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Boko Haram kidnaps more than 200 schoolgirls

South Africans protest in solidarity against the abduction three weeks ago of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria by the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram and what protesters said was the failure of the Nigerian government and international community to rescue them, during a march to the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa Thursday, May 8, 2014. The kidnapping has ignited a viral social media campaign that has brought renewed attention to Boko Haram's campaign of violence, and protests around the world. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

“I first heard about the abduction of the schoolgirls from Chibok on the BBC’s Hausa service. As a parent and a teacher I felt bad because we should have done a better job of securing our schools. In terms of protecting my own students, I’m powerless. The university itself is heavily fortified – there are soldiers and civilian vigilantes who assist in securing it. But outside of university, the students have to be conscious of where they are going, to protect themselves when travelling. The best I can do is counsel them. There’s nothing much more I can offer.

The biggest impact this abduction has had is that parents no longer feel safe sending their children to school – it’s a big blow for education in the region. State schools here have now been closed for six months, although the government is thinking of reopening them. But even before Boko Haram this northeastern region of Nigeria was relatively backward in terms of education. A lot of parents didn’t send their children to school and there were high dropout rates. This could be because of poverty or ignorance, and it has impacted on the level of literacy in the state of Borno for parents and children alike.

The international attention brought by the abduction hasn’t changed anything: the girls haven’t been recovered. But interestingly, the Western media covered this event much more than other incidents in this area. In one attack [in June 2014] 400 people were killed. Fifty students were killed in a local school in September 2013. In August this year, 20 youths were killed. These events didn’t receive as much attention. I wish I knew why when students are killed Western journalists don’t care, but when students are kidnapped there’s so much reaction, so much pressure on the government.

Boko Haram is just a criminal gang; that’s the way we all look at them. They operate like any other criminal gang, just like ISIS in Iraq, killing anyone who’s a non-member, kidnapping, collecting money and seizing property. They started as a religious organisation and a lot of youths subscribed to their ideas, but the religious aspect is no longer there. They are only using the name of religion to do whatever criminal activity they’re engaging in. Nobody here shares their views.

Normal life goes on. There’s commercial activity and social activity. People are optimistic. We don’t know when the conflict will end, but despite everything we believe that one day it will be over.”


The interviewee is a lecturer at the University of Maiduguri in Borno state; Maiduguri is the state capital and Boko Haram was founded there in 2002. We have decided not to publish his name due to concerns
for his safety.

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