Nigeria Starts Program to Protect Schools From Terror Attacks

Nigeria started implementing a plan to protect schools from terror attacks in three northeastern states now under emergency rule because of an Islamist insurgency, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said.

The government will spend an initial 1.6 billion naira ($9.8 million) to safeguard schools and wants to raise an additional $100 million from donors, Okonjo-Iweala told reporters today in the capital, Abuja. Islamist militia Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 girls from a school in Borno state in the northeast in April.

“There is nothing more important than that girls and boys should be able to go to school without fear,” former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and is seeking international support for the plan, said at a joint news conference with Okonjo-Iweala.

Boko Haram is waging a campaign of violence, in which more than 4,000 people have died in five years, to impose Shariah, or Islamic law, in Africa’s most populous country of about 170 million people. The continent’s top oil producer is roughly split between a mainly Christian south and a predominantly Muslim north.

Another $10 million was pledged by the Nigerian business community for the safe-school plan, Brown said. The money will be spent on improving communications, water and sanitation, and building better accommodation for teachers who live in schools.

“We are not trying to turn our schools into armed camps,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “What we are trying to do is enhance the atmosphere and security of schools.”

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