Northeast Nigeria Rebuilds, Prepares for Schools to Open

09 September, 2016

Schools are to open in Nigeria this month, but millions of children may not be able to attend.

Nigeria has one of the world's largest populations of children who are not in school -- about one-third of the country's schoolchildren, according to a recent report by the United Nations Children's Fund.

Many school-age children cannot go to classes because of attacks by the Boko Haram terrorist group in the northeast. The terrorists believe Western education is wrong. They not only destroy schools -- they also kill teachers, and have forced more than 2.7 million people to flee.

In this photo taken Sunday Aug. 28, 2016 a girl displaced by Islamist Extremists carries empty plastic containers at a camp Maiduguri, Nigeria.
In this photo taken Sunday Aug. 28, 2016 a girl displaced by Islamist Extremists carries empty plastic containers at a camp Maiduguri, Nigeria.

UNICEF says 1,200 schools in Nigeria were closed because they were damaged, looted or used to shelter displaced people.

However, officials are trying to get more children into schools this year.

Not just Chibok

More than two years ago, Boko Haram terrorists attacked the Government Secondary School in Chibok, kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls and destroyed many of the school's buildings.

The school in Chibok was not the only one attacked by Boko Haram.

Musa Inuwa Kubo is the education minister for Borno, the northeastern state where much of the conflict between government troops and the terrorists has taken place over the last seven years. Kubo says Boko Haram has destroyed more than 134 schools.

The state government has taken steps to open most of the schools in Borno state by moving internally displaced people -- or IDPs -- out of classrooms.

Kubo says the state government has also started rebuilding destroyed schools. But not all schools will open. Kubo says 15 schools are in areas too dangerous for classes to start.

Displaced people

UNICEF spokesman Toby Fricker says some schools will have to deal with a large increase in the number of students.

Many people have fled to the state capital Maiduguri. Fricker says the move could mean that students who may not have been able to attend school in their home areas can go to classes in the areas to which they have fled.

"You really have a lot of displaced people who are in towns, or even in internally-displaced camps, and in some cases have easier access to education because of the location, in terms of the travel to school is not as far..."

Rebuilding Chibok

The kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls caused people throughout the world to criticize Boko Haram. Some of the girls were able to escape immediately. But only one girl has been rescued since the attack.

The attack also damaged the Chibok school. Eventually, the government had to destroy it. People said students were left without anywhere to study. But now Nigerian Army troops are rebuilding classrooms and dormitories.

Parents of the missing girls support the rebuilding of the school.

Esther Yakubu says if her kidnapped daughter Dorcas Yakubu is rescued, she would let her attend classes in Chibok.

"I would send her to that school," she said. "Only that she cannot sleep in the school anymore."

She says if her daughter had not slept at the school overnight, she would not have been kidnapped.

I'm Pete Musto.

Chris Stein reported this story for VOANews. It was adapted for Learning English by Christopher Jones-Cruise. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

loot – v. to steal things from (a place, such as a store or house) during a war or after destruction has been caused by fire, rioting, etc.

access – n. a way of being able to use or get something (usually + to)

dormitory – n. a building on a school campus that has rooms where students can live

according - prep. as stated or reported by

internally - adj. existing or happening within a country, organization or system