Students, teachers and schools in Nigeria’s northeastern region have borne the brunt of the decade-long violence by Boko Haram and its splinter faction, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and the counter-insurgency campaign against these groups.
Boko Haram terror group, whose name in Hausa, the dominant language in northern Nigeria, means “Western education is forbidden,” has attacked several schools, killing and abducting students as well as destroying infrastructure. At the same time, Boko Haram has used abandoned schools as launch pads for attacks on communities and security forces.
In May, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed September 9 of every year the International Day To Protect Education From Attack. The announcement coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration, an inter-governmental commitment led by Norway and Argentina to protect education at all levels. Nigeria is expected to host the Fourth International Conference on Safe Schools in 2021.
In 2014, Nigeria announced the Safe School Initiative with support from private donors to protect schools and ensure a safer school environment for children, the government also endorsed the international Safe School Declaration in March 2015.
Also in 2014, the Borno State government began to build mega schools with the goal of absorbing orphans back to school and providing education for all school.age children.
In commemoration of the International Day To Protect Education From Attack, Humangle highlights the scars of Boko Haram violence on education.
A study published by the United Nations Children’s Fund in 2017 shows that over 2,295 teachers have been killed and 19,000 displaced in the Northeast since the Boko Haram insurgency started in 2009.
The study also shows that an estimated 1,400 schools have been destroyed with the majority unable to open because of extensive damage or because they are in areas that are unsafe.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that an estimated 952,029 school age children had fled the violence, thereby denying them access to education and blighting their future.
In February, Governor Babagana Umara Zulum of Borno State, the epicentre of the violence, shared a similar concern at the foundation laying ceremony of a higher Islamic education school in Monguno.
The governor said that there were more than 100,000 out-of-school children spread across internally displaced persons camps in Monguno town alone.
Many students have also been abducted, killed, and injured during the attacks and some used for deadly suicide bomb attacks.
In July 2013, some 43 students and teachers were killed in Government Secondary School Mamudo, Potiskum Local Government Area, about 90km from Damaturu, the Yobe State capital.
Later in September of that year, Boko Haram killed at least 50 students in College of Agriculture in Gujba, a remote community about 50km from Damaturu, when the terrorists entered the male dormitory.
Survivors of the attack recalled that about 30 armed fighters drove into the school in three Hilux vans and four motorcycles around 1.30 a.m. to launch the attack on the students.
In the early hours of February 24, 2014, Boko Haram invaded Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, about 60km from Damaturu, killing 59 male students and abducting an unknown number of female students.
The same month, Boko Haram laid siege on the town of Konduga, about 35km from Maiduguri, Borno State, intimidated and assaulted female students after storming Government Girls’ Senior Secondary School Konduga. An HRW report revealed that 20 female students and five female street traders were abducted during the siege.
In April of the same year, Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State. One hundred and seven girls have been found or released in a series of negotiations between the government and the group and 112 are yet to be accounted for.
During the Boko Haram invasion of Damasak, about 200km northwest of Maiduguri, near the border with Niger Republic, in November, 2014, an estimated 300 young students of Zanna Mobarti Primary School were abducted. None of the children has so far been accounted for.
Also in November 2014, at least 46 students were killed when a suicide bomber dressed as a student detonated an explosive device during morning assembly at Government Science Technical School in Potiskum, Yobe State.
On February 19, 2018, in a bold raid reminiscent of the Chibok school abduction, ISWAP abducted 110 schoolgirls from Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State.
Five girls were crushed to death during the abduction while the remaining were released on March 21, 2018 after negotiations with the Nigerian government. However, one of the students, Leah Sharibu, is being held by the group.
Blessing Tarfa, an educator and Programme Officer with Riplington Education Initiative, told HumAngle in an interview that the strategy of Boko Haram had been basically tailored around ceasing all learning activities if they could.
“Even the literal meaning of the name poses a threat to education,”’ she said.
Blessing spoke of the significance of commemorating the international day to protect education, to set precedent to directly address the effect of violence on the education of millions of children in the affected regions.
She said it amplified Nigeria’s position in endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration.
“We must never forget to call their names. Let these children who had their whole lives ahead of them not be lost to statistics and numbers.
“Their families should be honoured on days like this, for closure and to give an understanding of the current policies or strategies being implemented so that other children are safe so that these families trust themselves enough to send their children to learn again,” she said.
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