Nigerian children in former Boko Haram strongholds are finally headed back to school

It’s time to get back to it.
It’s time to get back to it.
Image: Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye
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For many Nigerians in the country’s northeast, life has been anything but normal since 2009, as terrorist sect Boko Haram led a devastating insurgency that killed more than 20,000 people and caused more than a million others to flee their homes. At the height of the insurgency, the sect controlled swathes of territory across the region.

But that has slowly changed over the last 12 months as the Nigerian military, under president Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, has made strong gains in its fight against the group. Territory has been recovered, abductees have been released, and normalcy has slowly returned. The Nigerian military even claims to have killed some of the sect’s top commanders.

Next week, another symbolic gain will be recorded as the state government in Borno state, the birthplace of Boko Haram, re-opens public secondary schools, which were closed two years ago because of the fighting.

During the shutdown, the schools were occupied by displaced people who have now been relocated. Inuwa Kubo, Borno’s commissioner for education, says the schools have been renovated in preparation for the students’ return on Sept. 26. The state government says the resumption of public schools will weaken the monopoly of private schools that have “taken undue advantage of the closure to hike school fees.”

Nigeria is still struggling with the fallout from the seven-year insurgency. With camps for displaced people overpopulated, reports of severe food shortages and health risks are rife. A Doctors Without Borders report in June described the situation at one of the Borno camps as a “catastrophic humanitarian emergency.” The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in August that it is scaling up its response to the food and health crisis. It estimates that at some camps, “mortality rates are four times higher than emergency thresholds.”

But the resumption of secondary schools speaks to the nascent recovery underway in Borno. Maiduguri, the state capital, is now regarded as one of the fastest-growing property markets in Nigeria, as residents who fled the city during the rise of Boko Haram start to make their way home.