21 Released Chibok Girls Return to School
The 21 Chibok schoolgirls released in October last year by Boko Haram militants have been placed in a secondary school to sit for their final exams, Daily Trust on Sunday has gathered.
A total of 267 girls were kidnapped by gunmen in the middle of the night in a boarding school in Chibok in April 14, 2014. Some of the girls were taking their final examinations when they were herded into the bush by the group, sparking a global outrage.
Last year, Boko Haram insurgents released 21 of the girls to the Federal Government after a series of negotiations.
In addition to about 57 of the girls who escaped immediately after the kidnap in 2014, two others were separately rescued by the military during raids on the group’s hideout in the North-East.
Authorities have remained silent on where the freed girls are being kept in Abuja, but parents disclosed yesterday that they had started lessons in preparation for the final secondary school exams they missed three years ago.
The chairman of the Chibok Girls Parents’ Association, Yakubu Nkenke, said only the 21 girls had resumed lessons in a school in Abuja to prepare them for senior secondary school examinations.
He said the two others who were rescued were still undergoing rehabilitation at a facility of the Department of State Services (DSS), also in Abuja. He expressed hope that they too would soon return to school.
“I am currently travelling to meet some officials of the Federal Government for further discussions on the girls’ education. The last time I visited, I was shown the boarding school where the 21 girls were taking lessons,” he said.
He expressed appreciation for the support the parents enjoyed from federal authorities and other concerned groups, saying he had confidence that all the abducted girls would return to their families.
Ali Maiyanga, the father of Maryam Maiyanga, one of the Chibok girls rescued by soldiers, said he was longing to see his daughter return to school to complete her secondary education.
In a phone interview with our correspondent, Maiyanga, who said he had been in contact with his daughter, confirmed that she had been strong enough and psychologically stable.
“The officials taking care of the girls in Abuja told us that government would sponsor their education after rehabilitating them. We look forward to seeing them back in school,” he said.
Maiyanga added that his daughter ýdid not visit home when the 21 released girls visited Chibok during the last Christmas.
While commending the Federal Government for rehabilitating the girls, Maiyanga called for renewed efforts to secure the release of the remaining girls who are still in captivity. He said he was hopeful that his other daughter, Halima, who was abducted alongside her sister, Maryam, and was still with Boko Haram, would one day return to him.
Other parents and community leaders from Chibok who spoke with our reporter yesterday, said they only saw their daughters once or twice since their release in October.
While some of them said information at their disposal indicated that the girls were in a private school in Abuja, others said the girls were being treated of trauma at a rehabilitation centre, also in Abuja.
“I was glad to see my daughter in October last year shortly after their release, but since then, there has been a huge barrier between us.
“Our children were brought to Chibok for Christmas last December, but they were shielded from us. We only met them briefly after much pressure,” Madam Jummai, the mother of one of the released Chibok girls said.
A father of one of the girls, who did not want to be named, said only the government had the true picture of the condition of the girls.
“We met our daughters in Abuja shortly after their release, and briefly in Chibok when they were brought under heavy security. Some officials said they were being coached at a private school in Abuja to enable them take their final exams.
“We don’t even have their phone numbers. In fact, my daughter told me the lines they were using were restricted. They only speak to designated people like some of us, their parents,” he said.
A former acting chairman of Chibok Local Government Area, Awomi Nkeki, said he was optimistic the girls were doing well.
“I was told they are in school, but I don’t know which school precisely,” he said.
A security source said the girls were being shielded from the public and even their parents for security reason.
According to him, “They are not ordinary students. Let me remind you that they were sitting for their final year examinations at the time of their abduction. Therefore, it is not that they are going to secondary school afresh. They are being rehabilitated and at the same time coached to be able to sit for NECO and WAEC,” he said.
However, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday Trust via phone, said the girls were being prepared for enrolment in school.
“Presently, the girls are being engaged in various kinds of vocational training and remedial studies to bring them at par with their mates in school,” she said.
She said the girls had been out of school for over two years and had lost a lot of time academically.
“To prepare them for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and get them properly enrolled in a formal federal government school, we started a 9-month programme, which began in January and will end in September, the beginning of a new school calendar. By then they will be ready for school.
“Meanwhile, we have four teachers who teach them Mathematics, English, Biology and Agricultural Science. The Ministry of Education advised that we include Civic Education, so we had to get a fifth teacher for that. I can tell you that their spoken English has improved greatly.
“I can tell you that the girls are well taken care of. They are now medically fit. We have made sure that they engage in both outdoor and indoor gamesý. For the outdoor games they all have track suits for games like badminton and football. They are taught by Physical Education instructors,” she added.
The minister further said that after the 9-month programme, which will end in September, the girls would be handed over to the Ministry of Education for further action.