Education International
Education International

Nigeria: Extremist attacks hit school attendance

published 17 May 2013 updated 26 June 2013

EI has strongly condemned attacks on Nigerian schools, teachers and students that have kept 15,000 children away from school since last February. News of the attacks by Boko Haram (BH) extremists came from IRIN, the news service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The attacks on state schools in the Borno State, North-Eastern Nigeria, have continued.

Teachers killed and schools burnt down

Most of the affected children are primary school students, according to a Borno State Ministry of Education spokesman. So far, BH has burned or destroyed 50 of the state’s 175 schools, he said. Teachers in the state have confirmed the numbers.

Students are staying at home for fear of attack, or being transferred to private Islamic schools, known in the north as Islamiyya. On 6 May, state schools were officially to reopen following a six-week break, but many have stayed closed, as officials and teachers fear attack.

BH gunmen had initially targeted mostly primary schools at night, detonating grenades and home-made explosives or burning down classrooms with gasoline.

But, on 18 March, BH attacked four schools in Maiduguri, the Borno State’s capital, during broad daylight, killing four teachers and seriously injuring four students.

On 9 April, suspected BH members killed two school teachers in their homes, as well as four officials of the Borno State Feeding Committee while they were on an inspection tour of schools. The Committee runs a primary and secondary school feeding programme.

The shift to direct attacks on educators and students left many teachers too frightened to go to work.

BH responsibility

On 10 April, BH leader Abubakar Shekau took responsibility for ordering the attacks on schools in an Internet video post, citing Nigerian military raids on Islamic schools in Maiduguri as the excuse.

Even though the government has deployed soldiers in at-risk schools across the state, parents fear this action increases the risk to their children.

In some areas where the government was trying to renovate schools, BH set them ablaze again. Gwange II primary school in the Gwange area of Maiduguri city, considered a major BH stronghold, was burnt four times by BH, each time after undergoing renovation.

The school-burnings “sabotage the government's effort at improving education in Borno State”, Borno State information commissioner Inuwa Bwala told IRIN.

Enrolment in Islamic schools on the rise

Many parents now see Islamic schools as the safest option for their children. In fact, Islamic schools have seen a sharp rise in enrolment rates over recent months. These private religious schools teach Islamic education, though some include English and maths in the curriculum.

Given the demand, fees at some Islamic schools have also increased - by 300 per cent since the beginning of the year in some cases. Bwala said the state government will try to strengthen Islamic schools with more money and more materials, and standardise their curriculum to teach children the Koran alongside Western education.

EI: Strong condemnation of human rights’ violation

“EI strongly condemns these attacks on schools, teachers and students,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Attacks on schools violate children's right to education, as well as their human rights. They also violate international humanitarian law and criminal law, and constitute war crimes.

“It is not possible to learn in an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. How do you expect a teacher to put do his or her best and a child to learn effectively when they are always on edge,  anticipating gun and bomb attacks?”

He reiterated that schools must remain safe sanctuaries, and urged national authorities to ensure safety at school for educators and students.

EI demands that the Government take action to improve the situation soon, allowing learners and teachers to focus on achieving quality education for all in a peaceful environment.