The radical Islamists in northern Nigeria denounce Western education as promoting ills ranging from secularism to state-worship. Radicals see the latter as a fundamental challenge to monotheism in Islam. Boko Haram has attacked schools in the past, but normally only outside of school hours. They apparently targeted the institution rather than the children.
Since mid-June, however, the radical Islamists have been attacking the students themselves. The July 6 attack on a boarding school in the northeastern Nigerian state of Yobe was particularly vicious and deliberate. According to media reports, forty-two people, mostly students, were killed by a coordinated gun and bomb attack. The death toll may go higher. Some wounded students fled into the bush, where medical personnel are still looking for them. The specific targeting of school children is an outrage. President Goodluck Jonathan reacted to the tragedy saying the attackers would “burn in hell for their horrific act.” Nigerian politicians, the European Union, and Amnesty International among others, have also condemned this “horrific murder by terrorists.”
The media reports parents withdrawing their children from schools in the northeast out of fear for their safety. As of July 8, the governor of Yobe state has ordered all secondary schools to close until the beginning of the new academic year in September. It looks as though the radical Islamists, whether Boko Haram or some other group, have achieved a goal–the shut-down of “Western-style” secondary education in a large Nigerian state. Alongside high levels of youth unemployment, and in a region where education levels are low, the shut-down of the schools is a tragedy, though it is hard to see what else the governor could have done.
There are media reports that the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Restoration of Peace in the North-East, charged with investigating an amnesty for Boko Haram, has reached an “understanding for ceasefire” with the group. Over the weekend however, the Joint Task Force claims to have killed forty Boko Haram members, so fighting appears to continue unabated.
Although Imam Muhammadu Marwana, allegedly a person of some authority in Boko Haram, issued a statement of apology and seemed to confirm the ceasefire, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau has yet to weigh in on this turn of events. Moreover, there have been claims of ceasefires before and Shekau has previously publically stated his complete disinterest in an amnesty. He claims the Nigerian government should seek an amnesty from them instead.