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Borneo State, Nigeria schoold destroyed by fire

A government sponsored public school is shown destroyed by fire in the northeastern Borneo State of Nigeria. Image: IRIN

(WNN) Kano, NIGERIA, WESTERN AFRICA: The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs news network, IRIN, is reporting that children in the northeastern Borneo State of Nigeria are too often first in line to get hurt negatively as the State region’s public school system has been under ongoing and violent attacks by the Nigerian extremist group known as BH – Boko Haram.

Current reports say that 50 out of 175 schools in the region have now been destroyed, many by fire, others by home-made explosions. Because of the destruction a rising number of the families of children who are attending school are caught with an interrupted education. Many of the children who are the most affected are not going back to school because of the violence.

So far approximately 15,000 students have been specifically impacted by the violence. Teachers who have been working in the region have confirmed the numbers.

The current situation has also caused increased dangers for public schools that continue to stay open. In response the government of Nigeria has brought in military troops to protect children who are trying to attend schools.

But the region has also had a history of problems, which include corruption and abuse among the State sponsored security forces.

“Boko Haram, an armed Islamic group whose professed aim is to rid Nigeria of its corrupt and abusive government and institute what it describes as religious purity, has committed horrific crimes across northern and central Nigeria,” outlined HRW – Human Rights Watch in a September 2012 report called “Spiraling Violence.”

“Since 2009, suspected members of the group have killed at least 1,500 people, including police officers and other government security agents, Christians, and Muslims who cooperate with government authorities,” Human Rights Watch added. “Based on field research in Nigeria in July 2010 and in May and July 2012, and the continuous monitoring of media reports of Boko Haram attacks and statements, Spiraling Violence explores the crimes committed by the Islamic group and sheds light on the underreported role of Nigeria’s security forces, whose actions in response to the violence have contravened international human rights standards and fueled further attacks. Human Rights Watch’s research suggests that crimes against humanity may have been committed both by state agents and members of Boko Haram.”

Because of the increased incidence of violence, even public schools that have not yet been attacked have been closing for fear of a future attack. Most of the destruction of the schools has occurred at night when no students have been present, but this has been changing.

In an accelerated attempt by extremists to close the government sponsored schools, 4 schools in Borneo State’s capital city Maiduguri have now been attacked during daylight hours. One attack in broad daylight on March 18 killed 4 teachers, as 4 students were also critically injured.

The federal government in Nigeria is now exploring the possibility of opening a dialogue with Boko Haram in an attempt to slow the violence, but little progress has been made. In recent weeks BH militants have been increasing their use of force in the northeast Nigerian region.

According to Human Rights Watch over 2,800 people have been killed in BH-related violence since 2009. This includes killings by Nigerian security forces.

Trapped in between two opposing forces, the children of northwestern Nigeria and their families are currently caught in a crisis that goes beyond denial of education. The increased violence is threatening lives.

“A complex mixture of economic, social, and political factors had provided a fertile environment for Boko Haram,” outlined HRW in their 2012 report.

“These include endemic corruption, poverty (which is more severe in large parts of the north than in other parts of the country), and impunity for violence, including horrific inter-communal killings and human rights abuses by security forces. These deeply entrenched problems cannot be easily resolved. Nonetheless, all parties should respect international human rights standards and halt the downward spiral of violence that terrorizes residents in northern and central Nigeria,” continued Human Rights Watch.

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