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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)

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)

Next Story

After a Decade, India Remembers The Terrorist Attack On Mumbai

Businessman Dilip Mehta took counseling for months after he faced the prospect of falling victim to a terrorists bullet at Taj Mahal hotel.

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Mumbai Terror Attack
A man walks past a wall riddled with bullet holes opposite to the Nariman House, one of the targets of the November 26, 2008 attacks, after the renaming ceremony of Nariman House as Nariman Light House in Mumbai, India. VOA

A decade after 10 Islamic terrorists laid a three-day siege to India’s financial capital, Mumbai, and killed 166 people, businessman Dilip Mehta recalls the horror of the nine hours that he was holed up in a banquet hall in a luxury hotel, wondering when the gunmen would storm inside.

“I do feel traumatized when I hear of any kind of terrorist activities in the world,” said Mehta, who was eventually evacuated via a fire exit.

From the mark it left on survivors and the families of the victims to the deep blow it struck to ties between India and Pakistan, the scars of the coordinated attacks that began on November 26th in 2008 still run deep.

26/11 Mumbai Attack
A reporter talks on her phone as smoke is seen coming from Taj Hotel in Mumbai, November 27, 2008, where terrorists were holding hostages during an attack that began the previous day. VOA

Solemn memorial services were held in the city for the victims as India marked the 10th anniversary of the attacks, in which the heavily armed gunmen stormed multiple targets.Mumbai’s police paid homage to more than a dozen officers and commandos killed in the operation against the militants.Two luxury hotels held private services while a Jewish Center, which was also attacked, unveiled a new memorial to all those who died in the assault.

“Our solidarity with the bereaved families.A grateful nation bows to our brave police and security forces who valiantly fought the terrorists during the Mumbai attacks,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter.

The foreign ministry said it is a matter of “deep anguish” the victims of the attack who belonged to 15 countries “still await closure with Pakistan showing little sincerity in bringing perpetrators to justice.The planners of 26/11 still roam the streets of Pakistan with impunity.”

New Delhi says the attack was masterminded by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and frequently slammed Islamabad for not taking action against the man who founded the group, Hafiz Saeed. Saeed, who has been designated as a terrorist by the United Nations, has denied involvement and Pakistan says India has not produced enough evidence against him.

Mumbai Terror Attack
FILE – People hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of a terrorist attack, in Mumbai, India, Nov. 29, 2008. The attack took a total of 160 lives. VOA

Announcing a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to arrests or convictions of those involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack, the United States also said that it was an affront to the families of the victims that those who planned the attack had not been convicted.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on “all countries, particularly Pakistan to uphold their U.N. Security Council obligations to implement sanctions against the terrorists responsible for this atrocity, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and its affiliates.”

Nine of the 10 gunmen who mounted the attack were killed, one was captured.He has been convicted and hanged.

According to Harsh Pant at New Delhi’s Observer Research Foundation, the 2008 Mumbai attacks continue to cast a shadow on India-Pakistan relations.“When you talk of rapproachment with Pakistan, when you talk of talks with Pakistan, the stakeholders are very limited,” he said.”The question comes: why have we failed in bringing those who perpetrated these acts to book?”

Mumbai Terror Attack
Flames engulf the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, on November 27, 2008, VOA

While Mumbai had suffered terror attacks prior to those in 2008, the strikes were the most audacious.The three-day siege put the spotlight on India’s weak coastal security – the 10 terrorists sneaked into the city on a fishing vessel.

Since then, maritime security has been strengthened and coastal police stations have been set up.On the eve of the anniversary, police officials said the city is better prepared to counter terrorist threats.

Also Read: By 2030, Over 98 Mn Indians Will Have Diabetes, Lancet Study Revealed

“I can assure Mumbaikars that the city is safe and police are capable of protecting you from any eventuality,” Mumbai Police Commissioner Subodh Kumar Jaiswal said.

Businessman Dilip Mehta took counseling for months after he faced the prospect of falling victim to a terrorists bullet at Taj Mahal hotel, where for about 60 hours, the gunmen shot dead guests and hotel staff.His life took a 360 degree turn after the attack, but he says he does feel more secure.“Now with whatever precautions and measures which have been taken, I feel quite safe in Bombay,” he said. (VOA)