Since the early 1980s, Niger has consistently ranked near the bottom of the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI). The country experiences frequent and recurrent crises and disasters including drought, flooding, cholera and locust swarms, which impact populations that are already heavily affected by high poverty levels and decreasing resilience. In 2013, however, the situation in Niger became even more precarious when violent attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin region (including Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon) set into motion several large population movements among and within the region.
In 2015, Boko Haram attacks led to approximately 213,000 Nigerian refugees, Niger returnees, and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to seek protection in Niger’s Diffa region. Most are living in Diffa host communities with individuals and families who have taken them in. However, their access to food, independent shelter, basic services, and economic opportunities is minimal. These circumstances further aggravate the already desperate conditions due to a combination of factors, including extreme poverty, a particularly weak education system, widespread insecurity, and limited industry and economic prospects. Niger is also still far from the goal of universal primary education; in 2014, only 62% of children had completed the primary school cycle.
Dubai Cares’ funded Education in Emergencies: Evidence for Action (3EA) Niger program was launched in 2016 and has been organizing awareness sessions to help increase school attendance by showing parents the importance of education for their children, their family, and society at large. Dubai Cares, through its partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), was able to mobilize a great number of participants for each awareness session, with support of the community members.
According to Mariama Mahamane, President of the Mothers Association in Diffa; “It’s the first time an Non-governmental Organization is going to intervene in our school, and has decided to train us to be more efficient; something we never had before.”
Fatimata Adamou, who is a mother of two children, sought refuge in Diffa region of Niger in order to protect her family from the insecurity and violence spread by the Boko Haram terrorist activities. Like other refugees, Fatimata’s family also arrived empty-handed. She said: “We left everything behind us and in the midst of this daily struggle to provide our children with basic needs, I’m overwhelmed to see that our children can go to school here. Education is one thing that can never be left behind or taken back from us.”
Before the launch of the program, Fatimata’s children would just loiter around with other displaced children as days passed by. Her dream to educate her children and see them as a support for the family in the future was interrupted by the displacement caused by the conflict. As she learned about the Dubai Cares program, she could not wait to see her children continue their education.
Refugee families especially benefited from these awareness sessions because they are not aware of the Niger’s Ministry of Education’s policy of open enrollment for refugee children in public schools. Fatimata Adamou, said; “We didn’t know that education is free here, and even school supplies could be given. We didn’t also didn’t know that as refugees, we could enrol our children in school in Niger”.
Dubai Cares’ support has enabled hundreds of mothers like Fatimata to help their children regain the sense of normalcy that education provides.