KANO (AFP) – Terrified students in northeast Nigeria have fled boarding schools after an attack by suspected Boko Haram extremists in which 43 students were shot and hacked to death and the whole school razed.
Students refused to stay overnight in their schools and colleges in the wake of the attack on the Federal Government College in Buni Yadi, Yobe state on Tuesday.
“Most students of boarding secondary schools have vacated their hostels and moved back to their homes after news of the Buni Yadi attack,” Yunusa Ahmed, who lives in the state capital Damaturu, told AFP.
Ahmed’s son is currently studying at the city’s Government Secondary School but has now moved back home along with two classmates.
“They went to school today (Wednesday) but returned after classes ended because they are too afraid to sleep in the school for fear of a Boko Haram attack,” Ahmed said.
Boko Haram, which translates roughly from Hausa as “Western education is sin”, rejects a so-called Western curriculum and has burnt hundreds of schools in its four-and-a-half year fight to create an Islamic state in the north.
Last October Yobe state authorities said Boko Haram fighters burnt down 209 schools, causing damage worth an estimated $15.6 million (11.4 million euros).
The attacks are taking their toll on education in a region that already lags behind the rest of Nigeria in social and economic development.
– ‘Callously murdered’ –
President Goodluck Jonathan, in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday evening to mark upcoming celebrations for the centenary of Nigeria’s unification, said the students were “callously murdered”.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply concerned about the increasing frequency and brutality of attacks against educational institutions”, adding that “no objective can justify such violence”.
A student at GSS Damaturu, who gave his name only as Mubarak, said students fled their dorms in fear of further attacks.
Last June seven students and a teacher were shot dead in the school when Boko Haram opened fire on a dormitory.
“We are afraid of a repeat of the horrifying incident of last year,” Mubarak said.
Tuesday’s attack was the fourth such raid on schools in Yobe state by Boko Haram in the past year.
In September insurgents dressed in military uniform opened fire on student hostels at an agriculture college in Gujba, killing 40.
The Federal Government College, a girls’ school in Yobe state’s commercial hub Potiskum, was shut indefinitely after concerned parents took their daughters home, fearing it could be hit next, a teacher at the school said.
“The school management sought approval from higher authorities for the closure of the school because of the massive withdrawal of students by parents, despite assurances by the school management,” said the teacher, who asked not to be identified.
Students have also fled at least two other boarding schools in the town, say locals.
The fear of renewed violence was heightened by claims that the attackers of Buni Yadi were spotted in a nearby village afterwards, Kabir added.
In July last year, Boko Haram gunmen broke into a secondary school in Mamudo village outside Potiskum, opening fire and throwing explosives into dormitories, killing a teacher and 41 students as they slept.
Students of Bukar Abba Ibrahim University in Damaturu have also abandoned their halls of residence.
“The attacks on secondary schools are a clear warning to us in the university because if the attackers could murder secondary school children one can only imagine what they would do if they attack a university,” said student Bashir Sani.
Many are staying with friends in the city. Only a few with nowhere else to go still sleep at the college, he said.