Global solidarity over kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls
Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group in Africa, abducted 234 Nigerian schoolgirls on April 15. Loosely translated from the local Hausa language, the name means “western education is forbidden”.
The girls, from a town called Chibok in the state of Borno, were preparing for their final exams with the desire to continue their studies and become teachers, doctors and lawyers. Threats of violence recently prompted the closure of most schools in this region in March. Despite the high risk, local education officials decided to temporarily open the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok for exams.
The night that the girls were taken hostage, heavily armed gunmen arrived in trucks and on motorcycles, kidnapped nearly 300 of the girls in the dormitory at the school, and set fire to the buildings. Yet, this attack by the extremist group represents only one of many assaults since 2010. Amnesty International’s deputy Africa director Lucy Freeman states:
“Hundreds have been killed in these horrific attacks. Thousands of children have been forced out of schools across communities in northern Nigeria and many teachers have been forced to flee for their safety. Attacks against schoolchildren, teachers and school buildings demonstrate an absolute disregard for the right to life and the right to education.”
Between 2010 and 2012 attacks were orchestrated when schools were empty. However, since the beginning of 2013 the frequency and degree of violence has escalated. Teachers and pupils are increasingly becoming victims of militant brutality at the hands of Boko Haram. Northern Nigeria has become one of the most dangerous places in the world to live.
Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, affirmed his group’s role in the kidnapping in a videothat became public on Monday:
“Western education should end. Girls, you should go and get married. I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market.”
The Islamist leader also threatened to sell the abducted girls as “slaves”. About 50 girls have reportedly escaped, and the other girls are believed to become wives of militants.
The international community has placed the spotlight on the missing girls in the last few days, partly because of the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls. This hashtag has been tweeted almost 1 million times by activists, celebrities, and politicians. World leaders such as Hillary Clinton have also joined the call.
Access to education is a basic right & an unconscionable reason to target innocent girls. We must stand up to terrorism. #BringBackOurGirls— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 4, 2014
People have used a range of social media platforms to show their concern, raise awareness and stand in solidarity with the kidnapped girls—such as this Facebook page, this tumblr blog, and this petitionon Change.org.
The Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared on Sunday on public television that he would do everything in his power to bring the girls home: "Wherever these girls are, we’ll get them out.”
Join the Call
We all want the best for our children, for our families, for our futures. But this tragic event represents a huge step backward for girls who were pursuing an education and gaining the basic skills to create a better life for themselves and their communities.
Several barriers and obstacles are in their way, and in the way of the 57 million children worldwide who are denied an education despite the world’s promise to ensure that every child is in school by 2015. Global Citizens can play a role in enabling the international community to realize the promise of an education for all, regardless of gender or social context. The best tool to create a healthier, wealthier, more sustainable future is education.
Join us in standing in solidarity with the #BringBackOurGirls movement by signing our petition in support of the Global Partnership for Education—the only multilateral partnership devoted to ensuring universal access to education in the world’s poorest countries. Together, we can fulfill the promise of universal education for all.