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Public Boarding Schools in Nigeria’s Borno State Set to Reopen after almost Three Years due to Boko Haram Threat

The United Nations says Nigeria has the world's largest number of school-age children who are not in class — approximately 10.5 million

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Abdulkadir Abdullahi arranges his school uniform in Maiduguri, Nigeria, October 2016. (C. Oduah/VOA)
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Seventeen-year-old Abdulkadir Abdullahi stands in his bedroom looking at his new school uniform — a white, long-sleeved shirt with a button-down collar and navy blue pants. On Monday, he’ll put them on, along with a new pair of sparkling white tennis shoes. He’ll stuff his new textbooks inside his brand-new book bag.

Abdulkadir is going back to school.

“For almost three years, things have not actually been interesting because we have not been going to school. We were really sad about it, but there was nothing we could do,” Abdulkadir said.

Abdulkadir Abdullahi, 17, looks through his brand-new textbooks in Maiduguri, Nigeria, October 2016. (C. Oduah/VOA)
Abdulkadir Abdullahi, 17, looks through his brand-new textbooks in Maiduguri, Nigeria, October 2016. (C. Oduah/VOA)

His parents spent about $20 to make sure he was prepared for the first day at the biggest all-boys government boarding school in the Borno state capital of Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria.

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For a few years, the school had been closed and, for a while, it hardly looked like a school. Thousands of people who had run to Maiduguri to escape Boko Haram militants took over the building, sleeping in its corridors and cooking large pots of soup in the courtyards.

Boarding schools across Nigeria’s Borno state, like this one in Maiduguri, will reopen Oct. 10 after being closed for more than two years because of the Boko Haram insurgency, Oct. 5, 2016. (C. Oduah). VOA
Boarding schools across Nigeria’s Borno state, like this one in Maiduguri, will reopen Oct. 10 after being closed for more than two years because of the Boko Haram insurgency, Oct. 5, 2016. (C. Oduah). VOA

Most of the boarding schools in Maiduguri had been converted into camps for the internally displaced.

These days, Boko Haram’s violence is not as rampant as it once was. Last week, the state education commissioner, Inuwa Kubo, announced it was time to reopen the schools.

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“Now that peace has gradually returned and we have relocated all these IDPs [internally displaced persons] in the schools, we are going to reopen on the 10th of October,” he said. “I don’t know when last we had a bomb blast across the state; it has been quite some time.”

Dozens of schools destroyed

An undercover intelligence officer in the Civilian Joint Task Force told VOA that Boko Haram is still active in some places. Its members conduct sporadic attacks, particularly in the northern part of the state, around Lake Chad, where the borders of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad intersect. A multinational task force has been operating in the region.

This laboratory science classroom in a high school in Maiduguri, Nigeria, has not been used for more than two years. Oct. 5, 2016. (C. Oduah/VOA)
This laboratory science classroom in a high school in Maiduguri, Nigeria, has not been used for more than two years. Oct. 5, 2016. (C. Oduah/VOA)

In a bid to destroy Western-style education, Boko Haram has directly targeted schools across northeastern Nigeria for the past seven years.

The United Nations says Nigeria has the world’s largest number of school-age children who are not in class — approximately 10.5 million. Boko Haram’s insurgency is partly to blame.

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Last year, Amnesty International stated that at least 70 teachers and more than 100 students were killed or wounded between January 2012 and October 2013 in Maiduguri alone. It said at least 50 schools were either burned down or badly damaged, while 60 more were forced to close.

Baba Goni Ibrahim, a science teacher at an all-girls high school in Maiduguri, Nigeria, looks out of a classroom window at the campus, Oct. 5, 2016. (C. Oduah/VOA)
Baba Goni Ibrahim, a science teacher at an all-girls high school in Maiduguri, Nigeria, looks out of a classroom window at the campus, Oct. 5, 2016. (C. Oduah/VOA)

The secondary school in the town of Chibok in southern Borno became infamous after Boko Haram members invaded it the night of April 14, 2014. The militants kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls, and the school campus was virtually destroyed.

The Borno state government had already decided the previous month to close all secondary schools.

