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 said.

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 Haram'

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 Maiduguri.

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.

Read more on:    boko haram  |  nigeria  |  west africa
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