Monday, May 30, 2011


Recurring violent conflicts caused by ethnic/religious differences have become a common occurrence in Nigeria since the early 1990s but unfortunately, the solutions that are mostly employed only lead to negative peace, with the root causes never found out and eradicated.

An example is the situation in the city of Jos in the Middle Belt region of the country which got engulfed by ethno-religious crises about a decade ago. The reaction of the government to the outbreak of these violent conflicts has always been to send in troops to stop the fighting. The killings and lootings usually stop after the troops have been stationed in the city thus achieving a situation of negative peace.
But unfortunately, the dangerous forms of structural violence are still prevalent in the society; with discriminations, mismanagement induced poverty, and various forms of social injustice still occurring.
It is usually the continuance of this unresolved structural violence that has always fuelled renewed eruption of fresh violent conflicts in the city.

There is no trust among the various groups and each see the other group as being responsible for its woes. With such a deep mistrust and lack of mutual understanding, any fragile peace enforced by the troops has never served as a lasting solution to the crisis.

There has been a lot of peace building initiatives, especially by religious organizations from both sides of the divide, but it is has mostly been in form of stopping the violence after it has erupted and offering relief assistance to victims. There has not been a directed effort to reflect on the root causes of the conflict and find ways to get the various groups to initiate a trust-building and healing process that could foster peaceful coexistence among the people.


As defined in the TWB Peace education handbook, “Structural or indirect violence, is the result of social structure and institutions that prevents people from meeting their basic needs and accessing their basic human rights”.
A kind of structural violence I have noticed in the Nigerian society is a systematic social injustice in which the poor masses are being denied access to basic standard quality education through official neglect of the public school system.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights says:

"Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit".

As against universally accepted UNESCO recommendations, World Bank statistics reveal that the government allocates below 2 percent of the country’s GDP to education and the most worrisome part is that there is always a huge disparity between the fund allocated and actual funds disbursed to education sectors during every financial year in the past two decades.

Primary education is currently managed by local education authorities and the state of primary schools in many parts of the country is saddening. Most of the LEAs are underfunded and only manage to pay wages with very little left for other vital educational activities necessary for the smooth running of the schools like functional inspectorate units, teacher training and provision of extracurricular facilities. This has led to a drastic fall in the quality of education provided at these public primary schools. Even the few dedicated and qualified teachers are not motivated to give their best due to poor economic conditions and lack of necessary facilities and structures.

On the other hand, privately owned schools are daily springing up in nooks and corners of the country providing qualitative educational services to the children of those who can afford their often exorbitant fees.

With the public school system being slowly left to rot, a class gap is already being slowly being created between the children from different economic classes.

Though it might not look so pronounced to a casual observer, an in-depth research will reveal that the pass rate in the Secondary School Leaving examinations for students from privately owned schools is usually as high as 90% while their public school counterparts record as low as 10% in most cases.

In a country where the Basic minimum monthly wage is currently approximately $85, most privately owned Primary and Post primary institutions charge up to $100 per a term of three months!

As a result of the poor funding allocated to the public education, most public Universities and Polytechnics now charge fees that are simply above what a low wage earner can afford.

Though not officially admitted, there seems to be a systematic method of placing a lid on the level of educational attainment available to children from low income earning families. The tragedy of it all is the fact that the few government scholarship opportunities that are available are grabbed by the children of top government official and their cohorts!

No one is literally being killed directly, but this unequal system is killing the hopes and dreams of many youths for educational opportunities. This is indirectly building a feeling of lack of belonging and oppression in them with no means of actualizing their dreams.

With this unjust system building repressed anger in the growing youths, it is really frightening to envisage what consequences it could have in the future especially as regards how the disadvantaged public school products will regard their private school counterparts.


  1. Dear Ibrahim,

    Yes, equal educational opportunity is very important for a successful society. Even in our country there is not equal opportunity in all areas of society. It is a constant struggle between the have and the have nots.

    Do you see any ways that you can influence change in your country or community that would address the inequalities? Certainly may be something that you could discuss with your students if nothing else but to raise awareness?

    Best regards,

  2. I am already introducing some concepts of education into my classes which i intend to use to focus on respect for diversity and environmental education.
    We are at a definition stage now, the students are submitting their definitions of peace on monday

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.


Creative Commons License
This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.