Nigerian University Stays Open, Ignoring Boko Haram Threats

30 May, 2018

Since the start of 2017, Boko Haram militants have launched at least 12 attacks on the University of Maiduguri.

The university sits in Maiduguri, the same Nigerian city where Boko Haram was formed. The group has launched attacks against Nigeria's central government since 2009.

Boko Haram has also attacked the University of Maiduguri. Yet the university remains open, and thousands of students continue to attend its classes.

More than 20,000 students officially attend the school, and those numbers continue to grow.

Growing in the face of threats

Muktar Muhammed produces a music show for the university's radio station. He begins each broadcast with a cheerful "Good Morning" message to keep students calm.

"We have to make it a keep them positive. Of course, to try and stay relaxed and focused on their studies," he told VOA.

Muhammed said students were still frightened a few weeks ago after suspected Boko Haram militants invaded the city. But the militants left after they were driven away by government troops.

Nigeria troops, rear, provide security at the area where a bomb exploded in Nigeria's northeastern University of Maiduguri at Maiduguri, Nigeria, Jan. 16, 2016.
Nigeria troops, rear, provide security at the area where a bomb exploded in Nigeria's northeastern University of Maiduguri at Maiduguri, Nigeria, Jan. 16, 2016.

Third-year student Tasiu Hassan was at the school in January 2017 when a suicide attacker exploded a bomb, killing a professor. Later, Boko Haram released a video claiming responsibility for the attack.

"I found myself in a very terrible situation in such a way that I had even thought of going back home," Hassan told VOA. But he still stayed at school, like many other students.

Since then, the university has been attacked at least 12 times by suicide bombers, university officials told VOA.

In July 2017, suspected Boko Haram supporters kidnapped 10 members of the university's geology and surveying department. The Nigerian military later rescued them.

Resisting terrorists

The University of Maiduguri is the largest and most famous public education center in northeastern Nigeria. Its students are resisting Boko Haram's message that condemns Western education as sinful.

Throughout Boko Haram's rebellion against the government, the university never closed.

"To show how resilient we are, to show how much sacrifice we are making and that is the true reflection of the Maiduguri spirit -- we are here because we have a responsibility to keep the system going." Those are the words of Danjuma Gambo, a mass communications professor and a spokesman for the university.

"Someone has to be around no matter how bad the situation is," he added.

Gambo said that the university was too important to close, even for a day. He said it provides a lot "to the local economy, to the business, to the finance, to even social activities in Maiduguri."

University of Maiduguri
University of Maiduguri

That is why city and state officials said they would do anything in their power to keep the university open.

The commissioner for the Borno State Ministry for Education, Musa Inuwa Kubo, told VOA the university has helped create a sense of self-respect in the community.

"Most of us are products of that institution," he said. He added that the resiliency of the university during the Boko Haram attacks should be respected by everybody.

Last year, workers dug a 27-kilometer-long trench around the university, mainly on its eastern side. This side faces the border with Cameroon, where many Boko Haram fighters operate. The hole is designed to slow down attacks from the militant group. Its fighters often invade cities on motorcycles.

Every day, dogs trained to smell bomb chemicals and weapons perform inspections at two entrances to the university.

No other public university in the area has this level of security.

That is one reason why Esther Clement continues to attend the university.

She has one more year of studies before she will receive a degree in mass communication.

"I want to become a reporter, so I can inform people about Boko Haram," she added.

I'm Phil Dierking.

Chika Oduah wrote this story for VOANews. Phil Dierking adapted the story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Do you know of other schools that stay open despite danges? Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

commissioner - n. an official who is in charge of a government department or part of a government department

degree - n. an official document and title that is given to someone who has successfully completed a series of classes at a college or university

focus - v. to direct your attention or effort at something specific

motorcycle - n. a vehicle with two wheels that is powered by a motor and that can carry one or two people

positive - n. thinking about the good qualities of someone or something

reflect - v. to cause people to think of someone or something in a specified way

relax - v. to become or to cause (something) to become less tense, tight, or stiff

resilient - adj. able to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens

sinful - adj. wrong according to religious or moral law

survey - n. an act of measuring and examining an area of land

trench - n. a long, narrow hole that is dug in the ground