News / Africa

Child Trauma in Northern Nigeria is National Security Priority

Addressing Child Trauma in Northern Nigeria a National Security Priorityi
X
December 13, 2013 5:27 PM
The Boko Haram insurgency has killed thousands in northern Nigeria since 2009, but what of the tens of thousands of others who have lived through, and witnessed, the violence, in particular the children? VOA's Anne Look reports from Maiduguri.

Addressing Child Trauma in Northern Nigeria a National Security Priority

TEXT SIZE - +
Anne Look
— The Boko Haram insurgency has not only killed thousands in northern Nigeria since 2009; tens of thousands of others, including children, have lived through, and witnessed, the violence. The government announced that it will soon begin training counselors in the north to help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. For now, the staff at Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School, in Maiduguri, say they are doing the best they can on their own.
 
There are few resources available at the school for those orphaned by the insurgency.  The school is allowing those orphaned by the conflict to enroll for free.
 
Headmaster Suleiman Aliyu hopes the school can restore some normalcy to pupils’ lives.
 
"We have primary science, English comprehension. We have quantitative. We have Arabic, health education. We have computer. We have handwriting and fine art, all these are subjects," said Aliyu.  "You see some of them sitting alone, thinking.  When you ask them, they say they remember this or they remember that. So in such cases, sometimes we take them out of class and we sit with them, so that they will see us as their parents, so they will not feel stigmatized."
 
The father of Khadiza, a student at the school, went to work one day and never came home. Suspected militants stormed her cousin Salma's house in the night and shot her father. Salma saw it happen.
 
"No, I don't think about it now. It was destiny,” said Salma.
 
The school’s founder and director, Zannah Mustapha, interjects.  He says they "avoid memory lane."  
 
"Because we always try to tell them that this is destiny, that God made it.  So we try to put positive thinking in their mind so they will not have any grudge," said Mustapha.
 
The school opened in 2007 with just 36 pupils, and now has 420 and a waiting list of just over 1,000 names. The administrators of the school say that's directly related to the now four-year insurgency raging in Borno state.
 
It seems that every road you drive down in Maiduguri, every corner, every market you pass, has been the site of some kind of violence. On December 2 of this year, coordinated attacks struck several targets in the area.
 
Just weeks earlier, 14-year-old Bashir told reporters that he had been on his own since soldiers did a sweep in his neighborhood a year ago.
 
"They started beating us. I was begging them to leave my father, but they dragged him away," recalled Bashir.
 
Families have lost their homes, businesses and primary breadwinners.
 
Social workers say children here are showing signs of emotional stress like headaches, trouble sleeping and bedwetting.  Psychologist and a senior counterterrorism adviser for the government, Fatima Akilu, stresses the dangers of growing up in such a situation.
 
"You might have kids that are not able to function because they are reliving trauma way into adulthood. You might have kids that grow up to lash out at others because that's what they're used to," said Akilu.
 
Akilu also said that helping this next generation of children process their experiences through play, music and the arts is more than just a mental health issue.  It's a national security priority.
 
Abdulkareem Haruna and Heather Murdock contributed to this report.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid