Chibok sisters who escaped Boko Haram go back to school

Chibok girls, Children in conflicts, Safe schools

Chibok girls who escaped wait to meet Nigeria's president

Nigerian girls who escaped the clutches of Boko Haram terrorists have shown how the fear of losing their education was far greater than the fear of a gunman's revenge.

The girls were among more than 270 girls abducted from Chibok in Borno State last April. They included terrified sisters Asabe and Ruth, who dived off a truck along with dozens of others and took days to make their way home, fearing every minute that they might be recaptured. Almost 220 girls have still not returned to their families.

Months later, after being reunited with their family, a woman arrived at their door and told them she could give the girls a chance to restart their education in a neighbouring state.

An article in The Guardian by West Africa correspondent Monica Mark reveals that for Asabe and Ruth and eight other Chibok girls the offer to continue their studies was an opportunity as much as a risk. The stranger offering scholarships was Godiya, a 27-year-old university worker whose sister had also been kidnapped by Boko Haram and escaped.

“I don’t talk much about it, because if these people [Boko Haram] come back, I will be one of their first targets for helping girls to come back to school,” Godiya said. “I had to take the risk. Whatever happens to me, I can say I tried.”

Godiya had lived with the violence through most of her young life in Chibok and felt she could make a difference. She approached her boss at the American University of Nigeria in Yola, Margee Ensign, who set up a foundation which brought in $50,000 in donations to put 10 girls through the university for one year.

Mary’s family were initially horrified at the offer. A crowd began to heckle as Godiya tried to convince them. Some residents were fearful of Boko Haram revenge but others said the town needed to keep educating girls. Mary’s father eventually agreed – as did the families of the other girls. Weeks later, Ms Ensign and Godiya were in Chibok to pick up 11 parents and 11 students, each one clutching a small bag with all their belongings.

As they got ready to drop off their daughters, one of the parents stood up to address the group. She said: “Education is scary. So many people have discouraged us and told us we should not put our girls in school or they will be kidnapped again. We are entrusting our children to you.”

Those who took the risk had ignited a spirit of defiance. Over the next few weeks, other parents came forward. Ms Ensign said: “Ten more parents showed up at our gate and asked us to take their daughters. But after 21, we had to stop.”

Recently she asked the girls to write an essay describing what education meant to them. One of them, Margaret, wrote: “Education gives me the wings I need to fly.”

Read the full Guardian article here.  And find out more about the need for safe schools after increasing attacks on education.

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