Bring back our girls

The brazen kidnapping of 300 girls from a high school in Nigeria has sent shockwaves around the world, earning criticism for the government in failing to prevent the impending attack

Souzeina Mushtaq Delhi 

On the night of April 14, 2014, armed terrorists stormed into the dormitory of a girls’ high school in Borno state of Northern Nigeria. The young girls woke up to gunshots, as the extremists set their boarding school on fire. The terrified girls, as many as 300, were herded into the convoy of vehicles that supposedly have not been traced yet. The anguished parents tried to confront the kidnappers with bows and arrows but proved weak in front of the AK-47-toting goons. The audacious attempt has sent shockwaves across the globe. The anger against the abduction was also seen on social media where a campaign for their release – #bringbackourgirls – is gaining momentum.

Boko Haram, which translates to ‘Western education is sin’ in Hausa language, have been responsible for the abduction of the young girls, Muslims and Christians alike, aged between 15 to 18 years. It is said that the kidnapping took place in retaliation to the Nigerian security forces arresting the wives and children of the group members. According to the reports, some 50 girls managed to escape, while 276 are still missing. But what has raised serious concerns in the global community has been the claim made by Amnesty International that the government knew about the possibility of such an attack but failed to take any preventive measure. Till date, there has been no positive development on the outcome of the kidnapping. The government has failed to take any serious action against the extremist group, which has demanded implementation of Sharia law in the country. The group has been responsible for 1,500 deaths this year alone.

The leader of the terrorist group, Abu Bakar Shekau, in his latest video, threatened to sell the girls “in the market, by Allah.” According to Human Rights Watch, Boko Haram had kidnapped at least 25 girls and women in the first two months of 2014 alone.

The latest incident threatens to have a chilling effect on the state of education in an already under-literate country. According to the data provided by the US Embassy in Nigeria, 72 per cent of primary age children have not attended schools in Nigeria. In 2013, militants had destroyed 50 schools. In March this year, Boko Haram had attacked schools, which had forced the authorities to close them, until this particular school opened to help girls achieve their dreams through education. The girls want to become doctors, teachers and lawyers.

The US, France and Britain have also joined in the efforts to find the missing girls, amidst strong criticism of president Jonathan who maintained a two-week long silence before reaching out for help to track the kidnapped students. Politicians and celebrities from across the world took to Twitter, lending their support and concern for the missing girls. The locals, on the other hand, have been aghast at the Nigerian government’s slackening in dealing with the situation. Moreover, with attacks like this, parents are afraid to risk sending their daughters to schools.

This is not the first time schools have come under attack from fundamentalist groups. In October 2012, Pakistani teenager activist Malala Yusufzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for her efforts in promoting girls’ education in Afghanistan. In another part of the country, extremists threw acid on the faces of the girls while they were on their way to schools. The world is yet to take these stories seriously.