By EBELE ORAKPO
Succour is on the way for Chibok girls who escaped from the Boko Haram terror group and other vulnerable children in North-East Nigeria as the American University of Nigeria (AUN) announces the formation of American University of Nigeria Foundation (AUNF) and the launch of Educate Our Girls campaign to raise funds to provide these children with full scholarships.
According to a release made available to Vanguard by officials of the AUN, Dr. Margee Ensign, AUN President, while speaking at the event said the #EducateOurGirls campaign will raise global awareness to the need to focus on the education of girls and boys in the North-East region of Nigeria and provide citizens across the globe with the opportunity to demonstrate unflinching support for the rights of girls and women to pursue their education in a safe environment.
“The world was shocked when so many innocent girls were kidnapped for wanting an education, and we are all angry that so many are still in captivity,” said Ensign. “Today, we are proud to announce the Educate Our Girls campaign that will provide scholarships for the kidnapped girls who have escaped. We are asking the citizens of the world to put their money where their hash tags are and tangibly express their support for education and for protection of the human rights of these girls.”
The AUNF was launched tocreate greater awareness to the plight of school age children – especially girls – in Nigeria. “The Foundation launched the #EducateOurGirls campaign in September 2014 to fund scholarships for the young Nigerian girls who escaped after being kidnapped from Chibok on April 15, by Boko Haram, as well as for the girls still in captivity once released. As of September 2014, AUN has secured the funds for 11 of these girls who will start at AUN this fall.”
Expatiating further, the release stated:”It costs $5,000 per year per scholarship student. To allow for academic and personal adjustment, AUN is reserving a year of remedial education at the AUN Academy, their secondary school, for each girl. After this, they will begin their four-year college program, at the cost of $12,000 per year per girl. The initial fundraising goals are as follows: $55,000 to educate 11 girls for one year, $583,000 to educate 11 girls for five years,
$3,074,000 to educate all 58 escaped girls for five years.
“The scholarship covers all of the students’ expenses, including housing, tuition, food and counselling.
“The importance of education and the education of women in particular cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Ensign. “Education transforms lives, and improving women’s access to education and healthcare is the most important intervention a society can make towards development.”
According to a 2014 UNESCO report, “While universal youth literacy in Nigeria has almost been achieved for the richest women aged 15 to 24, their poorest counterparts will need to wait 70 years to realise this fundamental right if no active steps are taken to fight illiteracy among the most disadvantaged groups.
The education crisis in Nigeria affects all children, not just girls. There are close to 11 million children out of school in Nigeria, the most in the world. The overall literacy rate is around 50 per cent, and in the northeast, AUN’s own data point to a figure closer to 80 per cent. “All Nigerian youth deserve an education. We want to give them that chance,” she said.