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Nigeria state closes schools for fear of attacks

2014-03-22 22:30

 (Sunday Alamba, AP)

(Sunday Alamba, AP)

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Maiduguri – Public secondary schools in Nigeria’s
northeast Borno state have been closed indefinitely following deadly attacks
blamed on Boko Haram Islamists, teachers and parents said on Saturday.

The closure reportedly affects 85 secondary schools,
catering to about 120 000 students across the troubled state, a stronghold of
the militant sect waging a five year insurgency in Nigeria.

The murderous group, whose name means “Western
education is sinful” in the Hausa language, has vowed to stop children
attending school.

“We reported to school on Friday last week [14 March] but to our shock the principal of the school told us he had received orders
from the ministry of education to close down the school indefinitely,”
teacher Suleiman Gana told AFP.

“He [the principal] told us the decision affects all
public secondary schools in the state and was taken as a precautionary measure
to safeguard lives of teachers and students from Boko Haram attacks,” Gana

A Borno state official confirmed the closure of the
schools to AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Deadly attacks blamed on Boko Haram have intensified
since the turn of the year, with about 700 killed in more than 40 attacks in
2014 according to Human Rights Watch, making it one of the bloodiest years
since the insurgency began in 2009.

In the restive northeast, tens of thousands have fled for
their lives, either in fear of further attacks or after militants razed their
homes and businesses.

A wave of attacks on education targets, including the
slaughter of boarding school students in their beds while they slept, has
prompted international condemnation.

‘Caving in to Boko

Late last month, 43 students were shot and hacked to
death when suspected Boko Haram gunmen stormed the Federal Government College
in Buni Yadi, in nearby Yobe state.

On 14 March, Boko Haram Islamists attacked a military
base in Borno state capital Maiduguri and freed dozens of insurgents from
custody – after opening fire in a residential neighbourhood and razing homes
according to witnesses.

Some public schools in the northern part of Borno have
been closed for over two years due to fears of attacks.

The state commissioner for education had already ordered
schools in Konduga, Bama, Mafa, Dikwa and Damboa towns – where Boko Haram has
launched several deadly raids – to relocate their students to safer schools in

But Buji Mallum, whose son attends the now shut Mafoni
secondary school in Maiduguri, said shutting schools would only embolden Boko
Haram to continue attacks.

“My child came back from school unusually early last
week Friday and he told me that government had asked all [public] secondary
schools in Borno state to be shut,” the 65-year-old said.

“We all appreciate the security situation but for [the] government to cave in to Boko Haram’s pressure and close down schools is indeed
shocking and saddening to every parent.”

Nigeria recently shut five government colleges in the
country’s restive northeast in the wake of deadly attacks on schools in Borno,
Adamawa and Yobe states, which are all under a state of emergency.

Last year, Borno state Governor Kashim Shettima said more
than 800 blocks of classrooms were burnt by Islamists, some more than twice.

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