Police in Nigeria have rescued 67 men and boys who were subjected to “inhumane and degrading treatments” at an Islamic school in the northern state of Katsina, a police spokesman said Tuesday.
The religious school, which also served as a rehabilitation center, was run by a 78-year-old Muslim cleric in Daura, the birthplace of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari.
Authorities visited the school on Monday, a day after students protested about their welfare, tipping off the police about the conditions in the facility, Katsina police state spokesman Isah Gambo told CNN.
The pupils, whose ages range from 7 to 40, said they were denied food for days and beaten with chains by the teachers in the school, Gambo said.
Others also said they had been molested and sexually abused during their stay at the school, he said.
“Some of them said they were beaten almost every morning, if you see their abdomen and some parts of their body, there were so many marks of cane. They were not given food on time, the shelter was inadequate, and some said they were sexually abused,” Gambo told CNN.
The school owner and two teachers have been arrested and still being held by the police, Gambo said.
Parents in northern Nigeria, where access to formal education is still a challenge due to poverty and social beliefs, often send their children to Islamic schools called Almajiri, facing allegations of abuse and student’s maltreatment.
More than 300 men and boys, held in dehumanizing conditions, were rescued in a raid on an Islamic school in the northern city of Kaduna, prompting authorities to close the facility in September.
In June, President Buhari, who is Muslim, said his government plans to ban Almajiri schools but will not do so until authorities have met with stakeholders in the education sector.
Those rescued in Monday’s raid have been taken to a hospital, and police are questioning them to find out the whereabouts of their families.
“Parents take their recalcitrant children to these schools to rehabilitate and for them to learn the Quran because they have no other option, but that’s not an excuse to violate their rights,” Gambo said.