As Search for Schoolgirls Goes On, UNICEF Works to Help Nigerian Children

May 5, 2014

Outrage grows—in Nigeria and around the world—over the fate of the kidnapped schoolgirls.

The kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, whose fate is still unknown, has sparked a wave of global outrage. Several countries, including the United States, have offered to help Nigeria's government search for the missing girls. UNICEF has condemned the abductions and is accelerating its work to protect and educate Nigerian children.

A Chilling Effect on Education 

Nigeria already has 10 million children out of school—the highest number in the world. Almost one of three primary age children is not enrolled and one in four secondary-school age children. In many states, girls are twice as likely to be out of school as boys. In some parts of Nigeria, only five percent of the poorest young women are literate. Given these challenges, it is "especially abhorrent" that the girls were abducted to prevent them from attending school, UNICEF said in a recent statement condemning the abduction.

Since 2012, militants have increasingly targeted schools in northern Nigeria. Dozens of schools have been attacked or burnt down. In a single attack in February in Yobe state, 45 children were killed by unidentified gunmen.

Nigeria has 10 million children out of school— the world's highest number.

The recent kidnappings and violent attacks are making it extremely difficult for children in northern Nigeria to get an education. Thousands of families are fleeing their homes and pulling their children out of school. In the last three months alone, at least 15,000 children in northern Nigeria have stopped attending classes. "It's heart-stopping data," Susan Bissell, UNICEF’s chief of child protection, said in a recent interview.

A teacher helps Hafsatu Garba, 13, while others watch, at the UNICEF-supported Konkiyel Primary School in Konkiyel Village in the northern Nigerian state of Bauchi.

A teacher helps Hafsatu, 13, at a UNICEF-supported school in the northern state of Bauchi, Nigeria.

Working to Protect Nigerian Children

UNICEF programs in Nigeria focus on the problems of violence and abuse against children in schools and work to address the issues of girls’ education and out-of-school children. The UNICEF-supported Girls’ Education Project aims to give 1 million girls access to better quality education in northern Nigeria—through increased enrollment, scholarships for female teachers and the establishment of safe spaces for girls.

UNICEF is working in the three most affected states (Borno, Yobe and Adamawa) to lessen the effects of the current crisis on children and families. 

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Global search for our girls