Is Boko Haram? Some reflections of former members of Northeast Nigeria’s insurgency on ‘Western’ education.

23rd November 2023

Hannah Hoechner – UEA DEV


Conflict related to the ‘Boko Haram’ insurgency has ravaged northeast Nigeria and its neighbouring countries for over a decade now. Destruction, bloodshed, and mass displacement have marked the region for years to come. Much public and media attention has focused on the insurgents’ apparent hostility towards ‘Western’ or boko education. Yet, education has received relatively little attention within scholarship of the insurgency.  Drawing on 15 interviews and group conversations with former members conducted in 2021, we explore what role disenchantment with ‘Western’ education played in the recruitment of members, and to what extent critical views were nurtured and perpetuated during the insurgency. We highlight how ‘Western’ knowledge occupied an ambiguous status. Avowed opposition to ‘Western’ education was at loggerheads with the practical and tactical needs of the insurgency, which dominated decision making on the ground. The former members we interviewed mostly came away convinced that ‘Western’ education was useful.