Living in fear of Boko Haram

Kyari Mohammed, who is a teacher in north-east Nigeria – Boko Haram territory – writes in the Guardian about what it’s like to live in fear of Education Forbidden.

I live in fear of Boko Haram. The group’s insurgency began in Nigeria in 2009. Yola in Adamawa state, where I live and teach history, is relatively calm at the moment. But following the imposition of a state of emergency in 2013 many of my colleagues have fled.

The University of Maiduguri in neighbouring Borno state is in a worse situation. At least three of its professors have been killed and one abducted within this period. Many students have withdrawn, teachers relocated, and academic exchange even with other Nigerian universities has virtually ceased. During a one-year sabbatical that I took there in 2012, it was shut down for six months.

Following Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau’s reiteration that all schools are targets, we are all living in fear.

Marvelous, isn’t it? A movement to destroy all education in a developing country, and to do it via mass murder and terror.

The attacks on schools can be explained even though they cannot be justified. The Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Liddawa’ati wal Jihad, better known as Boko Haram, has not hidden its disdain and opposition to western education. Its name Boko Haram is often roughly translated as “western education is forbidden”.

The group ascribes the rot in governance, corruption, conspicuous consumption of the ruling class as well as their exclusion and marginality in contemporary Nigerian society to western education and the secular system it gave rise to.

The educated elites, especially in northern Nigeria, have not been good role models in the eyes of their uneducated compatriots. This is because they are living examples of corruption, conspicuous consumption and oppression of their unlettered compatriots and co-religionists.

There’s a lot of that here in the US, too, but destroying education isn’t the way to improve things.

The insurgency has set back education in an area with some of the world’s worst levels of education and human development. For many children in these communities, education remains their surest way out of poverty and destitution. The fear of Boko Haram has forced many parents to withdraw their children from schools, and this can only add to an already explosive mix of the large pool of uneducated and unemployed youth and debilitating poverty.

Boko Haram is energetically making things much much much worse.


  1. Py says

    Nigeria was once the world’s happiest Christian country. Now, education and churches are forbidden in mostly the Northern parts and the Boko Haram is spreading it’s reach.
    I just hope they stop before it’s too late as Christians have a breaking point.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    The spirit of Pol Pot lives on.

    Will our all-knowing CIA find reasons to collaborate with Boko Haram too?

  3. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    It’s sad to hear all these tales. I travelled in Nigeria when I was in the Peace Corps in Africa and loved the place. The people were friendly and even watched out for you as a foreigner traveling in their country. I did a pretty good job of covering the place, from Lagos in the southwest to Maiduguri in the northeast and from Kano to Calabar. Maiduguri did not have a good vibe even back then, 24 years ago.

    It’s a pity that all people know about Nigeria is oil, corruption, 419 scams and Boko Haram. It is really an interesting place to travel.

  4. Katherine Woo says

    If The CIA intervened against Boko Haram, Pierce R. Butler would be squealing in indignant rage about ‘imperialism’ and ‘Islamophobia.’

    He also overlooks it was good little leftist like him that helped abet or coverup the biggest mass death events in human history in the USSR, PRC, and, ah yes, Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

  5. Katherine Woo says

    I know Pierce came here and the first thought in his head was some completely off-topic comment attacking the United States. You wonder why it takes weeks for this story to gain traction, well Pierce’s attitude is why. Narcissistic white leftists like him care more about some grievance against the CIA of forty years ago than black girls being harmed right now.

    Apparently you agree with his sentiment though, since I am the only one you choose to chastise.

  6. says

    No you don’t. You don’t know what the first thought in his head was. You know what he chose to type in that comment, and that’s all you know.

    Notice that the bitter joke about the CIA was in fact NOT the first thing he said.

    No, actually, “Pierce’s attitude” – even assuming it is exactly what you think it is – is NOT the only or even chief reason this story was slow to gain traction. There are lots of reasons for that.

    I don’t even know if I agree with his “sentiment” or not, because his comment is too cryptic for me to know exactly what it says about his “sentiment.” I “chose to chastise” you because you have a habit of chastising and indeed insulting other commenters on the basis of wild generalizations about them. Skip the generalizations and I won’t chastise you. You could have simply asked what the CIA has to do with this, or that and asked why bring it up, or that and something about changing the subject to the CIA for no apparent reason. That would be fine. What you actually did say was not fine.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Gee – you get distracted by other threads and this alleged “real life” stuff, and miss all sorts of fun.

    Thanks for sticking up for me in my spaced-out absence, Ophelia!

    Katherine Woo @ # 5 – so I guess you at least agree with the Pol Pot comparison?

    And if the US did choose to send in (para-)military forces, would you think that they did so for purely humanitarian reasons? Really?!?

    Lots of leftists who do know me don’t consider me a “good” one, fyi. And the coverups you mention involved players from across the ideological spectrum – try to read some history from multiple sources, whydontcha?

    Katherine Woo @ # 7 – Alas, I can’t add anything to what our esteemed host told you @ # 6, except for my gladness that you didn’t try to deny my point about the spooks’ support of Pol Pot’s posse.

    As for the ongoing atrocity in Nigeria, note that the estimate of those raped (in the classical as well as, no doubt, the modern sense) has risen to nearly 300, though 53 are reported to have escaped.


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