Schools like the one in Chibok are still under reconstruction. Many parents in Chibok have relocated to other areas, but the state government has reached an agreement with the parents who have remained.

“We have decided to allow the students of the secondary school in Chibok that was attacked, to resume on Monday as well; but, the students will use classrooms in the primary school. They will not sleep in the school,” Kubo said.

Excitement, despite insecurity

Security in the area is still unstable. Just last month, two villages, about 10 kilometers away from Chibok, came under attack. A handful of people were killed.

Nonetheless, teachers say they are excited to welcome back their students.

Baba Goni Ibrahim has been teaching science at an all-girls high school in Maiduguri, Nigeria, for the past 20 years, Oct. 5, 2016. (C. Oduah). VOA
Baba Goni Ibrahim has been teaching science at an all-girls high school in Maiduguri, Nigeria, for the past 20 years, Oct. 5, 2016. (C. Oduah). VOA

Baba Goni Ibrahim has been teaching science at an all-girls high school in Maiduguri for the past 20 years. He thinks that many of his students will struggle to get back into the classroom routine, having been away for two and a half years.

“We have to tidy up our belts and make sure we double up our efforts teaching afternoon and morning. We’ll give them a rigorous training to catch up,” Goni said.

The students will pick up exactly where they left off. Those who perform well on an assessment exam will advance to the next level.

The Yerwa Girls Secondary School in Maiduguri, capital of Nigeria’s Borno state, will reopen on Oct. 10, after being closed for more than two years because of the Boko Haram insurgency. Oct. 5, 2016. (C. Oduah/VOA)
The Yerwa Girls Secondary School in Maiduguri, capital of Nigeria’s Borno state, will reopen on Oct. 10, after being closed for more than two years because of the Boko Haram insurgency. Oct. 5, 2016. (C. Oduah/VOA)

All the schools were renovated last month. The government fumigated the buildings and bought new materials.

“We purchased new mattresses for the students because the IDPs who were living in these schools took everything, even cooking utensils. There was virtually nothing left when they left, so we are starting afresh,” Kubo told VOA.

All the same, Abdulkadir says he is happy. He is moving into the dormitory this weekend.

“I know I will miss him, but I prefer him in school than just sitting around,” his mother, Maryam, said as she watched him arrange his belongings.

Abdulkadir is her oldest child. He had been spending his days working as a tailor. Starting Monday, he will spend his days as any other high school student.

“I am excited because I will go and start learning new things,” he said. (VOA)

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Aadhaar Helpline Mystery: French Security Expert Tweets of doing a Full Disclosure Tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App

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Google's new tool can help you make our planet healthy. Wikimedia Commons

Google’s admission that it had in 2014 inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI helpline number into its setup wizard for Android devices triggered another controversy on Saturday as India’s telecom regulator had only recommended the use of 112 as an emergency number in April 2015.

After a large section of smartphone users in India saw a toll-free helpline number of UIDAI saved in their phone-books by default, Google issued a statement, saying its “internal review revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since”.

Aadhaar Helpline Number Mystery: French security expert tweets of doing a full disclosure tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended only in April 2015 that the number 112 be adopted as the single emergency number for the country.

According to Google, “since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get  transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device”.

Google was yet to comment on the new development.

Meanwhile, French security expert that goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and has been at the core of the entire Aadhaar controversy, tweeted on Saturday: “I just found something interesting. I will probably do full disclosure tomorrow”.

“I’m digging into the code of the @Google SetupWizard app and I found that”.

“As far as I can see this object is not used in the current code, so there is no implications. This is just a poor coding practice in term of security,” he further tweeted.

On Friday, both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as well as the telecom operators washed their hand of the issue.

While the telecom industry denied any role in the strange incident, the UIDAI said that he strange incident, the UIDAI said that some vested interests were trying to create “unwarranted confusion” in the public and clarified that it had not asked any manufacturer or telecom service provider to provide any such facility.

Twitter was abuzz with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.

Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth, PAN number and voter ID among others. (IANS)

Also Read: Why India Is Still Nowhere Near Securing Its Citizens’ Data?