“Soldiers are not what frightens Shekau and his gang, Boko Haram. What frightens them is a girl with a book” – Laurent Duvillier
It’s almost axiomatic and beyond rhetoric that to educate a woman is to educate the world and many generations yet unborn; but if these women are deprived of access to education by acts of aggression and terror, how would they perform their enviable role as gatekeepers of knowledge?
This ugly scenario has been playing out in North-Eastern Nigeria for years now where Boko Haram, an Islamic sect bent on banishing ‘ western education, culture, constitution, democracy and lifestyle’ is waging a bloody war against educational institutions regarded as ‘western’ in order to return us to a primitive, prehistoric era when the mind was closed to inquiry, tolerance and neighborhood.
Now let’s get this right – Boko Haram insurgency is powered by ideology and crass bigotry, thus they target institutions that could counter and upset their warped and evil ideological trajectory. And the easiest place to prey on – schools, yes, knowing that it takes extra effort to radicalize an enlightened and educated mind, especially women.
According to Amnesty International Report – in the first 7 months of 2013 alone, more than 500 schools were attacked and burned down, with over 30 teachers shot dead by the insurgents in North-Eastern Nigeria. This is a visible setback for a region with the highest number of children out of school in the world: 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria with 60% of them in the north. The slaughter of 59 students at Buni Yadi Federal Government College and the April 15 200+ Chibok schoolgirls abducted by the terrorist sect are glaring examples of this war of attrition against education.
Education is a ladder for social mobility especially for women, who armed with proper education, will become informed and empowered – capable of being decision makers in the nation. Education is an antidote to acute poverty for it opens the eyes to opportunities and teaches the hands to grab them. And it all starts with a book. It is ironic and disheartening that in a time when we are basking in the elation of Port-Harcourt, Nigeria becoming the World Book Capital 2014, on overt war is being waged against the book – to turn our gains to losses.
For example, one of the Chibok girls escapees has given up on her dream of becoming a doctor; she says she will never set foot in a school again – she now wants to become a ‘subsistence farmer’. If we must win this war, let’s first break the neck of poverty, ignorance, intolerance, bigotry. We must deliberately invest in education – make it free, accessible and safe for all. It is our last card if we really want to roll back this ominous blanket of insurgency, ill-governance and illiberality. Let’s start by bringing books to our girls in the north.