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Excitement as schools re-open in Maiduguri

During the time under review, pupils roamed the streets of Maiduguri,the state capital, following the closure of the schools and the attendant attacks on educational…

During the time under review, pupils roamed the streets of Maiduguri,the state capital, following the closure of the schools and the attendant attacks on educational facility by the terrorist group that abhors Western education.
Governor Kashim Shettima had said that besidesthe dozens of school teachers and administrators that were killed, over 800 blocks of classrooms were destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents. Some of the facilities were burnt more than three times as the state government remained undaunted by expending millions of naira on their repair, all in an effort to ensure that the crave by the Boko Haram to force formal education into extinction was resisted.
However, the continued onslaught on everything Western by the insurgents became a source of worry for concerned parents.Many of the indigent withdrew their children while those who could afford, enrolled their children and wards in private schools. But even the private schools were not spared by the terrorists who burnt many of them overnight.
During the period of closure, the number of children hawking on the streets of Maiduguri and Jere swelled significantly. The situation was the same in many communities in all the remaining 25 local government areas of the state.
Though the Borno State government had attempted to reopen the school in the first quarter of this year, the hope was dashed following the abduction of 276 schoolgirls at Government Girls Secondary School, in Chibok town.
But about two months ago, worried by the continued stay of children at home, Governor Shettima defied the odds and set up a 19-man high powered committee on the resuscitation of primary school education in the state.The committee was headed by an educationist, Dr. Mohammed Dongel.
Shettima had during the inauguration of the committee said it was not acceptable for children to remain at home while their counterparts in other parts of the country were in school.The committee, which was mandated to find ways of making schools safe, immediately swung into action, a development that brought about the reopening of schools last Monday.
Part of the arrangement is that security operatives would work hand in hand with youth vigilantes, also known as civilian JTF, in protecting pupils while in school.It was also resolved that for now, only primary schools would resume while secondary school students would remain at home in the meantime.
Similarly, only schools in Maiduguri, Jere and parts of Konduga local government areas will be in session while those in all the remaining councils would remain closed.
Weekly Trust reports that the reopening of schools has brought Joy and excitement to many pupils and parents.Our correspondents, who went round some of the schools in Maiduguri and Jere local government areas observed large turnout of pupils.
Some of the schools visited during the week include Yerwa Central Primary school, Lamisula Primary school, Hausari and old Maiduguri Primary Schools.
It was observed that pupils were taking their lessons in the schools visited while some were playing with their peers during break period.Some pupils, who spoke to Weekly Trust, said they were very happy to return to school after very long stay-away.
Mohammed Lawal of Hausari primary school said: “I am very happy to return to school because throughout out the period of the closure, I was not doing anything.”
 Afemale pupil of the same school, Zainab Lawal, said she hawked wares for her grandmother during the closure: “I am an orphan, both my father and mother died long ago and since then, I havebeenstaying with my grandmother who could not afford to send me to private school. That was why when the public schools were closed I went into hawking in order to generate little income for my mother.”
A pupil at old Maiduguri primary school, Bukar Mohammed, thanked Governor Shettima for reopening the school: “I am happy to return to school because I really missed my friends and I am happy to see them again. I also thank the governor for opening the school because it has brightened my hope of continuing with my education.”  
A vigilante, Kura Aji, who was seen at Lamisula primary school, said he was ready to protect the pupils: “Maiduguri is relatively safe now and we feel the only thing that is needed is vigilance so that somebody will not disguise as a pupil to come and wreak havoc. This is exactly what we are doing.”
He said allowing the schools to remain closed was akin to accepting defeat: “We have to do everything possible to deplete any sinister move by the Boko Haram to hold us to ransom…We cannot continue staying at home.”  
Dr. Dongel, who spearheaded the reopening of the schools, was seen on Wednesday going round some of the schools.He assured parents that government was ready to provide adequate security for both pupils and teachers.
He also pointed out that going by the fact that thousands of displaced children were now living in camps in Maiduguri arrangements have been completed to enroll them in school.
“What we hope to do is to organise afternoon classes at various IDPs camps for children so that they would not be left behind. Other children would be going to school in morning,” Dongel explained.
 “The Borno State government has also put all necessary machinery in motion to ensure that the pupils learn under condusive environment to ensure improvement in standard of primary education,” he added.
The chairman stated that 450 of the 1357 primary schools in the state have so far reopened, adding that the turnout of pupils was impressive: “So far, the turnout of pupils is impressive with 70 percent and we hope that by next week the turnout will be 100 percent.” He added that Governor Shettima would in the next two weeks flag-off a free uniform and feeding programme for pupils.   
“Governor Shettima is so much concerned about your welfare and he is prepared to make sure you get qualitative education. You are going to be given free school uniform, free feeding among others,” Dongel said while addressing pupils at Yerwa Central Primary School.  
He also told the teachers that government was planning a welfare package for them which would include furniture and car loans among others.

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