Sustainability and Social Justice

Date of Award


Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Development and Social Change (IDSC)


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Dr. Jude Fernando

Second Reader

Dr. David Bell


Nigerian education, Boko Haram, Conflict, Conflict in education, Biafran War, Nigerian Civil War


Since the 1960's Nigeria has continuously been in a state of internal conflict, with different ethno-religious groups vying for social, economic, and political control. The situation has played out in extreme violence and has been on the international world's radar since the emergence of Nigeria's militant Islamist group Boko Haram in the late 2000's. Boko Haram translates to "Western education is forbidden," and the group has been behind the destruction of over 2,000 schools in Nigeria, killing hundreds of teachers and students, while displacing entire communities. As Nigeria holds the highest African population, it also has the highest number of out-of-school children on the continent.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with more than 130 million people, and over 500 ethnic groups. The largest ethnic groups in the country are the Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo peoples respectively, which collectively make up 68% of the population. For the purposes of this paper, Igbo’s are referred to as Biafran’s in the Civil War section, as they were the major tribe in the secessionist group during that era. The aforementioned contrasting groups make up the majority of the population. Ethno-religious and political conflict have played large parts in the country's history, including the Nigerian Civil War (better known as the Biafran War 1967-1970). Although the lack of written material and data during the war constrains the breadth and depth of this analysis, the troubles Nigeria faces today are direct residuals from it.

Over the past sixteen years, conflict has taken a turn for the worse as militant Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram has made it a mission to destroy anything that has to do with "the West." Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it "haram", or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society. Subsequently, the terrorist group has been responsible for the assassination of various government officials, bombings of churches and government-run schools, and several attacks on Nigerian government institutions.

In both conflicts, some of the same fault lines and tensions run parallel. Today, many Nigerians fear the possibility of a full scale Civil War due to Boko Haram’s terrorism against non-Muslims in the North. Likewise, the Biafran struggle began as a series of political and social uprisings that originated in regional tensions with the North and South. This paper seeks to find how two wars – the Nigerian Civil War and the war against Boko Haram have had harmful impacts to the education system. First, it will analyze efficiency of the education system in terms of enrollment, access, participation, curriculum development, student learning, and teacher’s response to two conflicts: The Nigerian Civil War and the militant Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram.

Based on studies in other countries, this paper will also make recommendations as how the education system can be re-build. Lastly, this paper concludes by offering a re-conceptualization of the relationship between Nigeria’s most recent conflict and its effects on education, and suggests ways in which educators and policy makers can develop more context-appropriate policies and practices for the education system.



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