Impact of Education as a Strategy to Prevent Violent Extremism (PVE) and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in the Lake Chad Basin

26 November 2018 by 0 Comment Articles 314 Views
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Tony Karbo and Wyclife O’ngeta Mose


Education has been defined as the process by which persons acquire knowledge, skills, abilities, competences and the cultural norms of a society with a view to developing the community/society concerned for the general wellbeing of the nation (Ayo, 2017). Education is recognised to help young people develop the communication and interpersonal skills they need to dialogue, face disagreement and learn peaceful approaches to change; and to develop critical thinking, which enables them to investigate claims, verify rumours and question the legitimacy and appeal of extremist beliefs. Education further helps learners to develop the resilience needed to resist extremist narratives, acquire the social-emotional skills they need to overcome their doubts and engage constructively in society without having to resort to violence (UNESCO, 2016).

Using education interventions to tackle violent extremism (VE) is reflective of a broader international shift towards terrorism prevention, which includes addressing the environmental factors conducive to the spreading of extremist ideologies and the recruitment of supporters and sympathisers. For example, facilitating broad access to quality education seeks to counter marginalization, inequality, unemployment, and the like – all of which are root causes of VE. Providing focused counter violent extremism (CVE) education to populations with a higher probability of being attracted to violence, including among others, recent religious converts, specific ethnic or clan groups, persons with existing familial links to VE entities and so forth, will dissuade them from participating in VE activities (Samantha de Silva, 2016).

Onuoha’s study (2014), which focused on six states within Nigeria, a part of the Lake Chad basin (LCB), identified high illiteracy levels as one of the major factors influencing young people’s adoption of extreme religious views. In Gombe state, illiteracy was ranked second out of sixteen factors listed as causes of youth extremism and violence; in Yobe state it was ranked second; it was ranked fourth in Borno state, . In Kano, 75 percent of respondents cited illiteracyas an important contributor to young people’s adoption of extreme religious views. This suggests that illiterate people are more easily manipulated given their intellectual deprivation, which denies them the capacity and knowledge to critically question the narratives and doctrines of extremist groups. It is for this reason that LCB education is recommended as an important tool for CVE and the prevention of violent extremism (PVC).

Samantha de Silva (2016) reflects that in adopting education as a PVE and CVE tool, we should identify the types of curricula and pedagogy used for radicalization and recruitment into violent extremism. For example, there is mixed evidence regarding the role of Islamic schools in radicalization and recruitment: it is not only the subject matter taught in the classroom that is of relevance here but equally important is the modality of teaching, which could have an impact on VE. Therefore, it is important to have a better understanding of such issues as the classroom power dynamic (between teacher and pupils; pupils and pupils), teaching methods, and the inclusion of student perspectives in such interventions to ensure more effective CVE education programme design.
Teachers and curriculum developers should be made aware of the possible impact of omissions or misleading examples on learners’ perceptions of others (within their society and beyond their borders); pupils should be provided appropriate guidance to foster understanding of, and respect for, diversity. This can be promoted through collaborations with cultural institutions such as museums and cultural centres to provide youth with alternative opportunities to learn about their own and other cultures. Such collaborations can also help surface recognition and understanding of different interpretations of historical events, especially where these underpin deep seated disputes and resentments among groups and communities (UNESCO, 2017).

Samantha de Silva (2016) proposes that from primary and secondary school, children should be introduced to logic, critical thinking, problem solving, and negotiation skills. Examining issues in a value neutral manner, respecting others’ viewpoints, learning to compromise, actively listen etc., are all skills that should be learned at a young age. Empowering students to think critically, teaching them to challenge ideas, construct rational thoughts and engage in meaningful debate is critical for their healthy intellectual and emotional development . In an environment in which the “hard sciences” of math, science, engineering etc., are valued, there is need to place sufficient emphasis on other equally important topics such as life skills and civic engagement; this is an important contribution that the education sector can make.

