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Boko Haram: North-east May Further Go Down Educationally, Says UNICEF

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A fresh alarm has been raised over the negative impacts of the Boko Haram insurgency on the North-eastern region of the country. The United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF), which raised the alarm, Monday, warned that the zone, which has always remained educationally backward, may further go down because of the Boko Haram siege.

According to the world body, recent indications, especially with the forced closure of schools, point to the fact that the Northeast which has been on top of Nigeria's out of school table, had further moved down thus requiring immediate intervention to get it back on track.

UNICEF gave the warning in Bauchi, the Bauchi State capital, at a media briefing to mark the 2014 Day of the African Child, which had “A child friendly, quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa,” as theme.

Speaking at the occasion, UNICEF Planning Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Dr. Danjuma Almustafa, who represented the Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Bauchi, Dr. Abdulai Kaikai, said statistics has showed that Nigeria's 10.5 million out-of-school children are the highest number in the world.

Lamenting that almost one of three primary age children was out of school, and roughly one of four junior secondary age children was out of school, he noted that nearly 6.3 million, or 60 per cent, of the 10.5 million Nigerian children out of school children live in the northern part of the country.

“Even when enrolled, hundreds of children - especially girls - are not showing up for class. Although girls' primary school attendance has generally been improving, this has not been the case for girls from the poorest households.

“Rural areas are disadvantaged almost everywhere in the country. Moreover, wealth and socio-economic status confer a definite advantage in terms of enrolment, attendance and completion,” he said.

According to Almustafa, “Prior to 2011, most attacks on schools in the north had targeted infrastructure and were carried out at night when schools were empty.' He lamented that 'Since 2012, teachers and school students are increasingly targeted by militants, resulting in killings, abductions and threats,' adding “Many schools were bombed, set on fire or attacked by militants in the north - and increasingly militants turned their attention to students and teachers, according to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack in 2013.” He also lamented that “Dozens of school teachers were murdered and universities experienced heavy casualties by gunmen firing indiscriminately and in some cases also using bombs.”

Almustafa stated further: “From January to July 2013, more than 50 schools were attacked and partially destroyed or burned down, most of them in Borno State and few in neighbouring Yobe State, according to Amnesty International.

“Additionally, the Borno State Ministry of Education estimated that 15,000 children in the state stopped attending classes between February and May as a result of attacks.'