Chibok girls, Boko Haram and geography

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AGAINST the backdrop of  the second anniversary of the abduction of the over 200 Chibok School girls by Boko Haram, the London TELEGRAPH newspaper, on Monday, April 11, 2016, published an article by its Chief Foreign Correspondent, Colin Freeman, titled “Why Nigeria is the world’s most dangerous place to be a geography teacher”.

The article said that Boko Haram was singling out geography teachers in its terror campaign, because geography lessons contradicted Boko Haram’s “bizarre worldview on how the  earth was created. Boko Haram believes that the Earth is flat rather than spherical, and that rainfall is caused not by evaporation, but by God’s divine will”.

Prime  candidates

As a result, teachers of geography are ranked with Nigerian security men as well politicians as prime candidates for assassination.

This threat to geographers was outlined in an “extensive new report”, by Human Rights Watch, which underlined the devastating impact of the insurgency on the school system, especially in the areas of the war. The report said that 600 teachers have been murdered since 2009, while 19, 000 have quit their jobs in teaching as a result of threats and attacks. At the height of the insurgency schools closed in 22 of the 27 local government areas of Borno state, thus taking hundreds of thousands of children out of the education loop.

The figures are frightening, with a total of 952, 029 school-age children forced to flee Boko Haram violence and around 600, 000 pupils losing access to schooling. Colin Freeman quoted from the Human Rights Watch report, that: “Boko Haram insurgents have shown particular distaste for certain subjects like geography and science…Teachers of these subjects are targeted”.

It then mentioned an attack at Mafoni Government Day Secondary School in Maiduguri, in September 2012, when the insurgents burst in and ‘“set their sights” on the geography teacher, Malam Anjili Mala…the gunmen simply rained six bullets into the teacher and calmly walked away. No one else was touched’. The background to this was that “the principles of geography and social science contradict the eccentric teachings of Boko Haram’s late founder, Mohammed Yusuf…”

In an interview with the BBC, Yusuf had stated that: “we believe that rain is a creation of God rather an evaporation caused by the sun that condenses and becomes rain”. He also rejected Darwinism and the idea that “the world was a sphere”, which he claimed ran “contrary to the teachings of Allah”.

A medieval perspective: This is the medieval perspective that fuels the ideology that has been responsible for the killing of thousands of our compatriots over the past six years of the insurgency. And as the report being quoted has shown, teachers and education have been on the trigger sight of Boko Haram in these years.

The most symbolic of its disdain for education was the abduction of the Chibok Girls two years ago today. That abduction, more than most other outrages associated with the insurgency, shocked people around the world and the #BRING BACK OUR GIRLS campaign helped to highlight the atrocities of the Boko haram insurgency at a time when the Nigerian government of the day lived in denial and had even refused to believe that any such abduction took place.

The narrative kept shifting; first it was Northerners that were killing themselves and so the administration was not bothered; then it was a conspiracy of the North against a Southern president and there were also desperate efforts to politically exploit the chasm that was being constructed between the North and South of the country.

Closure for  the issue

But it was the nature of the anger that most Nigerians felt, that the Chibok Girls’ abduction was going to become one of the many factors that would trigger change in Nigeria.

Two years down the line, these poor girls are not back home and therefore, we have not found closure for the issue. And we cannot and deserve not to rest until those girls are back to their parents. The nightmare is plainly unacceptable and every new day that those girls stay with their abductors diminishes us  further, because those girls should actually be in school harvesting the knowledge they could have eventually put into our collective struggle against underdevelopment.

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