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Cameroon Closes Border Schools Over Boko Haram Threat

The 2014-2015 academic year began in Cameroon with thousands of students and teachers deserting schools in towns along the border with Nigeria's Borno state, which is home to the Boko Haram terrorist group.

With some schools either destroyed or occupied by the militants, Cameroon officials said they will relocate populations to more secure areas.

In Kolofata this week, 1,000 children were expected to start in government schools, but only a few students showed up.

Foncha Rene, 17, who was one of the few who arrived, said Boko Haram attacks in the area have scared his fellow students away.

"There is no way we can go to school. Some time ago the Boko Haram kidnapped some students in Nigeria and they have been attacking schools in the border zone of Cameroon," Foncha said.

School attacked

Foncha's school was attacked two weeks ago. Walls were knocked down in an armed confrontation between the Nigerian insurgents and Cameroon soldiers.

Boko Haram

  • Based in the northeastern city of Maiduguri
  • Self-proclaimed leader is Abubakar Shekau
  • Began in 2002 as a nonviolent Islamist splinter group
  • Launched uprising in 2009
  • Has killed tens of thousands since 2010
  • Boko Haram translates to "Western education is sinful"
  • Wants Nigeria to adopt strict Islamic law

English teacher Pamela Singeh, who works at the government school in Kolofata, spoke to VOA while taking refuge in a military camp.

"I cannot advise any child to go to school in the border zone because it is dangerous," Singeh said. "Look at some classrooms, they have been destroyed by Boko Haram. They even come here to pray, so I would not advise or allow any child to go to school in this area."

In Mora, 100 of the 700 expected students showed up only to find more than 2,000 Nigerian refugees in their school building.

The area's senior administrative official, Babila Akao, said he has asked the Ministry of Education to postpone the beginning of the school year.

"So what we are expected to do is to make proposals to the ministers of basic and secondary education to postpone the date of the school year here. People are suffering; the situation is a bad situation," Akao said.

Kolofata and Mora are just two of the 25 localities on the border with Nigeria’s Borno state.

Students to be moved

Cameroon Secretary of State for Secondary Education Monouna Fotsou said the government plans to move students for security reasons.

"Where the situation is so bad, we will de-localize some schools," Fotsou said. "At that moment also we will bring the staff and the students to the new sites. The objective of this Boko Haram is to traumatize our citizens."

Boko Haram group has massacred, kidnapped and looted villages along Cameroon’s 2,000 kilometer border with Nigeria - with attacks becoming more frequent as the group has gained momentum in its fight for its own caliphate in northern Nigeria.

Military action by Cameroon and Nigeria armed forces has done little to stop the violence.

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