UNESCO (2017) reiterates that to strengthen learners’ resilience to violent extremist narratives, educators need to pay particular attention to the personal challenges of learners who struggle with issues of well-being, identity and meaning and may be tempted to turn to charismatic leaders for answers. This implies motivating, supporting and equipping teachers with the appropriate skills and tools to understand their own biases and subsequently build defences to violent extremist narratives at the level of individual students. It can also be helpful to connect teachers with other concerned professionals in the community – from the justice, social and child protection sectors – to provide learners with access to relevant and timely assistance on the full range of issues with which they may be struggling.

Samantha de Silva (2016) observes that teachers can be trained to detect early signs of radicalization without being burdened with complex topics such as countering violent extremism and having to acquire the necessary tools and proper support to practically counter VE. She notes further that teachers who assume this role can themselves be targeted; therefore, it is critical that they are not viewed as informants since this has the potential not only to undermine the teachers’ relationship with students but also to undermine their role in the community. To sum up, the role of extracurricular activities within an educational setting must be further explored: reinforcement of traditional learning content through such things as participation in sports, the advancement of cultural initiatives, and stirring civic bonds, could prove to be more effective on youth than formal, classroom-based instruction (Georges, 2015).

It is important to distinguish that while education cannot in and of itself prevent an individual from committing a violent act in the name of a violent extremist ideology, the provision of relevant, good quality education can contribute to conditions not conducive to the commission and proliferation of violent extremist ideologies and acts. More specifically, education policies can ensure that places of learning do not become a breeding ground for violent extremism. They can also ensure that educational contents and teaching/ learning approaches develop learners’ resilience to violent extremism. The role of education is, therefore, not to intercept violent extremists or identify individuals who may potentially become violent extremists, but to create the conditions that build the defences, within learners, against violent extremism and strengthen their commitment to non-violence and peace (UNESCO, 2017). The next sections will cover the LCB contextual analysis, technical and vocational education and training (TVET), girl child education and women empowerment and provide a conclusion and policy recommendations.

LCB Contextual Analysis

The LCB is a geographic expanse in the Sahel covering 2,434,000 km2, spread across eight countries. At the centre of the basin lies Lake Chad, a shallow, freshwater lake shared between Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria (Jason Rizzo, 2015).The Lake Chad’s water, banks and islands serve as major sources of livelihoods for fishing, farming, and livestock rearing. However, the size of the Lake Chad has always varied due to environmental variability and climatic fluctuations, affecting agriculture and other businesses dependent on the lake resources (Ogbozor, 2016). Ogbozor asserts that notwithstanding economic development varying between nations making up the LCB conventional areas (Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon) the basin part of each respective country is the poorest, most marginalized and neglected with respect to basic infrastructure and social service provisions .

According to Ogbozor (2016) LCB has a diverse population with an estimated 70 ethnic groups. The official languages of the basin countries are either English or French, a reflection of the respective colonies of the countries: British (Nigeria) and French (Chad, Niger, and Cameroon). However, most people in the LCB are uneducated and thus speak several local dialects rather than the official languages. The local languages spoken in the region are Kanuri (Niger and Nigeria); Fulfude (Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon), Chadian Arabic (Chad) and Hausa, which is widely spoken in Northern Nigeria. The mixing tribal groups and concomitant blurring of roles and increased interaction between different tribes and cultures, religions has increased social interactions among the different ethnic groups in the basin areas.

The LCB has remained fragile, owing to several terrorist and Islamist groups operating there. The most serious threat in the LCB is militant Islamist group Boko Haram (BH), based in north eastern Nigeria butalso active in neighbouring countries. As a result of both ecological changes and security threats, people are losing their traditional sources of income from herding and it is likely that there will be large waves of migration from the area (Rudincová, 2017).

