John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Amnesty International on Student and Teacher Killings in Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell
October 4, 2013

Residents survey vehicles damaged after a bomb blast at a primary school in Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria's Borno state February 29, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)


The horror of student and teacher killings in Nigeria is amplified by Amnesty International’s almost clinical recounting and enumerating of their deaths at the hands of radical jihadists. Its report, “Keep Away from Schools or We’ll Kill You: Education Under Attack in Nigeria” is a grim must-read.

The report’s release comes less than a week after the murder of more than forty students at an agricultural college. Based on UNICEF sources and their own research, Amnesty estimates that at least seventy teachers and over one hundred school children have been killed since January 1, 2012. At least fifty schools have been destroyed or damaged and sixty additional ones have been forced to close. Amnesty also acknowledges that casualty figures are probably significantly understated.

Amnesty shows that attacks on schools have increased since 2012, and their character has changed. At first, schools were destroyed at night, when students and teachers were absent. Now, the attacks occur during the day, with teachers often killed in front of their students, and often students themselves are killed. Amnesty quotes Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau: “Teachers who teach Western education, we will kill them. We will kill them. We could burn down the schools, if they are not Islamic schools. We don’t touch small children. Our religion does not allow that, but we’ll burn down the schools.”

Shekau’s claim that “small children” are not targets of violence would seem to be frequently violated. Amnesty points out, however, that on occasion Shekau and Boko Haram did not claim responsibility for attacks on a specific school, even though they express approval for it. Hence, the murder of children may be committed by other groups not under Shekau’s control. This would appear to be yet another indication of the diffuse nature of the jihadist insurrection, and its lack of central direction or coordination.

Amnesty notes that the jihadist school attacks have largely shut down education in the northeast. The region already had the lowest education levels in the Federation.

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