Education International
Education International

Classrooms no safe haven for Nigerian teachers: 171 killed since 2009

published 9 May 2014 updated 14 May 2014

The global outrage and support for Nigeria’s abducted schoolgirls have exposed the risks many face in pursuit of an education, including the constant threat teachers must endure to do their jobs.

With the world’s attention focused on the horrendous actions of the extremist group Boko Haram, Nigeria’s biggest teachers’ union has revealed the extent of violence directed against its members.

According to the Nigeria Union of Teachers’ (NUT) General Secretary Obong Ikpe J. Obong, 171 teachers have been killed by boko Haram since 2009.

Obong informed UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, and Education International General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, during a meeting with union leaders at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja, 8 May.

He also broke the news to Brown and van Leeuwen of six teachers killed in their homes and 20 of their family members abducted a couple of weeks ago in the town of Dikwa, the State of Borno.

In light of the insurgent crisis targeting Nigeria's education system, particularly in the country’s north-east region, Education International (EI) has pledged to assist the Nigerian government in developing a 'Safe School Initiative.' The initiative will allocate funds to make schools in Nigeria safer for students and teachers, such as posting guards at schools and improving buildings to make them more secure.

"In Nigeria, sometimes children are being taught under a tree, which is definitely not a safe situation, so the building of schools will be part of the programmes,” said van Leeuwen. “The safety of teachers is also paramount in ensuring students have the opportunity to be educated.”

However, the EI general secretary stressed that finding the kidnapped schoolgirls is the top priority.

"I speak on behalf of the entire teachers community when I say we are outraged that this has happened, and it is absolutely necessary that the government make every possible effort to locate those girls,” he said. "We believe it is also important that everybody, not only in Nigeria but around the world, knows that abducting children from school is capable of putting the entire school system under serious threat.”

At the request of EI, NUT will actively engage classroom teachers in northern Nigeria to help locate the abducted girls. Van Leeuwen also announced that EI has asked the teachers' organisations in Chad, Niger and Cameroon to also engage their members, particularly in the areas bordering Nigeria, to help trace the girls, who may have been moved outside the country.