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The Nigerian school with a radical idea: Teaching Boko Haram’s kids



One morning in May, Zina Mustapha stood before her 20 students and wrote two mathematical problems on the whiteboard. “To solve these, you can use the coordinate formula or the vector formula,” she said.

As the teenagers chorused the formulas back at her, the scene could have been a typical high school in Nigeria. But the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation is unlike any other in Africa’s most populous country.

In the heartland of a war that has pitched the jihadist sect Boko Haram against the government, the private Quranic school has opened its doors to Muslim and Christian children of both insurgents and government soldiers, as well as those orphaned by both groups in the brutal conflict. Even as Boko Haram extremists raze and attack thousands of schools in the northeastern state of Borno, Zannah Mustapha, the school’s founder, preaches a different kind of radicalism: love for everyone.

Since 2002, Boko Haram has gunned down some 35,000 people and displaced 2 million in its battle to carve out an Islamic state in Nigeria, and to abolish perceived Western education and influence. In 2009, the group attracted global attention when it began attacking state symbols like military posts and public schools. Five years later, insurgents abducted 276 girls from their school dormitory in a remote village called Chibok.

But some teachers continue to defy them.

“Education is … the right of every human being,” says Ms. Mustapha, readjusting her hijab. “With the gun, we can kill terrorists, but with education, we can kill terrorism.”

War on education

In 2009, around the time Boko Haram turned its sights on education, Fatima was due to start first grade. But her mother couldn’t afford it, and 6-year-old Fatima was wrestling with a crushing sense of guilt.

She believed she was responsible for her father’s death at the hands of the extremists.

Bukar, her father, left home every morning for the market where he was a trader and returned at night, never failing to bring some candy for Fatima. One evening, Fatima was disappointed he’d forgotten. “I ran to welcome him, only for him to remember that he had not bought me my favorite candy,” she recalls.

Her father stepped back outside, but Boko Haram was trailing him. “They shot him in his head,” Fatima says. “That was the end of my joy – he never came back.”

For years, Boko Haram had killed those who criticized its extremist views – including moderate Muslims like Bukar. When they targeted families, the insurgents sometimes killed the men and spared women and children, and sometimes murdered both parents. Today, thousands of orphaned and fatherless kids roam the streets of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, and refugee camps.

The loss plunged Fatima, her five siblings, and her mother – now a single housewife – into grief and destitution.

Then, in 2010, Fatima’s mother learned about a school offering free education to Muslim orphaned children affected by the insurgency. To Fatima’s great joy, the school was just a few miles away – walking distance – and her mother was able to sign her up.

“If I didn’t come to this school, maybe I would have been by the roadside hawking,” Fatima says.


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“Boko Haram lawyer”

For more than two decades, Mr. Mustapha, a towering man who favors the flowing robes of Egyptian jalabiyahs, was a sharia court lawyer in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, where such courts operate alongside a Western-style judiciary. In 2007, disturbed by the number of haggard-looking orphaned children begging on the streets of Maiduguri during school hours, he quit his job to start the foundation. It began as a single building of two classrooms, with 36 pupils and two teachers.

Shortly afterward, Boko Haram’s campaign against education escalated. The group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in northern Nigeria’s Hausa language, began detonating bombs and carrying out horrific shootings and assaults on schools. Rights watchers estimate the sect has destroyed or forced the closure of around 2,500 schools in the region, killed 611 teachers, and displaced 19,000 more.

The effect has been devastating in a region that is already Nigeria’s most impoverished. Borno state, which has only a 23% literacy rate, has seen the number of out-of-school children more than triple since 2008 to 1.8 million today.

All this only spurred Mr. Mustapha. After approaching private donors and international humanitarian organizations, he expanded to 40 classrooms spread over four separate community schools.

He also began accepting children who had lost parents due to the crisis – regardless of the side for which their parents had fought. The decision sparked criticism and rejection from some parents and community members.

“A lot of these Boko Haram elements were killed. Their wives and children were cast on the street. … Society considered them taboo,” says Mr. Mustapha.

“If I said I’m going to work on orphans, are [Boko Haram members’] children not orphans? Or are we going to [judge] them for the offense of their parents or husbands?”

And Mr. Mustapha’s compassion paid off. While Boko Haram targeted other schools in the state, forcing weekslong closures, it never attacked Mr. Mustapha’s. He was able to offer uninterrupted education to some 2,200 kids even at the height of the insurgency.

Avoiding discrimination

Among Fatima’s classmates is Nur, whose father was a soldier. Like her, Nur lost both his father and uncle after they were gunned down by Boko Haram. But at school, both children found a respite from tragedy – happily busy, they rarely had time to think of it, and some of their close friends include children whose fathers were in the sect.

It helps that Mr. Mustapha gives all incoming students psychosocial support before admission – part of that includes encouraging them to see and relate to themselves and each other with love and to avoid discrimination, he says.

But despite his effort to convince some to accept an inclusive approach, he still faces criticism. He says some whisper about his intentions, calling him “Boko Haram lawyer” – a reference to his role as a go-between in securing the release of 103 of the girls Boko Haram abducted in Chibok.