The BH insurgency emerged in the 1990s from a radical Islamist youth movement in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in the north-east of Nigeria. The group leader, Mohammed Yusuf, established the Shababul Islam (Islamic Youth Vanguard), which was critical of the Nigerian government and actively involved in the introduction and implementation of Sharia in many northern states. The sect calls itself Jamaatu Ahlis Sunna Liddaawati wal-Jihad, meaning people committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s teachings and jihad; however, it is more widely known as BH, loosely meaning Western education is forbidden (Tar and Mustapha, 2017). Ogbozor (2016) notes that the problem of insecurity in LCB became prominent in 2009, when BH started unleashing terror in Northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries, causing deaths, destruction of livelihoods and displacements. This prompted households and individuals to flee or abandon their primary livelihood activities (primarily farming, fishing, and rearing of animals) for alternatives in less precarious areas. As at mid-2016, the violence has caused approximately 20’000 deaths, with about 2.6 million internally displaced persons and 170’000 Nigerian refugees. The situation is more pronounced in some rural communities in Northeast Nigeria, Far North Region of Cameroon, Southeast Niger, and the Lake Chad region of Chad.

BH draws its fighters mainly from the Kanuri ethnic group, which is the largest in the three states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, epicentres of BH operations in Nigeria. However, the group recruits from and operates in both northern Nigeria and Cameroon – the latter is the country from which Mohammed Marwa, the leader of BH’s antecedent group, Mai Tatsine, hails(Araoye, 2015). Araoye underscores that the main theatre of operations is in north eastern Nigeria, which has common borders with Cameroon, where the group has declared an Islamic Caliphate. Its main political objective is to upend the Nigerian social order, overturn the secular character of the Nigerian state it has repudiated in favour of the institution of an Islamic fundamentalist society in a theocratic state. Onuoha (2017) posits that the threat posed to national and regional security by this terrorist group is evidenced by its ability to launch attacks on communities and suicide bombings on soft targets in both Nigeria and neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Coupled with its pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in March 2015, the group has demonstrably transformed from a largely local affliction in Nigeria into a wider regional security threat.
Compounding matters, studies have shown that military operations, and states of emergencies in the LCB have restricted the freedom of movement of communities and impeded their ability to access land. Men and women living outside government-controlled areas and on the islands are often associated with armed groups, which means that civilians are often prevented from accessing their villages, or placed at risk of injury or killing where they defiantly endeavour to access their homes. . The few who have returned to their homes, especially in Chad, have often lost most of their productive and financial assets during the conflict and do not have the means to start again. Even in relatively accessible areas, displaced people’s limited access to land prevents them from farming and feeding their families (OXFAM, 2018). Oxfam’s study further notes that cross-border trade has been severely affected due to insecurity and military measures, such as curfews, limiting the flow of goods and people; new and longer routes, more costly and dangerous, are being used for trade. The booming markets of north-east Nigeria, which used to connect traders from Niger, Chad and Cameroon, have closed or have deteriorated as a result of restrained movements of goods and people. Other markets are functioning outside of state control.

In terms of education, BH, whose name roughly translates into “Western education is forbidden,” has attacked more than 1,200 schools in northeast Nigeria, killing hundreds of teachers and pupils while leaving others without jobs or places to learn. By deliberately destroying schools and universities, the extremist group is sabotaging LCB governments’ efforts to improve education, which for years has had the lowest level of school attendance within the respective countries (Winsor, 2015). Ogbozor (2016) has found that the rate of primary education enrolment in the LCB is lower than each country average. For example, the difference between the national enrolment rate and Borno State, North-eastern Nigeria is alarming (it is notable that Borno State is the birth place of the BH extremist group). In the far North region of Cameroon and the LCB region of Niger, enrolment rates are on par with national averages. The Diffa region of Niger has the lowest education enrolment compared to national average. These figures suggest that the LCB is likely the less developed area of each country making up the basin. . To make matters worse, Ogbozor has found that mothers who are unable to feed their children send them to Koranic schools, which has served to radicalize many of the children entrusted to the protective care of the religious education system.

