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US Troops Provide Educational Tools to Cameroon Schools

FILE - Children, who escaped Boko Haram attacks in both Michika and Cameroon, seek shelter in Adamawa, Nigeria, Jan. 31, 2015. U.S troops deployed to Cameroon to help fight the Boko Haram insurgency have donated school benches and educational material to Cameroonian schools in Feb, 2016.

U.S. troops deployed to Cameroon to help fight the Boko Haram insurgency have donated school benches and educational material to Cameroonian schools.

Hundreds of teachers and school children gathered at the government primary school near the 301 Cameroon military air force base in the northern town of Garoua to receive school benches, chalk, exercise books, pens and pencils from U.S. troops assisting Cameroon in its fight against the Islamist insurgents.

Nana Mamoudou, whose three children attend the school, said he at first "did not know what the Americans were doing here. They were only staying in their military camp, but now that they have decided to help us with school benches, we know they have our interest at heart."

School needs

Cameroon Air Force Colonel Evina Bathalomie Marie said after the U.S. troops helped the community to build the school in Garoua, the Americans also provided some furniture.

"We have been struggling with parents to fix [build] the school. We have already done it. The problem we had was the problem of desks [school benches] and as American people have provided us with some desks [benches], we are very grateful," Marie said.

Last year, Cameroon announced it had closed at least 200 schools on its northern border with Nigeria, where frequent Boko Haram attacks occur.

Many students have sought education in safer areas in the central African nation's hinterlands, thereby stressing the infrastructure, as well as adding congestion at some of these schools.

A United Nations report published last December said the Boko Haram insurgency in Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger and other countries has led to the destruction of schools and infrastructure and contributed to about 1 million children being deprived of an education.

Roberto Quiroz, public relations officer at the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon, said U.S. troops came to to help Cameroon's efforts to eradicate terrorists as well as the well-being of the children.

"We have seen that Cameroon has taken a very brave stand with courage to fight Boko Haram and the United States is here to support that leadership, support that vision, to support those effort that is made by Cameroonians," he added.

US aid

U.S. troops have been helping Cameroon fight Boko Haram by providing intelligence, war equipment and training.

In March 2015, Cameroon launched an $8 million emergency plan to construct schools in safer localities away from volatile areas overrun by Boko Haram. The government said it still needed more support to cope with increasing school demands.

There are concerns that lack of education may fuel radicalism, especially now that Boko Haram is recruiting child suicide bombers.