Their return to school is a brave act of defiance against the militants who are terrorizing Nigeria
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Boko Haram’s war against education was horrifyingly illustrated last April when the Islamic militant group kidnapped nearly 300 girls from their secondary school in Chibok.
Luckily, 57 young women were able to successfully escape from Boko Haram, and while they have been out of the media spotlight, they have spent most of the last year keeping a low profile, for fear that Boko Haram would return, according to the Guardian.
However, one determined, 27-year-old woman named Godiya, whose sister had been one of the kidnapped school girls, is on a mission to improve the lives of the girls and to stand up to Boko Haram in the process.
Last year, Godiya traveled throughout Chibok to its 10 wards and tried to persuade one family from each district to accept a scholarship for their daughter. The scholarship was for the American University of Nigeria in Yola, the capitol of a neighboring state and the institution where Godiya works.
Godiya’s mission shows the strength of a community, terrorized by Boko Haram and still mourning the loss of its sons and daughters, that is trying to recover.
“Many of the other villages around here have kept quiet because they don’t think education is worth the risk of attracting Boko Haram’s ire,” Abbana Lawan, a Chibok resident whose two nieces are among those still in captivity, told the Guardian. “But we’re a community who understands the value of education.”
The Guardian reports that Godiya’s quest began after her younger sister escaped from Boko Haram; Godiya asked her boss, Margee Ensign, if the American University of Nigeria could do something to help the girls who had escaped Boko Haram. Ensign set up a foundation, which collected $50,000 in donations to fund a year at the university for 10 girls. The 11 families who eventually accepted the scholarship differed in their enthusiasm for the propisiton; some said yes immediately, others were horrified at the thought and some were understandably anxious about the risk involved in sending their daughters back to school. Shortly after Ensign and Godiya picked up the girls and their parents, however, other families stepped forward, inspired by the act of defiance. The American University of Nigeria was able to accept 10 additional girls, bringing the total to 21.
The state’s failure to act and protect its citizens in the conflict against Boko Haram is deplorable. More than 10,000 people were killed last year alone, and 2015 began with one of the group’s deadliest attacks, destroying the village of Baga and massacring an estimated 2,000 people. However, Godiya and Ensign represent the increasing number of ordinary Nigerians fighting back against Boko Haram.
“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 told the Guardian. “I had to take the risk. Whatever happens to me, I can say I tried.”