Still, he is undeterred. With support from the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mr. Mustapha also opened a center that trains widows in livelihood skills. Some of them are widows of Boko Haram members.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mustapha receives far more admission requests for his school than he has the capacity to handle. He wants to expand further, but doesn’t have the money.

His greatest pride, he says, comes from seeing the kids happy, especially girls who, as is often the case among impoverished families in northern Nigeria, would likely have been forced into child marriages to bring in a dowry. Instead, those at his school have a chance to chase their dreams.

“I want to become a nurse to help less privileged people, especially children and pregnant women,” says Fatima.

This article was produced with the support of the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, the John Templeton Foundation, and Templeton Religion Trust. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

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Home Office ordered to give full cost of Rwanda deportation plan



Top civil servant summoned to give ‘full and frank’ answers after costs of scheme rose from £140m to £290m

The Home Office has been ordered to disclose the full costs of Rishi Sunak’s secretive deal to deport migrants to Rwanda, as insiders told of turmoil within the department over the controversial policy.

Matthew Rycroft, the permanent secretary of the Home Office, will be hauled before the public accounts committee on Monday, after the initial costs of the scheme rose from £140m to £290m.

He was also accused of showing an “extreme lack of respect” towards the home affairs and public accounts committee over the way the Home Office disclosed the costs, days after refusing to be transparent.

It is a further headache for Sunak as he tries to get his emergency legislation aimed at overturning court objections to the Rwanda scheme through the Commons on Tuesday. Rightwingers in his party are saying it is not hardline enough and centrist Tories are concerned that it undermines human rights.

His team are set to spend the weekend pressing Tory MPs to back the legislation, despite a lack of legal certainty about the workability of the plan. According to the Times, the government’s own legal advisers have said there is a no more than 50% chance of deportation flights leaving for Rwanda before the next election.

With pressure mounting on the Home Office, a source close to James Cleverly, the home secretary, appeared to blame his sacked predecessor, Suella Braverman, for the way the department has been run up until now.

“It’s not easy for departments that have been for months in the grip of one way of doing things that tended to produce headlines, to very quickly and successfully adjust to another way of doing things that within weeks produces results,” the source said. “But that is what they are doing.”

Culled from the Guardian

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Burkina abandons French as an official language



The Burkinabè government adopted on Wednesday a bill revising the Constitution and henceforth enshrining national languages ​​as official languages ​​in place of French which is relegated to the rank of “working language”.

The report of the Council of Ministers specifies that this bill “is part of the realization of one of the main missions of the transition which consists of initiating political, administrative and institutional reforms to strengthen the culture democratically and consolidate the rule of law.

Among the “major innovations” of this new text is “the establishment of national languages ​​as official languages ​​in place of French which becomes the working language”.

Earlier this year, Mali, governed like Burkina by the military and which also maintains terrible relations with France, had modified its Constitution by referendum and reserved the same fate for the French.

This bill, which must still be voted on by the Transitional Legislative Assembly, also provides for “the establishment of traditional and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms”.

The Constitutional Council sees its missions expanded while institutions are abolished such as the High Court of Justice which judges senior political figures or the Mediator of Faso.

Finally, the powerful National Intelligence Agency (ANR) sees its status reinforced by now being protected in the Constitution.

In recent months, several demonstrations for the adoption of a new Constitution have taken place in the country. Captain Ibrahim Traoré, who came to power in September 2022, had promised a partial modification of the Constitution two months ago.

“The writing of a new Constitution is a question of political, economic and cultural sovereignty. No one can truly flourish from the concepts of others,” Prime Minister Apollinaire Joachimson Kyelem of Tambela declared on Friday, alluding to texts modelled on the French constitution.

Since Captain Traoré came to power, Burkina has moved away from France, a former colonial power and historic partner, while moving closer to Moscow.

Since 2015, Burkina has been caught in a spiral of violence perpetrated by jihadist groups, which were already hitting neighbouring Mali and Niger and which left more than 17,000 dead.

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Former GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger says if Trump is nominee, he’ll vote for Biden



Former Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger describes himself as politically “homeless,” at odds with a party he views as “anti-constitutionalist.” He believes former President Donald Trump will be the 2024 Republican nominee — and if that’s the case, Kinzinger intends to vote for President Biden.

Kinzinger was one of two Republicans to serve on the House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot that sought to derail congressional certification of Biden’s victory.

The other Republican on the committee was Liz Cheney, who says she’s considering a third party bid for the White House, although she told CBS “Mornings” Thursday, “I won’t do anything that would help him,” she said, when asked about possibly running as a third-party candidate.

Kinzinger shares that concern. “If a run as an independent for Liz Cheney damages Donald Trump, then I think it’s smart. Go for it, right?” Kinzinger said.  “The only concern I have, and this is with any third-party attempt is, you know, are you going to just take away from Joe Biden?…Donald Trump is the big threat to the country in 2024.”

Kinzinger, author of the new book “Renegade,” appeared on this week’s episode of “The Takeout” with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett.

Asked about Trump’s sizable polling lead in the race for GOP nominee, Kinzinger said, “If I was betting Vegas odds right now, I would put all my money [that] Donald Trump will be the nominee.”

But Kinzinger said the federal charges Trump faces related to his alleged role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election could upend the nominating contest. He noted that Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, could play a big part in Trump’s Jan. 6-related trials.

Culled from the CBS News

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