January 2015


Students will:

  • Gather information about Nigeria and the Boko Haram insurgency
  • Identify core challenges faced by the government and people of Nigeria
  • Form “expert” groups and create policy recommendations

Note: Teachers will need to be able to project video in their classrooms. Alternatively, students will need access to the internet to complete this activity.

Required Reading

Assign students to read the CNN article “Boko Haram: A bloody insurgency, a growing challenge” and answer the questions on the handout “Boko Haram: Background Information,” as homework before doing the activity in class. Alternatively, students could read the article in small groups and answer questions with their classmates at the beginning of the class period.

Note: There is a photo slideshow associated with the article. If students are viewing the article online, preview the images to be sure they are appropriate for your class.


Boko Haram: Background Information

Expert Notes

Think Tank Recommendations

Monitoring Boko Haram in the News (Optional)


CNN article—Boko Haram: A bloody insurgency, a growing challenge

BBC video—Nigeria’s Challenges

BBC article—Profile: Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan

BBC article—Nigeria: A Nation Divided
(Note: This BBC article has multiple tabs, each with a different map. If you are printing the articles for your class, be sure to give all of these maps to the students.)

Huffington Post article—Boko Haram: Religious Paths Through the Tunnel

Premium Times Nigeria article—Uncle Sam is In, but Let’s Not Pack it In

Council on Foreign Relations article—Boko Haram and Nigeria’s Pervasive Violence

The Economist—The Nigerian Economy: Well Below Par
(Note: The Economist has a limit on how many articles can be read without a subscription. Each user may read three articles per week. If students are viewing the articles online rather than using a printed copy, you may wish to encourage them to keep the Economist article open so as not to lose access to the page.)

(Optional) The Economist—Why Nigeria Has Not Yet Defeated Boko Haram

In the Classroom

1. Reviewing the Basics

Review the homework with the class. What is Boko Haram? What are its goals? Invite students to ask clarifying questions. For instance, you may want to ensure they understand what Sharia law is.

2. Considering Nigeria’s Challenges

Play the short BBC News video, Nigeria’s Challenges. Invite students to categorize some of the issues the video deals with into three themes—political, social, and economic. You may want to encourage them to think of things like ethnicity, culture, and religion as “social;” money, trade, and livelihoods as “economic;” and government and histories of power as “political.” Do they know of any other challenges Nigeria may be facing? It may be useful to chart students’ ideas on the board.

3. Becoming Experts

Explain to the class that they will be working in two different sets of groups. First, they will form “expert groups” where they will consider a particular aspect of the situation in Nigeria. Then they will form “policy think tanks,” made up of students from each of the expert groups. (This activity is based on the “jigsaw” method, which you can read more about here.)

Divide the class into three groups: Politics, Society, and Economy. Give each group its set of articles as listed below. Encourage the groups to read the articles together and to identify and discuss the aspects that relate to their theme, becoming “experts” in the politics, society, or economy of Nigeria. The “Expert Notes” handout may help to organize each group’s thoughts and discoveries.

Politics: Profile: Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan (BBC)Who rules Nigeria? (NOREF)Uncle Sam is in, but let’s not pack it in (Premium Times Nigeria)

Society: Nigeria: A Nation Divided (BBC)Boko Haram: Religious Paths Through the Tunnel (Huffington Post)Boko Haram and Nigeria’s Pervasive Violence (CFR)

Economy: Nigeria: A Nation Divided (BBC)Who rules Nigeria? (NOREF)The Nigerian Economy: Well Below Par (The Economist)

You may consider completing this lesson over two days, assigning the articles to be read by the expert groups as homework and discussed on the second day.

4. Recommending Policy in Think Tanks

Divide the class again into “think tank” groups, comprising of a mixture of “experts” (i.e. one politics expert, one society expert, one economy expert in each group), and distribute the “Think Tank Recommendations” handout. Tell the class that they are going to use their new expertise to discuss solutions to the situation in Nigeria and the problem of Boko Haram. As a class, review the instructions on the handout, pointing out that there is a need for inventive policies to address Nigeria’s challenges. The “think tanks” should consider what some of these new policies could be (using the handout to focus their thoughts) and make recommendations based on their combined expertise. The recommendations can be addressed to the Nigerian government, the U.S. government, the United Nations, or an international NGO. After the discussion, ask each group to share their policy recommendation with the class and explain how it deals with Nigeria’s political, social, and economic situation. Was it difficult to decide on a single recommendation that pleased everyone? How did the expertise of the various members of the group affect what kinds of policies they wanted to prioritize? In what ways do they think the kinds of discussions they had in their “think tank” groups may be similar to discussions had in governments or in professional policy think tanks?

5. Extra Challenges

Students could further research the theme they are becoming experts in and share their research with their expert groups before entering the “think tank” stage. A good resource for this is the Nigeria Overview by postcolonialweb, as well as the news sources listed below.

After completing the think tank activity, the class could read an article from the Economist, Why Nigeria Has Not Yet Defeated Boko Haram, and discuss whether they agree with the claims in the article based on their new expertise. How do some of their policy recommendations address the issues brought up by the author? What do they think is missing from the article? Are there important concerns that the author fails to acknowledge? Are there roles for people or institutions other than the Nigerian government?

Students could be encouraged to follow the issue in the news for a month, using the media resources listed below and the “Monitoring Boko Haram in the News” handout. Instruct students to consult two or three news sources weekly and fill in the handout. At the end of the month, bring the class together to debrief. How has the situation in Nigeria evolved? Do they have new ideas about possible policies or solutions?

News Sources

The Guardian: Page on Boko Haram

Huffington Post: Page on Boko Haram

Al Jazeera: Page on Boko Haram

New York Times: Page on Nigeria

The Economist: Page on Nigeria

Interesting Resources, Articles, and Blog Posts

New York Times timeline of events: Boko Haram: The Other Islamic State

BBC: Boko Haram crisis: Among the vigilantes of north-east Nigeria

BBC: Letter from Africa: Will Chibok parents switch sides?

Mail and Guardian: Boko Haram: We rule Nigerian town by Islamic law

Monkey Cage, Washington Post blog: The Boko Haram insurgency, by the numbers

Al Jazeera: Abandonment of ‘Bring Back Our Girls’

Al Jazeera: Even as Boko Haram rages, local politics will determine Nigeria presidency

Wall Street Journal: Boko Haram Extends its Grip in Nigeria



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