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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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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)