N'Dri T. Assié-Lumumba is a professor in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University specializing in African and Diaspora education, comparative and international education, social institutions, African social history, and the study of gender.
“The outrageous events of the abduction of schoolgirls by Boko Haram is tragedy that, while affecting the lives of real people (the girls and their families) within Nigeria as a nation-state, is a reflection of a broader power struggle within the global-local nexus of the post-Cold War politics and remnant of colonial rule.
“Indeed, after the collapse of the Eastern block and the celebratory claim of Western unipolarity, religion, and specifically Islam, has re-emerged since the 1990s as an alternative force in the global arena. National/local dynamics reflecting history, internal contradictions, power struggle of political forces and individuals aspiring to ascend to leadership positions, and so forth, tend to unleash the destructive forces of groups such as Boko Haram in some case with external financial support.
“Boko Haram is an extreme case that reflects broader issues in many parts of the African continent. While each of the European colonial powers adopted different administrative and education policies, each of them encountered considerable resistance. Western culture of colonial powers was considered Judeo-Christian in nature. In colonized societies composed of predominantly Islamized populations, the policy of having specific Christian Churches create schools was considered a direct aggression against Islam. Thus, British policy of leaving to the different Christian denominations the development of formal education in its colonies had to be reconsidered.
“Subsequently, under the leadership of Governor Frederick Lugard, a different policy for education development was adopted for Northern Nigeria. In addition, through the military system there was an illusion of having found a different way of colonizing and minimizing the potential for religious-based clashes. However, the old chasm was never filled in the colonial and postcolonial era. Thus, local, national and external forces tend to utilize various aspects of it as an effective instrument for power struggle.
“But there should be human-centered global consensus to free these schoolgirls.”
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