The Borno State government and the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF,has opened a learning centre for thousands of children who were affected by the Boko Haram Insurgency in Mafa and Jere local government areas of the state.
Mafa, one of the areas that was most-hit by the insurgency, is located about 45km away from the Borno State capital, Maiduguri.
Most of the children between the ages of 3 and 15, were either forced out of schools during the crisis, or were never enrolled in school in the first place.
When journalists visited the newly opened learning centre, the children were seen enthusiastically learning the letters of the English alphabet.
The education secretary of Mafa Local government, Lawan Sale, said it was a huge relief for the state government to see that kids are being given an opportunity to learn and improve their lives.
He expressed optimism that “The partnership with UNICEF to develop and educate our displaced children will go a long way in shaping and securing the future of troubled state.”
Sale added that the state government would ensure the provision of“qualitative teachers to teach the thousands of children in the new camp schools.”
Chester Shaba, an Education Specialist for UNICEF, said that the agency had not initially planned for a learning centre, given that IDP camps were merely temporary shelter.He said: “Initially we did not consider it necessary because the children are in the camp on temporary bases.
“But now that we see that they will be here for a long time, they need to be provided with all their rights; and one of their basic rights is the right to education.
“We anticipate registering over 4000 children; right now, in just two days, we have reached a target of over 2000 children,” he said.
Shaba explained that though UNICEF takes charge of opening the schools, it was the responsibility of the state government, through the State Universal Education Board, to deploy qualified teachers to assist the military educators whose original idea it was to start a learning center in the IDP camps.
The UN staff added that going by the number of pupils so far registered,there would be need for the construction of new classrooms, as the kids have already overcrowded the ten makeshift classrooms.
Figures from the International Organization on Migration, IOM, show that no less than 2.1 million people have been displaced in North East Nigeria as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency.