An international human rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), on Wednesday condemned the incessant attacks on schools in Borno State by the Boko Haram sect.
The group made the condemnation in a statement signed by Zama Coursen-Neff, Deputy Children’s Rights Director, HRW, which was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
It said that the attacks were threatening and undermining the rights of Nigerian children to life and education.
Mr. Coursen-Neff said that over 12 schools had been set on fire by persons suspected to be members of the militant Islamist group since the beginning of the year.
“Since the beginning of 2012, suspected Boko Haram members have attacked, damaged, and in a few cases, destroyed at least 12 schools in and around Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, temporarily leaving several thousands of children without access to education.
“Boko Haram’s attacks on schools represent a new and reprehensible development since the group began its campaign of violence in 2009.
“Children and educational institutions should be left alone, full stop,” he said.
According to him, attacks on schools by armed groups did not only put the lives of children and teachers at risk, but could also deprive children of education.
“Schools may close and children drop out entirely. Even when classes resume after an attack, the quality of education may suffer when students and teachers are afraid and learning materials are damaged.
“Threats of attacks may also force neighboring schools to close or parents to keep their children at home,” he said.
Mr. Coursen-Neff noted that on February 20, the first three schools: Kulagumma Primary School, Abbaganaram School, and Budum Primary School, were set on fire.
He said that between February 26 and 29, at least four schools were burned, and on March 1, five schools were set ablaze in what appeared to be a coordinated attack.
“As a result of the attacks, news reports state that at least 5,000 students are staying home from school”, Mr. Coursen-Neff said.
He said that Nigeria was a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which guaranteed children the right to education.