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)

TVET institutions play a central role in building a skilled work force. The development of a skilled labor force makes an important contribution to development. The challenges are to use employer, private, and public training capacities effectively to train workers for jobs that use their skills and to do so efficiently in developing economies increasingly influenced by technological change and open to international competition. The level of competence of a country's skilled workers and technicians is central to the flexibility and productivity of its labor force. Skilled workers and technicians enhance the quality and efficiency of product development, production, and maintenance, and they supervise and train workers with lesser skills. Such skilled workers are found in the modern wage sector, in agriculture, and in the small unregulated enterprises of the informal sector, both rural and urban (World Bank, 1991).

Both developed and developing nations need competent auto-mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, secretaries, fashion designers, storekeepers, and accountants for a country’s sustainable growth. Not everyone needs a university education: many so-called expatriate engineers engaged to build roads and bridges and others engaged in the formal economy in LCB countries are graduates of vocational and technical colleges. The skills, abilities and competencies central to the nation’s social and economic transformation are embedded in vocational and technical education, which also guarantees employment-generation among school leavers. Graduates of vocational and technical institutions are expected to be highly skilled entrepreneurs (Ayo, 2017).

The majority of the poor in developing countries can be found in rural areas and in the urban informal sector. Their principal asset is their labour; hence improving their productivity and earnings is their main road out of poverty. Reform of policies to encourage economic and employment growth is the first step along this road for the poor, as well as for women and minorities. Improving levels of general education also helps by improving both productivity and access to training. These strategies include reducing regulatory barriers to self-employment and using information on local markets, products, and the characteristics of clients in the design of broader programs. Training alone, especially when oriented toward modern sector wage employment and trades tests, does not address these factors, nor does it develop the range of skills needed for productive self-employment in informal markets (World Bank, 1991). Thus, TVET programmes are central to PVE and CVE, as part of employment programs, skills training as a component in demobilizing and reintegration programs, and skills training as part of public works and welfare programmes (Samantha de Silva, 2016).

Education of a Girl Child and Women Empowerment

Educating girls and women is critical to economic development. Studies have shown that educating girls is one of the most cost-effective ways of spurring development. Female education creates powerful poverty-reducing synergies and yields enormous intergenerational gains. It is positively correlated with increased economic productivity, more robust labour markets, higher earnings, and improved societal health and well-being (Tembon and Fort, 2008). The authors emphasize that whether self-employed or earning wages, working women help their households escape poverty. When women have more schooling, the returns flow not only to themselves, but to the next generation as well. When women have greater control over resources in the family, they are more likely than men to allocate more resources to food, children’s health care, and education. With this understanding, education systems need to implement and enforce inclusive educational policies that allow all girls and boys to feel safe, empowered and confident that they are equal members of the learning community and ensuring that learners experience their diversity in a positive way. Every learner matters and matters equally. Grounded in the principle of respect, inclusive policies are about learning to live with, and from, diversity and difference on a daily basis in the educational context (UNESCO, 2017).

Unterhalter et al (2016) points out that fostering greater inclusion in teaching practice and in classrooms is an essential element of ensuring that education systems in LCB are capable of providing all learners with high quality education, in particular the millions of girls out of school and those in school but not learning to their full potential.

Girl child education in LCB has faced the brunt of BH terrorist acts. In 2014, 276 female students were kidnapped from a government secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria. The Chibok girls were abducted by BH; 57 school girls managed to escape over the first few months, while some were later released (Emily Lee, 2016). In 2018, gun-wielding militants arrived by truck to the government girls’ science and technology College in Dapchi, Nigeria, and proceeded to abduct 110 girls. 105 girls were later released (Yenwong-Fai, 2018).

Studies depict a grim picture where girl child education in LCB is concerned. For example, Winsor (2015) highlights that the LCB records the lowest school enrolment rate, especially for girls, as well as the lowest levels of literacy and highest incidence of poverty. The insurgency has exacerbated the situation. Over half a million children in northeast Nigeria have had to flee to safety in the past five months, bringing the total number of displaced children in the conflict-torn region to 1.4 million.

