Climate Change and its impact on education in Nigeria

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By Oladosu Adebola

Climate change is a multifaceted crisis that affects various aspects of society, including education. In Nigeria, the intersection of climate change and education presents a critical challenge, as the impacts of climate change directly and indirectly hinder educational access, quality, and equity.

This analysis delves into the ways climate change exacerbates the education crisis in Nigeria, supported by statistical data, and explores potential strategies to mitigate these impacts.
Extreme weather events, such as floods and storms, increasingly damage educational infrastructure in Nigeria. According to the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), flooding in 2022 affected over 2.5 million people and caused extensive damage to schools, displacing thousands of students. The Federal Ministry of Education reported that over 1,500 schools were destroyed or severely damaged by floods in the same year, leading to prolonged school closures and disrupting the academic calendar.

Climate-induced disruptions contribute to higher absenteeism and dropout rates among students. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 10.5 million children in Nigeria are out of school, with climate change exacerbating this issue. Droughts and food insecurity force families to prioritize survival over education, leading to increased absenteeism. For instance, in northern Nigeria, where droughts are more frequent, children often miss school to help their families with water and food collection.
Climate change significantly affects the health of school-aged children, impacting their ability to learn. Increased temperatures and changing precipitation patterns have led to a rise in vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Nigeria has one of the highest burdens of malaria globally, with children under five being the most affected. Malaria and other climate-sensitive diseases contribute to absenteeism, decreased cognitive function, and poor academic performance.

Climate change exacerbates gender inequities in education. Girls are particularly vulnerable as they are often required to take on additional household responsibilities during climate crises. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports that climate change-induced displacement and economic hardships disproportionately affect girls’ education, leading to higher dropout rates. In regions affected by drought, girls are more likely to be kept out of school to fetch water or help with domestic chores.
The economic strain caused by climate change affects education funding. Nigeria’s economy, heavily reliant on agriculture and oil, is highly sensitive to climate variability. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that agricultural productivity has declined due to changing weather patterns, leading to reduced household incomes and higher poverty rates. As families struggle economically, education becomes a lower priority, with many unable to afford school fees and other educational expenses.

Additionally, government revenues are affected by climate change, limiting public investment in education. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Nigerian government spends approximately 7% of its budget on education, below the recommended 15-20%. Climate-related economic shocks further strain public finances, reducing the capacity to improve and expand educational infrastructure and services.
The Lake Chad region exemplifies the education crisis induced by climate change. Over the past few decades, Lake Chad has shrunk by more than 90% due to climate change and overuse, severely impacting the livelihoods of millions. The resulting economic hardship and displacement have led to significant disruptions in education. A study by the International Crisis Group found that in the Lake Chad Basin, the number of children attending school has decreased by 50% since the 1970s. The crisis has also fueled insurgencies like Boko Haram, which targets schools and students, further destabilizing education.

Investing in climate-resilient educational infrastructure is crucial to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Schools must be designed to withstand extreme weather events and ensure continuity of education. For example, elevating school buildings in flood-prone areas and using durable construction materials can reduce damage and disruption. The Safe Schools Initiative, launched in response to Boko Haram’s attacks, aims to improve the safety and resilience of schools in northern Nigeria, though its scope needs to be expanded to address climate impacts.

Integrating climate education into the curriculum can empower students with the knowledge and skills to adapt to and mitigate climate change. The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) should incorporate climate literacy into primary and secondary education, emphasizing practical knowledge on environmental stewardship and resilience.

By understanding the causes and consequences of climate change, students can become advocates for sustainable practices within their communities.
Improving health services in schools can mitigate the adverse health impacts of climate change on education. Providing regular health check-ups, vaccinations, and malaria prevention measures, such as insecticide-treated nets, can reduce absenteeism and improve learning outcomes. Collaboration between the Ministries of Health and Education is essential to implement comprehensive school health programs.

Addressing gender inequities in education requires targeted interventions. Programs that support girls’ education, such as scholarships, conditional cash transfers, and safe transportation to schools, can help mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change on girls. Organizations like Plan International and Malala Fund have implemented successful initiatives to keep girls in school during climate crises, and such efforts need to be scaled up across Nigeria.

Engaging communities in climate adaptation and educational initiatives is vital. Community-based approaches that involve parents, local leaders, and civil society organizations can ensure the sustainability and relevance of interventions. For example, involving communities in the construction and maintenance of climate-resilient schools can enhance ownership and accountability.

Climate change presents a profound challenge to education in Nigeria, affecting infrastructure, attendance, health, and gender equity. The impacts are widespread, exacerbating existing educational inequities and threatening the future of millions of Nigerian children. Addressing this crisis requires a multi-faceted approach that includes building resilient infrastructure, integrating climate education, enhancing health services, promoting gender equity, and strengthening community engagement.

By adopting these strategies, Nigeria can mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on education and ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn and thrive in a sustainable and resilient environment. The path forward demands collaborative efforts from the government, international organizations, civil society, and communities to protect and enhance the educational opportunities for the next generation in the face of a changing climate.

Oladosu Adebola Oluwaseun is an environmental journalist and a Post graduate student of the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ)

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