UN warning over school closures in NE Nigeria

Boko Haram's ongoing insurgency in northern Nigeria has forced the closure of more than 57 percent of schools in Borno state. (AP)
Updated 29 September 2017

UN warning over school closures in NE Nigeria

LAGOS: Most schools in the state worst-hit by the Boko Haram conflict remain shut, the UN children’s agency said on Friday, blaming the militants for deliberating targeting education.
Unicef said at least 57 percent of schools in Borno state were closed as the new academic year began this month, with teacher numbers as well as buildings badly hit by the violence.
More than 2,295 teachers have been killed and 19,000 displaced, while nearly 1,400 schools have been destroyed in eight years of fighting, it added in a statement.
Schools were shut because they were too badly damaged or were located in areas still deemed unsafe despite a sustained military fight-back against the militants since 2015.
Unicef warned the situation threatened to create “a lost generation of children, threatening their and the country’s future” if nothing was done.
The agency’s deputy executive director Justin Forsyth said on a visit to the northeast that the effect of the insurgency on education was “no accident.”
“This was a deliberate strategy (by Boko Haram) to destroy opportunity for children to go to school,” he told AFP in a telephone interview from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.
Boko Haram’s name roughly translates from the Hausa language spoken widely across northern Nigerian to “Western education is sin.”
Its fighters have repeatedly targeted schools teaching a secular curriculum.
In March last year, the Borno state government said 5,335 classrooms and school buildings in 512 primary, 38 secondary and two tertiary institutions had been damaged or destroyed.
Boko Haram’s kidnapping of more than 200 girls from their school in the Borno town of Chibok in April 2014 brought global attention to the conflict.
Forsyth said some three million children needed emergency education support but there was a huge shortfall to fund Unicef’s programs in the region, he added.
Some 750,000 children have been enrolled in school this year in Borno and neighboring Yobe and Adamawa, which have also been badly hit by the fighting.
For some, such as those in camps for those made homeless by the conflict, it is the first time they have received formal teaching.
Overall, at least 20,000 people have been killed in the fighting and more than 2.6 million made homeless.
Nigeria’s military and government claim the Daesh group affiliate is a spent force but attacks, including suicide bombings, remain a constant threat.
Unicef has repeatedly highlighted the effect of the insurgency on children and called the rebels’ use of boys and particularly girls as human bombs an “atrocity.”
As of late last month, 83 children had been strapped with explosives and used to carry out bomb attacks — four times as many as in all of last year.
The agency has also warned about acute food shortages that have left hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of famine in northeast Nigeria.
The UN’s head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, Mark Lowcock, said this month that the threat of famine had been “averted.”
Unicef said the intervention of aid agencies was making a difference but some 450,000 children under five were still expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year.
Forsyth said there were currently some 2,800 cases of severe acute malnutrition at the camp in the border town of Banki and high numbers also in Maiduguri.
“It’s not out of control but the levels are very high,” he said, attributing the rise in cases in part to greater accessibility to areas previously cut off by the fighting.


Migrant surge overwhelms Greek islands

Updated 20 min 30 sec ago

Migrant surge overwhelms Greek islands

  • The number of people reaching Greeks islands in the eastern Aegean Sea is the highest since the EU reached a €6 billion agreement in 2016 to prevent migrants from leaving the coast of Turkey
  • The surge started before Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria, but there are concerns that it could grow much bigger

SKALA, Greece: Greece’s eastern islands are struggling to cope with a surge in arrivals of migrants and asylum-seekers that has undermined efforts to ease severe overcrowding at refugee camps.
The number of people reaching Lesbos, Samos and other Greeks islands in the eastern Aegean Sea is the highest since the European Union reached a 6 billion-euro agreement in 2016 to prevent migrants from leaving the coast of Turkey and heading to the EU.
The surge started before Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria, but there are concerns that it could grow much bigger. Since the offensive began last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought to quell European criticism by warning that he could “open the gates” and send more than 3 million Syrian refugees to Europe.
Dinghies carrying migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are reaching the islands despite enhanced coast guard patrolling in recent weeks supported by the Greek military.
This is exacerbating problems at crowded refugee camps. A deadly fire at the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos on Sept. 29 triggered riots at the site, which is at 400% capacity.
The Greek government promised to accelerate transfers to the mainland and expand the network of camps there. But those transfers have so far been outnumbered by new arrivals on the islands.
Human rights group Amnesty International has described Moria as “overcrowded and unsafe” and urged other European Union countries to help Greece settle asylum-seekers.
Authorities fear that if the arrival numbers remain high through October, a winter crisis will be difficult to avoid.
Greece’s new conservative government says it also plans to detain migrants without the right to request asylum and wants to resume deportations back to Turkey under terms detailed in the 2016 EU-Turkey deal.