• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

First two Chibok schoolgirls graduate from US colleges 10yrs after abduction

Chibok girl

Two survivors of the 2014 abduction of 276 girls by Boko Haram terrorists in Chibok have graduated from tertiary institutions in the United States of America (USA) after receiving scholarships from the Murtala Muhammed Foundation (MMF) and Victims Support Fund.

Patience Bulus, and Mercy Ali Paul, who were survivors of the Boko Haram mass abductions in Chibok, a town in Borno State, graduated from Dickinson College, majoring in Gender Studies and Religion and Mercy graduated from Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) with a Associate Degree in Social Science, respectively.

Patience and Mercy’s journey to graduation was enabled by a partnership between MMF and VSF, to provide full scholarships and personal growth opportunities to the rescued Chibok girls, enabling them to pursue higher education at renowned universities in the United States.

Patience was also inducted as an Honorable Member of the National Society of Leadership and Success at Dickinson College in 2021.

Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, the founder and chief executive officer of Murtala Muhammed Foundation speaking at Patience’s graduation in Carlisle Pennsylvania, USA, said: “The abduction of 276 schoolgirls 10 years ago from their boarding school signalled the urgency of action to secure education for girls in Nigeria.

“As an organisation with a vision to advance positive education and social outcomes for women, we celebrate Patience and Mercy’s achievements today as a powerful example of resilience and their determination not to be defined by the past but focused on the future. Many more girls in Chibok and other conflict-affected communities deserve this opportunity so today we are calling for immediate action at the local and global levels to enable access to quality education and build self-reliance in conflict-affected communities.”

Muhammed-Oyebode pointed out that with 91 girls in captivity, many of the Chibok schoolgirls have returned as mothers. She frowned at the fact that rape, coercion, and extremism are often weapons of war; hence she said that the need to protect women and girls must not be ignored.

“Sexual slavery/reproductive health is at heightened risk in conflict zones,” she noted.

Sharing their inspirational journey to completing their education;

Mercy Ali Paul said: “Graduating feels like a dream I never thought would come true. Ten years ago, I was just hoping to survive the nightmare of abduction.

Each moment I spent with Boko Haram was filled with fear and uncertainty, but my faith kept me strong. I finally escaped and became determined to reclaim my life after that.

 I knew education was the key to rebuilding my future, and now with this diploma, I feel empowered. My journey has been challenging, but the support from my family, friends, and sponsoring organisations from Nigeria made it possible.

I hope my story inspires other girls in Nigeria and around the world to never give up, no matter how dark their circumstances may seem.”

While Patience Bulus said: “Walking across this stage today is more than just receiving a diploma; it’s a testament to resilience and hope. Ten years ago, Boko Haram tried to take away our futures, but they couldn’t take away our dreams.

Escaping their grip was just the first step. Adapting to life in the U.S. and catching up with my education was incredibly challenging, but every struggle was worth it.

Today, that I graduate with a degree from a prestigious college, is not just for myself, but for the countless girls who are yet to make it out. This achievement is dedicated to them and the power of community support.

The encouragement and resources provided by sponsors in Nigeria and others here in the U.S. made this possible. I am excited to use my education to advocate for girls’ rights and education worldwide. Today is proof that with perseverance and support, we can overcome even the most harrowing experiences.”

Meanwhile, 10 years after the Chibok abduction incident, insecurity and mass kidnapping in Nigeria are increasing, leaving a devastating impact on people across the country and posing a major threat to the economy.

Recent kidnappings highlight the ongoing threat faced by young people in conflict zones. Young people affected by conflict need urgent support, including access to education, security, and restoration of livelihoods.

Strengthening Nigeria’s education system is crucial for empowering, economic progress and inclusive growth. With over 200 million people, Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of out-of-school children globally.

The country’s literacy rate is 60 per cent, with significant disparities between urban and rural areas. There is a critical need for Nigeria’s tertiary education system to contribute to the country’s development trajectory – providing skills to young people with aspirations for a better quality of life.