Three years on: prayers and marches for 195 Chibok schoolgirls still missing
Children in conflicts, Education Cannot Wait, Education in emergencies, Girls' education, Right to education, Safe schools, Safe Schools Declaration
The #BringBackOurGirls movement is holding a week of of activities to mark the third anniversary of the mass abduction by Boko Haram from a school in Nigeria.
Three years ago, more than 270 Nigerian girls were snatched from school dormitories in the dead of night.
Despite security fears and the closure of many schools in the area because of threats by Boko Haram – whose name means “Western education is forbidden” – the town of Chibok was thought to be safe.
So students from around the region gathered at the Government Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok to take exams.
What happened on the night of April 14 and 15, 2014, made global headlines – eventually – and started the #BringBackOurGirls movement.
Gunmen burst into the dorms and loaded 276 terrified girls on to trucks. In the confusion and darkness, many of them escaped – but 219 were lost.
Nothing was heard of them until four months later when Boko Haram released a video showing many of the abducted girls.
Since then, at least 20 more of the students have escaped or been found. But 195 are still missing.
The #BringBackOurGirls movement is holding a week of of activities to mark the third anniversary of the mass kidnapping.
Convener Aisha Yesufu addressed a solidarity march in Abuja yesterday, saying: “What is the crime of the Chibok girl? Is it because she is poor or is it because she wants to be educated?
“Our sisters have spent three years in captivity just because they dared to be educated.”
The group will hold prayers tomorrow – on the anniversary itself – and a tree planting ceremony the next day. Other events will be held in Nigerian cities as well as in New York and Paris.
In a statement to mark the anniversary, United Nations human rights experts said: “It is deeply shocking that three years after this deplorable and devastating act of violence, the majority of the girls remain missing.”
The UN Special Rapporteurs, who visited Nigeria last year, added: “As more and more time passes there is a risk that the fate of the remaining girls will be forgotten.”
During its war on education, Boko Haram has destroyed more than 900 schools and forced 1500 more to close in Nigeria.
At least 2000 girls and boys have been kidnapped since the beginning of 2014, according to Amnesty International, which says they are used as cooks, sex slaves, fighters and “suicide” bombers.
A shocking report released yesterday also revealed an alarming rise in the number of children used by Boko Haram to carry out bomb attacks in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
In the weeks after the Chibok kidnappings, the Safe Schools Initiative was set up in Nigeria.
It started with an investment from the Global Business Coalition for Education and was supported by Theirworld’s A World at School movement. In total, Safe Schools Nigeria raised more than $30 million to protect schools in the country’s northeast.
Nearly 50,000 children displaced from their homes by Boko Haram have been helped in various ways, including a programme for rebuilding schools, teacher training and moving students in the highest-risk areas to schools to safer parts.
For some of the girls who escaped on that terrible night three years ago, there is hope of a brighter future.
Four months after the abductions, a group of Chibok high school students arrived in secret at the American University of Nigeria in Yola.
The president of the private school had been so moved by their story that she offered them scholarships and created a special academic programme for them.
Six have graduated and started university. Another 18 are working their way through high school classes. 21 Chibok girls released by Boko Haram in October are still with the Nigerian military but the university said it will take them too.
Three of those who escaped in 2014 – Mary, Glory and Ladi – told their stories to Public Radio International.
Mary said: “When I go back to my community, I want to teach people to read and to encourage them the way that people encourage me. I know, one day, this Boko Haram issue will be over.”
Glory added: “Today we are in school. Tomorrow, we are going to be better and to change everything that is happening in our community.”
You can hear the full interviews in the player below.
Nigeria’s president said today that talks are being held with Boko Haram to release the remaining Chibok girls. President Muhammadu Buhari said the government “is in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed”.
The government also announced today it is planning to reopen the Government Girls’ Secondary School in time for the 2017-18 academic year.
Presidential official Tijjani Tumsah said: “We have varieties of programmes, including psycho-social and counselling programmes, for women and girls and community engagements.
“In terms of the structure itself, the school has to be fortified in terms of early warning systems to protect the girls.”