Question from a Middle School in Niger, Part 11

This is the 11th in a series of correspondence with Homa Kombo, who runs a middle school in Niger. Older posts are here. In mid-December, she wrote:

Hi Mike,

Here you'll see the two Boston University students who volunteered to work at our school for three months. They did a great job and we are really sorry that they will be leaving Niamey on Sunday to go back to Boston!

The new BU students arrive in Niger at the end of January but will not be available to do anything until about mid-Feb. And I don't know that any student will choose our school as they have a large choice of other projects.

They get to read the info sheets completed by current students though. I hope Rebekah and Alix will write nice things about Hampate Ba despite the not so easy working conditions!

At the moment there is a meningitis epidemic in Niger. Today nurses came to our school to vaccinate all of our students.

Unfortunately, as they did not warn us ahead of time that they were coming, 3 of our classes who had gone on a school, missed out of this vital vaccination!



Well, bad news a month later. My colleague Christie sent me this from the Boston University newspaper.

Last week’s brazen kidnapping and murder of two Westerners in Niger’s relatively safe capital of Niamey has led University officials to cancel its spring semester study abroad program in that country.

“We are very sorry to take this action,” Joseph Finkhouse, institutional relations director with BU’s International Programs, wrote in an emailed announcement. “The program in Niger has always been one of the true stars of BU’s programs abroad. However, the safety and well-being of our students and staff must always be our primary concern.”

On January 7, two French nationals were abducted at gunpoint from a crowded Niamey bar and restaurant popular with Westerners, including BU students. The kidnappers, described by the Associated Press as wearing turbans, dragged the men outside and fled toward the Mali border. Nigerien and French troops gave chase, but both victims were reportedly killed by their abductors.

No one has claimed responsibility, but the group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has carried out similar acts in the past.

Hmm. I wonder about real risk versus our perceptions of risk. Boston had 72 murders last year. But Boston University was not cancelled.

Well, if you look at the map, only 1 of the murders happened near B.U., and that was a bizarre pub incident. So maybe analyzing "Boston" is not a useful construct.

I asked Homa about the situation in Niamey. She wrote:

This dramatic event has had a devastating effect both on Nigeriens and foreigners living in Niamey. We're still in a state of shock and our thoughts are very much with the families of the two young men.