Babagana Zulum, Governor of Borno State says the state government has enrolled no fewer than 1,163 children of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in war-ravaged Damasak town in school following the academic disruption caused by Boko Haram insurgency.
Zulum who went on a humanitarian trip to Damasak, a borderline town with Lake Chad, supervised the enrollment of the children on Monday, a government statement said.
Damasak, a trading town about 200 kilometres northwest of Maiduguri, the state capital, is a former stronghold of the insurgents, who are known to be against Western education.
In March 2015 when soldiers from neighbouring Chad and Niger advanced on Damasak as part of a cross-border military operation against the insurgents, Boko Haram fled, taking with them about 300 children and an estimated 100 more women and children they had been holding captive there, according to Human Rights Watch.
A year before that, the militants had attacked the town and occupied Zanna Mobarti Primary School, shutting the gates and locking more than 300 students in.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the insurgency has forced the closure of more than 57 per cent of schools in Borno State, leaving about three million children without an education.
More than 13 million children in Nigeria are out of school with most of them from Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, where Boko Haram has been waging a campaign against Western education since 2009, UNICEF said in a 2018 report, the most recent survey.
It was estimated that Boko Haram had destroyed more than 5000 classrooms and school buildings in Borno State alone, creating a climate of fear, that going to school seems a risky endeavour and teaching, a dangerous vocation.
Educators believe the attacks on educational opportunities in the region will impair the region’s development.
While international and corporate organisations are rendering humanitarian aid to rejig the region’s education sector, state governments and parents are being buoyed to step up efforts in that regard.
Zulum has been fronting the campaign of getting the out-of-school children back in class.
The governor while enrolling some children from Guzamala and Abadam Local Government areas in northern Borno, said the government would continue to provide functional schools and improve social welfare.
He appealed to parents to allow their children to enrol in schools, whether western or combined curriculum of Islamic and Western education.
The governor urged secondary school students in Damasak, especially those preparing for higher education to remain focused in their studies, pledging support for them.
“He promised all of them the government support to help them actualize their dreams in life,” the statement read.
The governor who travelled with Abubakar Kyari, a senator representing northern Borno, also distributed some materials such as water pumps, fertilizer, seeds, chemicals and N5000 cash to each of 1,200 irrigation farmers embarking on food cultivation this dry season.
Zulum also supervised the distribution of food to 10,000 internally displaced families in need of support.
Each of the 10,000 families received 25kg of rice,25kg of beans, 25kg of maize and five litres of cooking oil as part of interventions before they can generate livelihoods for themselves in Damasak,” the statement said.