Education helps Hadiza and Mustapha look to the future

Mustapha loves meeting his friends for a quick game of soccer before class starts in the camp he now calls home. His mother and siblings fled there after Boko Haram militants destroyed their home, killing his grandfather and later his father when he returned to salvage things from their shop.

When Mustapha, who is now 12, arrived in the camp he was having nightmares – a muddled dream mix of his father chasing him and trying to kill him – a clear sign of the trauma he has endured.

School has provided an escape for Mustapha and his young friends who all have experienced horrific violence at the hands of Boko Haram. But the conflict in northeast Nigeria is one of such complexity that traditional responses to the needs of those displaced – particularly children like Mustapha – do not work.

A boy stands in front of a buil;ding, looking at the camera.
Mustapha’s mother says if he wants to do anything in this world he needs an education.

Displaced children need more than reading and writing

Since the conflict began in 2009, Boko Haram insurgents have committed horrific acts of violence. Over 2.3 million people have been displaced from their homes with a majority of them being children.

In addition to the conflict’s everyday threats, children are extremely vulnerable to recruitment and use by armed forces and are suffering the most brutal effects of violent tactics. This shows just how difficult it is to protect children in this region and help them rehabilitate after they have managed to flee.

Hadiza’s mother is one of many parents trying to protect their children in the face of such violence. One day she was forced to flee with her daughter after Boko Haram attacked their home and killed her husband. After the attack they managed to find their way to Muna Garage – a camp for those displaced by the conflict.

“We had a peaceful life before Boko Haram. One day they turned up and started killing people,” she remembers. “We were in crisis, I didn’t like seeing my daughter out of school.”

After Boko Haram attacked their village Hadiza and her mother fled to Muna Garage camp where finally Hadiza has been able to reenrol in school.
After Boko Haram attacked their village Hadiza and her mother fled to Muna Garage camp where finally Hadiza has been able to reenrol in school.

Once they arrived in the camp and began to recover from the immediate trauma of their ordeal, Hadiza’s mother went straight to enrol her daughter in school. School has become a grounding force in both their lives and Hadiza is a star pupil.

“I’m so proud when I see her getting into her uniform in the morning,” her mother says, beaming. “At night she sits by my side and does her homework.”

For children like Mustapha and Hadiza getting back to school has meant they can have some semblance of structure and security in their lives. On top of everyday classes, their dedicated teachers use games and craft activities to help them process what has happened and enable them to begin to think about the future. Hadiza dreams of becoming a doctor and leaving the trauma of her experience far behind. For Mustapha his outlook is more philosophical: he believes that education will be the means to bring peace back to Nigeria.


Patrick Rose is the Crisis Communications Specialist with the UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office covering emergencies in the region including the Lake Chad Basin

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  1. i strongly believe in every life that got some breath in it despite,.giving hope to a life and helping them realize that they got a great destiny unstoppeable of their current temporal situation…keepup the good can never be less better but best by this that you do.

  2. Mr. Rose, it was eye opening to read your post. Being a US citizen, in the midst of busy life, you forget to take the time to see what’s going on in other countries. There is a trend in the US where it seems that students are running from education not towards it. It is good to know that even in their distress they are looking toward knowledge as a means to better their situation.
    I am a Walden University Masters of Education student whose goal is to become more aware about the happenings of education in other countries. As a student in an Issues and Trends class I am required to get connected to other professionals outside of the US and discuss with them about their education process in their country. Would you be willing to provide some insight into your system or know of some one who would be willing to take a few minutes once a week to answer some questions for my own blog.

    Tonya Cater
    Walden University
    Masters of Education-Early Childhood