By Felogene Anumo

“Getting a good education is my best bet out of poverty,” said a 16- year old in Narok county in Kenya. Yet, on that fateful morning of 2nd April 2005 at Garissa University in Kenya, the dreams of 147 lives and their families were shattered into pieces. As I followed the events unfolding that morning and subsequent media coverage, I was overcome by a deep sadness and anger by the loss of young lives. Lives of young people and families who were filled with hope and promise that education brings.

Education Under Attack

We live in a world characterized by uncertainty, complexity and rapid change. For many young people, and more often in developing countries, education is the base and its importance for self and society cannot be overstated. For me, the decision of attackers to target institutions of learning where tolerance, co-existence and unity is fostered is both frightening and enraging. The Kenyan attack comes at a time when just a few months back, 20 teachers were killed in Mandera on their way to Nairobi for the Christmas break.

Bring Back Our Girls - One year and Counting. Photo Courtesy of FEMNET
Bring Back Our Girls – One year and Counting. Photo Courtesy of FEMNET

Regionally, we have witnessed similar attacks by extremists. Tomorrow, 14 April 2015, marks one year since the schoolgirls from Chibok in Nigeria were abducted by militant group, Boko Haram.  Despite a global campaign to #BringBackOurGirls, more than 300 young women are still under the hands of their abductors since their abduction from their school dormitories. A Global Week of Solidarity Action is currently underway to amplify calls for their immediate release and rescue, as well as to reiterate that we have not forgotten our girls. Globally, the world is still recovering from the massacre in Peshawar School in December 2014 that shook the entire world.

When education institutions are targeted or attacked, the damage and its consequences can be major and far-reaching. Notably, the current waves of attacks have had negative ramifications on the education sectors. For example, in Northern Kenya, many teachers have fled and have abandoned their jobs because of the increasing insecurity threat despite numerous reassurances from the Government on their safety. Nigeria on the other hand has the highest number of out of school children. Amnesty International publication “keep away from schools or we’ll kill you” reports that the insecurity generated by the constant attacks and fighting in Borno and other states in the north-eastern Nigeria led many parents to send their children away or leave the state, disrupting their education. Up to, 15,000 children in Borno State have stopped attending classes. The psycho-social effect of the attacks ensures that impact is felt by many people beyond the actual victims causing high levels of fear and stress. Ultimately, the longer-term impact of targeted and persistent attacks on education undermine social and economic development as they contribute to educational fragility and state inequalities.

In developing counties, families overcome various challenges to ensure that their loved ones get higher education. According to a UNESCO report, more than half of the world’s out-of-school children live in sub-Saharan Africa. More than one in five (22%) primary school-age children in the region have either never attended school or left before completing primary school. This is majorly due to perceptions of low quality education with poor outcomes for families, direct costs related to schooling and indirect loss in terms of losing a source of labour, especially for young women and girls.  Isn’t it enough that families of the Garissa victims overcame these various challenges to be in the University? What more can compound the already existing challenges to get an education than the risk of abduction, sexual violence and loss of life?

We Shall Overcome

The triumph against terrorism will require collective responsibility. Global leaders are currently concretizing what promises to be the benchmark of the development agenda in the form of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Right to Quality Education must remain a high priority in the proposed goals, targets and indicators, and must address all obstacles in the quest of good education. Above all, leaders must recognize that peace is a necessity for education.Together, we must strive to keep at bay these forces that endanger our dreams and aspiration of having a strong, educated and sustainable world with limitless opportunities for young people.

To the families of the victims and survivors of the terrible ordeal, you remain in our payers and our hearts.  In this trying time, let us cling on to the words of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Malala Yousafzai, a young feminist and socialist activist who was shot by the Taliban on her way home from school” So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

Join me in sending condolences to the families of the victims and survivors of the Garissa attack. #147notjustanumber

Credit REUTERS Goran Tomasevic
Photo credit: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Felogene Anumo is a young feminist and a member of FEMNET. Connect with her @Felogene or fganumo@gmail.com

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