere are attracted to the education sector especially as teachers in the very critical but largely neglected primary and post-primary schools.    

4. Nigeria’s education policies and why it may not be working even in peace time

Policy inconsistency, outdated curriculum and inability to match education to manpower development needs in the country are some of the reasons we have endured unending conflict in our education. Budget allocation to education by the federal government and most states remain less than the UNESCO recommended 26 percent. Children still school under trees, in waters and shanty classroom blocks even in some of the educationally more developed states in Nigeria. Teachers in most states go on strike for months and terms over non-payment of salaries by the government. There are no laboratories, skilled manpower and the pro-growth orientation required to train our young people for jobs of the future in STEM such as robotics, machine-learning and sustainable industries required to make our nation and our people the greats we want to be by the next century.      

5. Safe school initiative

In most Northern states millions of children have been forced out of school as result of kidnapping and abduction by terrorists operating in whatever guise for well over a decade now. Nigeria’s education has been forced to surrender by a marauding gang of terror groups operating in different parts of the country yet the government has yielded to knee-jerk approaches like shutting schools, markets, telecoms operations and encouraging payment of ransom by helpless parents.  What happened to the safe school initiative launched and purportedly funded by the federal government?   

6.  Apathy towards education by young Nigerians

This is a reflection of the general decadence in societal values. Who school help? Is not just a disparaging lingo by many of our so called ‘hustling’ boys and girls involved in irregular vocations to make ends meet these days, it is increasingly becoming the language of the young Nigerian wa na bes who just wants to make it without the dint of hard work for which the average Nigerian is known all over the world.

7. Influence of ICT on education in times of conflict

Conflict in all its forms and shapes is unavoidable in any society. More so, Nigeria is so complex in its politics, ethnic, religious and socio-economic forms. The best thing to do therefore is to seek creative ways to mitigate the conflict especially its impact on education. Hence, the role of ICT is critical to the development of education in Nigeria. Technology has proven to bridge barriers, shorten physical and psychological distance, reduce cost of education, enhance security and safety through surveillance as well as the use of incubation centres as basis for development of our industrial and manpower in Nigeria.      

8. What role for Seadogs in Nigeria’s Education in times of conflict

For nearly 70 years, the National Association of Seadogs has remained committed to       the attainment of a just and egalitarian society. The association has been steadfast in upholding human dignity and the pursuit of justice for all irrespective of race, ethnicity religion and other forms of human affiliations.

To this end, I wish to enjoin members of the Seadogs in their known tradition of friends of education to embark on a national campaign to reawaken the consciousness of both the people and government of Nigeria towards the development of education and mitigating conflict in the education sector.

With you in numbers and strategic positions you occupy in all sectors of our national life, we can count on you to influence policies, commit to programmes and even mobilise for engagements that will prevent industrial unrest; enhance safety and security of school and be part of the implementation value chain to rid our education of avoidable conflicts that have become intractable in Nigeria.


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