President Jonathan today said the Boko Haram threat was exaggerated

7000 pupils stranded after Boko Haram burns 14 schools in Maiduguri

So far this year 14 schools have been burnt down in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, forcing over 7,000 children out of formal education and pushing down enrolment rates in an already ill-educated region.

In a video posted on YouTube in February, Boko Haram, the Islamic jihadist group based in Nigeria, called on their followers to destroy schools providing Western education. [ ]
School enrolment is already lower in Borno – 28 per cent – than in any other state in Nigeria, according to the Nigeria Education Data Survey 2010. The recent attacks are making it even harder for teachers and aid groups to persuade parents to let their children stay on at school.
“We are appealing to parents to keep their children in school and not to be intimidated,” Musa Inuwa, the Commissioner for Education in Borno State, told IRIN. State officials are assuring parents that it is still safe to send their children to school, and Inuwa has begun visiting schools more frequently to give motivational talks to pupils and staff.
Eric Guttschuss, Researcher on Nigeria for the watchdog organization, Human Rights Watch, told IRIN, “It’s not just the students at the targeted schools that end up being affected. Targeting of schools can lead children in neighbouring schools to stay home or drop out completely for fear of further attacks.” [ ]
The authorities have responded to the crisis by pledging to rebuild all state schools that have been burned or bombed. Five private schools were also destroyed and a teacher at the Success Stars Secondary School, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals by Boko Haram, said his school deserved state funds for rebuilding. “Many of our students enrolled with us because the state schools are full – but where is the state now?”
Staff attendance has also dwindled, said Suleiman Aliyu, headmaster of the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation, a private school offering both Islamic and Western education, which opened to cater for the growing number of orphans in the state. “It happens almost every week that a teacher calls in to say they are staying at home because there is shooting in their area,” he told IRIN. So far, the school has not been targeted by Boko Haram, but the headmaster fears that “it’s only a matter of time”.

The Joint Military Task Force deployed to Borno State to enforce Operation Restore Order in 2011 has stepped up patrols around state schools.

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