Samantha de Silva (2016) observes that there is need to keep schools safe for teachers and students. Safe infrastructure such as boundary walls, separate latrines for females, water points, cleanliness, etc. all contribute to making schools safe spaces. Not only does it make it difficult for outsiders to wander undetected into schools, but it creates a sense of community within the school. Most importantly, it is much more likely that female students will enrol if the school is considered safe and clean. De Silva goes on to note that CVE education programs must take into consideration the unique role played by mothers as the first educators of their families, which highlights the potentially positive impact mothers can have on their children, particularly with regards to averting their radicalization. . Unless these differences are taken into account, education programs that support CVE interventions will not be successful and will not be relevant for a critical segment of the population. Tembon and Fort (2008) propose a number of interventions to boost girl child education :
I. Governments should increase demand for girl child education by eliminating user fees and providing stipends and conditional cash transfers to girls;
II. Attention on gender inequality should be sharpened or focused by means of advocacy and better impact evaluation research;
III. Cultural and social constraints to girls’ education (for example, gender isolation, gender violence, and conflict) should be addressed through community action attuned to local societal values and norms, as is the case in Afghanistan;
IV. The economic returns to female education should be improved, by for example raising education standards and quality;
V. Post-primary education for girls should be promoted via fiscal incentives such as those that helped to modernize the madrassas of Bangladesh;
VI. Post-basic education should be gender-focused to improve national economic competitiveness via such initiatives as modernizing agricultural education at the graduate level; and,
VII. Gender-sensitive school and pedagogy models should be developed and disseminated, examples to draw on here include the regional programs of the Forum for African Women Educationalists.

Conclusion and Policy Recommendations

In a bid to develop a regional strategy that aims to enhance and increase access to quality, relevant context-responsive and inclusive education and contributes to supporting reconciliation, social cohesion, peace building and consolidating resilience in LCB, we have suggested the following recommendations:
1. States and government administrations should provide comprehensive education, spanning from primary to tertiary education, including technical and vocational education, and mentoring for all vulnerable people, including the displaced, by leveraging online and mobile technology;
2. States and governments, through the ministries of education in the region, should remodel the Quranic, Almajiri educational system by removing the content that may encourage VE, instead provide the training, skills, and scientific knowledge that could make children competitive in the modern economy;
3. The department of education should incorporate extracurricular activities as part of CVE programming that may provide young people with an alternative to radicalization and violence. Participating in sports, arts and culture can provide students with opportunities to develop constructive goals, leadership and social skills;
4. Development partners should collaborate with local authorities to create social and economic opportunities, in both rural and urban locations; they should also invest in relevant education opportunities to equip people with the skills needed to meet local labour demands;
5. LCB Education stakeholders and development partners should develop innovative and alternative discourses to counter extremist content online, combat online hate speech and build the capacity of stakeholders to develop ground-breaking responses, all while promoting the protection of freedom of expression, privacy and other fundamental freedoms;
6. CVE programming must go beyond the school to reach and involve families, communities and even local religious institutions. Engaging communities in their children’s education and building trust between schools and communities must be a clear objective of CVE programs. Community service opportunities, interfaith activities, team sports, adult literacy classes, holding events where families can participate to strengthen the link between school and community;
7. Governments, religious institutions, the private sector, and civil society groups should invest more resources towards the promotion of peace education, (including reorientation programs to inculcate the value of peaceful coexistence). Peace education will help youth better appreciate the value of peace, making it more difficult for extremists to use them to foment trouble;
8. Governments, education stakeholders, civil society groups, and the private sector could partner with film industries to produce movies and support radio and television programs in the three major languages (Hausa/Fulani, Igbo, and Yoruba) to specifically counter narratives and messages promoting youth radicalization;
9. LCB Governments and development partners should support girl child education and women empowerment, Because when we educate a woman we educate an entire nation and the benefits are multiple and diffuse; and,
10. LCB Governments and educational stakeholders should ensure that education systems benefits from more effective monitoring and evaluation, timely and reliable data, and more equal and efficient resource allocation and use at decentralized levels.


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