Find our daughters: anguish as Nigeria confirms 110 girls were abducted in school attack
Chibok girls, Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Girls' education, Safe schools
As a search for the students is stepped up, there are fears the Boko Haram raid could lead to more families keeping their girls away from school.
For Nigeria, it’s a “national disaster,” says the president. For the parents of 110 missing schoolgirls, it’s a living nightmare.
They are helpless, waiting for news of their daughters – one week after a girls’ school was attacked by Boko Haram gunmen.
“My daughter Aisha Kachalla is missing and we can’t get any information,” said Kachalla Bukar about his 14-year-old girl. “Up to now they haven’t rescued even a single one.”
Following days of silence and confusion, the Nigerian government yesterday confirmed that 110 girls were missing from the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State. Then today it admitted they had been kidnapped.
President Muhammadu Buhari said his government was determined to ensure the release of everyone taken by the Islamist militants and to return “the abducted girls to their families”.
The statement came two days after the president apologised to the girls’ families, saying: “This is a national disaster. We are sorry that this could have happened.”
Fighter jets, helicopters and surveillance planes are scouring the region in the northeast of Nigeria, where Boko Haram’s reign of terror has led to at least 20,000 deaths. Almost 1400 schools have been destroyed, over 2295 teachers killed and three million children need emergency support on education.
With chilling echoes of the Chibok mass abduction in 2014, when 276 students were taken by Boko Haram, there are fears now that this latest mass kidnapping only 175 miles away could stop many girls going to school.
“Already, trying to convince parents to keep their daughters in school is a challenge,” said Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign launched after the Chibok kidnappings.
“Now this added fear of more girls being abducted – it’s going to make it even more difficult.”
The school in Dapchi will stay closed. Mohammed Lamin, the education commissioner for Yobe state, said: “It’s not feasible to reopen the school in the current situation.
“We still have over 100 girls that are unaccounted for. The other girls that were found are not in the right frame of mind to return to school. They are still in trauma,” he told AFP.
Watch parents talk on Nigerian TV
Their News followed the events in Dapchi as they unfolded last week. On Friday, February 23, we told how despair and anger were growing over the dozens of schoolgirls still unaccounted for.
Confusion has reigned, with reports at first of everyone escaping to safety, then an official announcement of girls being rescued, followed by a retraction of that statement. Then an admission that dozens were still missing and may have been kidnapped.
Finally came yesterday’s statement from the government that authorities were unable to account for 110 of the school’s 906 students – and today’s news that they had in fact been kidnapped.
Amina Usman, 15, was among the students who escaped from the attack. She said she heard gunfire and fled, later meeting a teacher and other escapees.
She added: “We met other girls and the teacher counted all of us. We were 65 girls in all …. I thought I will never see my parents or family again.”
After nine years of fighting, questions are being raised again about government claims that Boko Haram had been defeated in Nigeria.
Witnesses said there were scenes of panic when the jihadist fighters arrived at the Dapchi school, with hundreds of girls running from the buildings.
We have compiled 105 names of missing girls which we intend to give to the Bring Back Our Girls people in Abuja. Bashir Manzo, chair of the Dapchi parents' committee
Reports say worried parents in Dapchi have now threatened to withdraw their daughters and put them into safer schools.
A teacher at the school, Amsani Alilawan, said there were soldiers in Dapchi until last month but they were then redeployed. He said: “One month back, they take away all soldiers – they transferred them to another side, they leave us without security.”
Bashir Manzo, whose 16-year-old daughter Fatima is among the missing, said parents had set up their own committee to push for answers.
“Our first step was to compile a comprehensive list of all the missing girls. So far, we have compiled the names of 105,” he told AFP news agency.
Kachalla Bukar, who is also part of parents’ group, said: “We don’t want these girls to stay long with those militants. Anything can happen to them. We are begging the government to control the situation quickly.
“My daughter is a very small girl and not very old. She’s very intelligent, brilliant. When I enter my house I see her mother crying. I cannot sleep. I’m just thinking: ‘When will she come back to me?'”