Indications have emerged that many Camerounian students now live in permanent fear of Boko Haram attack.
In a report released by AFP yesterday, stray bullets regularly penetrate through the courtyard of the Fotokol High School in the northern Cameroun, a terrifying reminder of the Boko Haram gunmen carrying out deadly raids just across the border with Nigeria.
According to the report, the students are usually cramped in fear, expectant of attack by the sect members, as they constantly look through the windows during class, thus unable to concentrate on their class works.
“We have a phobia, and the danger is always there,” Boris Bouba, a 20-year-old student at the school said, adding: “When we are in class, we always keep watch through the windows. We can never fully concentrate because we are afraid.”
The report added that the pupils, at an occasion, gathered in the tree-lined courtyard, appeared visibly impatient to get their reports and leave as soon as possible.
“We are always on the alert,” the school Headmaster, Jean Felix Nyioto, said while sitting behind his desk in a cramped office.
He said: “From time to time here in Fotokol, gunfire crackles on the other side.”
The Fotokol High School is just 300 metres (nearly 1,000 feet) away from Gamboru, separated by only a small river, where the extremists opened fire in an attack which local sources said left at least 300 people dead.
The report also revealed that there was no fence or security for the nearly 600 students who file into their classrooms every day.
Nyioto described how bullets shot from Gamboru regularly seep through the high school, with mortar shells nearby.
However, according to the report, the headmaster is currently more anxious about flyers that recently appeared on the streets of Fotokol, threatening direct attacks on the school and its teachers.
“Boko Haram members have threatened to bomb down the school, customs and government buildings. We are so scared of being targeted,” another student, Ali Abba said.
Cameroun, which shares 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) border with Nigeria, is increasingly targeted by Boko Haram members.
The Islamist militants have already kidnapped several foreigners there.
In mid-May, suspected gunmen from the group took 10 Chinese road workers captive in an attack which left a Camerounian soldier dead.
The girls at Fotokol High School are particularly afraid of what plan Boko Haram may have for them. “I am so scared Boko Haram will come to our school and kidnap us one day,” Sidonie Dimissigue, 15, a Christian said.
A student, Alice Kouvou, who said she has been wracked with anxiety and unable to concentrate in class since she heard of the Chibok attack, said: “We are afraid of being kidnapped.
“Thoughts are racing through my head. I speak to my daddy about them to try and calm down.”
Kouvou, 20, said she decided to stay in school despite efforts by her parents to get her to leave Fotokol, adding that she is afraid the kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls will “radicalise Muslim parents who already don’t like sending their children to school, especially the girls.”
On a visit to the school by AFP reporters, Ali Abba, one of the students, pulls out his mobile phone to show them a series of gruesome images. In one, about 20 bodies are heaped on top of each other, in another you see burnt cars.
“These are pictures of the Gamboru massacre,” Abba, who stated that he was in the town two days after the attack said.
He said the raid on Gamboru took place as students were sitting for their final examinations.
“When the explosions started, all the students abandoned their work. They jumped out of the windows to escape while some were later found 15 kilometres away.
“Some were crying, others completely lost their minds,” the headmaster explained, adding he was concerned about the students’ sanity. The students are not the only ones suffering.”
Five teachers hastily left town before the end of the school year as the danger mounted, and the school has only 10 teachers left. “The establishment risks being left empty. Everyone says they are going to leave,” the headmaster who has vowed to stay put stated.
Camerounian soldiers, which arrived in Fotokol a few days ago as part of an effort to beef up security in the region, are seen as the school’s only hope. About 300 soldiers and paramilitary officers have been deployed in the town to provide security for residents and allow children attend lectures in the school safely.