Nigerian state closes schools amid fears of Boko Haram attacks
Officials close 85 schools in north-eastern Borno, affecting nearly 120,000 students, after spate of attacks by Islamic militants
School officials and teachers said about 85 schools would close, affecting nearly 120,000 students in an area that has the country’s worst literacy rates.
Anger is growing at the military’s failure to suppress an Islamic uprising in the north-east, despite a massive deployment of troops and a 10-month-old state of emergency.
Islamic militants have burned down scores of schools in attacks that have killed hundreds of students. Some schools in Yobe and Adamawa states have also closed fearing attacks.
“We have run out of excuses for our failure to live up to our responsibility to protect our innocent defenceless children from gratuitous violence,” the speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, told legislators at a special session last week to mourn the latest victims – 59 students killed at a boarding school in neighbouring Yobe state on 25 February. Extremists locked some of the students into a dormitory and set it alight.
Tambuwal added that the military and government, including the legislature, must “act swiftly and decisively in the protection of the citizenry”.
The school closures could have far-reaching consequences, including ending the education of some students in a region where few ever have the opportunity to get to high school, said the chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, Chidi Anselm Odinkalu.
“The average secondary school enrolment is slightly under 5% (in north-eastern Nigeria), so I think it’s easy to understand that you cannot overestimate what the consequences of this could be, given the parlous state of education in the region and the fact that, clearly, whoever is orchestrating this is focused on targeting schools, educational institutions,” he said.
The government should consider setting up well-protected camps where children can continue their education, he said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.
Such an “extreme measure” could be justified because “the entire area is a war theatre”, Odinkalu said.
The United Nations estimates that the Islamic uprising has forced 300,000 people to leave their homes in north-eastern Nigeria since 2010, most displaced within the country and some across borders in Chad, Cameroon and Niger.