1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. West Africa
  4. Nigeria

Child migrants reuniting with families

Koranic students make up the bulk of the some 1000 Chadian
migrants who have fled Boko Haram-related violence in northern
Most of the migrants are Koranic students, aged 6-14 (Jules Laouhingamaye/UNICEF)

Most of the Chadian Koranic students who fled Boko Haram related violence in northern Nigeria to return to their country in March 2012, have now been reunited with their parents, say the International Organization for Migration and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Some 575 of the 1,000 migrants who fled Nigeria were children, 80 percent of them unaccompanied by their parents, and travelling with their marabout, or Koranic teacher.

For months the migrants stayed in villages in and around N’Gouboua in the Lac region of western Chad, where local families, the local authorities and aid agencies gave them food, shelter and education materials.

Since March, UNICEF, the Chadian Red Cross and the Ministry of Social Action have reunited 340 children with their families in 48 villages.

UNICEF and the local authorities are still searching for the families of the remaining children, who may otherwise end up returning to Nigeria with their marabouts, said Bakary Sogoba, head of Child Protection for UNICEF in Chad.

Several Koranic schools in northeastern Nigeria have a very good reputation, he noted, while stressing that children are best-protected in their family structures.

Thousands of families across West Africa send their children away to learn the Koran under the guidance of a religious teacher or imam. While some schools have decent reputations, the unaccompanied minors often spend much of their day begging rather than learning; they receive little to no health care, get inadequate food, and face abuse, according to an April 2010 Human Rights Watch report entitled Off the Backs of Children.

Koranic students are barred from pursuing a formal education with recognized qualifications , and there is now an added risk that Koranic schools may be infiltrated with Boko Haram-inspired ideology, Sogoba warned.

Agencies and the Ministry of Social Action aim to monitor each child’s progress once he or she has been reunited with their family, as the process can be difficult: many children were initially sent away as their family could not afford to raise them.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

It was The New Humanitarian’s investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that uncovered sexual abuse by aid workers during the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo and led the World Health Organization to launch an independent review and reform its practices.

This demonstrates the important impact that our journalism can have. 

But this won’t be the last case of aid worker sex abuse. This also won’t be the last time the aid sector has to ask itself difficult questions about why justice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation has been sorely lacking. 

We’re already working on our next investigation, but reporting like this takes months, sometimes years, and can’t be done alone.

The support of our readers and donors helps keep our journalism free and accessible for all. Donations mean we can keep holding power in the aid sector accountable, and shine a light on similar abuses. 

Become a member today and support independent journalism

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.