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What Boko Haram actually means – Education commissioner

How is the state coping with the insecurity situation, especially with regard to running schools? First, I would want to make it clear that it…

How is the state coping with the insecurity situation, especially with regard to running schools?
First, I would want to make it clear that it is a serious challenge that we found ourselves in but in life you must be ready to face challenges with determination and we are determined to face the challenges ahead of us. I want to assure the people of Borno State that government is not unmindful that this challenge is affecting other sectors, including the education sector, and because of that we have to put more effort and determination and then we have to endure even more than necessary to get the system to continue running. We also want to tell the world that despite what is happening in the state, parents and other community members are giving government the needed cooperation because the feeling from some quarters was like parents would not like to have their children in school again but it is not so because parents are determined and we cannot afford to disappoint the people.
We as a community have opted to acquire education for our cultural survival and for our future and therefore we are determined to continue.
The issue of insurgency was brought up by discontent and we feel that if it is the problem of disconnect, those people that feel offended we should sit down and dialogue with them and then find a solution. Certainly we cannot say we will not continue with education investment in the state. Borno State had been on the vanguard of educational development and we cannot afford to deviate now. So we want to assure our people that we are determined to continue despite all the challenges because we believe that one day it would be a matter of history.
Abduction of about 200 schoolgirls from Chibok has instilled fear and apprehension in the minds of parents. Has the incident affected school enrolment?   
Well, the incident that happened in Chibok is most unfortunate, nobody expected it. Chibok before this incident had been one of the peaceful parts of the state where activity of insurgency had not been witnessed before. In fact before the abduction, some communities neighbouring Chibok migrated and settled in Chibok because it was peaceful. When the insurgents attacked Izge village most of the people migrated to Chibok at that time. Certainly after the abduction, fear and apprehension were there. With people thinking, ‘that could happen to my child if he goes to school in this kind of situation’. No one can rule out that fear and apprehension but that does not mean all parents nursed that kind of thinking; most know they have to send their wards to school again. This is the case.
Before the insurgency, we had a positive progression in the education sector and that has encouraged both enrolment and retention in our schools. And along with the encouragement we have offered to teachers, these have helped the state in maintaining teachers on ground and even attracted others to join the profession. With these, the sector started witnessing successes with improvement in both enrolment and examinations results.
Parents’ attitudes towards public schools also changed because they had begun to withdraw their children from public schools to private schools. So, that was the situation since the present administration came on board, until the insurgency got to its peak which was when we started having problems here and there and we had to close down some schools. Naturally where communities are sacked we have no alternative than to shut down the schools in the area but we believe that the security situation will improve and things will pick up again.
Our hope is to free these girls alive. We urge all the organisations that are sympathising with Borno State over the Chibok incident to work in harmony with the federal government. We don’t want government to see these organisations as groups sponsored by anybody to tarnish the image of the government. Conflict between the federal government and the organisations will only compound the situation and we are at the receiving end.   
How many schools have you closed down so far?
 Most of the communities attacked by the Boko Haram insurgents have had their schools closed down. We have closed down schools in Damboa, Bama, Konduga, Ngala, Marte and Dikwa local governments, because these are the seriously affected places by the activities of the insurgents. But during the WAEC and NECO examinations we relocated the final year students to safer places where they successfully wrote their final year exams.
What security measures has government put in place to prevent a reoccurrence of the Chibok incident?
Well, I cannot tell all the measures we have put in place because it is not proper to unveil all our plans concerning security of lives and property of our people. Nevertheless, government has called on the communities to be security conscious. We have also informed the leaders and people in general to always report to security agencies any suspicious movement of a person or group of people in their respective domains. And other measures we have taken which are now being implemented one after the other I think are not for public consumption and it will not be proper for me to mention them.
Are there any challenges apart from insurgency?  
Well, that is natural and everybody is aware of other challenges facing the education sector not only in Borno State but in the entire country. Opposing western education by the insurgents alone is a great challenge in the education sector not to talk of abduction of about 200 schoolgirls.
However, I want people to understand the concept of Boko Haram because I have noticed that many people do not understand the real meaning of Boko Haram. Let me say it today and let us accept the reality; the concept of Boko Haram has a deep meaning and what it means is that those that have acquired western education have failed to come back to their respective communities and help their people, therefore the essence of their education (western education) is useless. This is actually the meaning of the word Boko Haram. It is not just anti-western education, rather those that have acquired western education but have not enhanced the lives of their communities using their education capabilities. If they had enhanced the lives of people in their communities, we wouldn’t have come into this problem. Boko Haram was brought up because of the existing disconnect between those that have acquired western education and those that have not.  

The federal government recently launched a revised nine-year basic education curriculum. What is your take on the new curriculum?  
Well, I cannot comment or assess the new curriculum now because I have not read it. However, the most important thing is that we have to check our conduct and we have to make sure that we are transparent in our activities. We also have to be determined and committed in the discharge of our duties otherwise we will not achieve anything. We put everything on paper but if we cannot check our conduct we will not achieve our desired goal. So we should develop an education curriculum that is invaded with skill development whereby after graduation a student can be on his/her own for livelihood.

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