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May 23, 2024

Our journey to becoming graduates after Boko Haram abduction — Chibok schoolgirls

Our journey to becoming graduates after Boko Haram abduction — Chibok schoolgirls

Our journey to becoming graduates after Boko Haram abduction — Chibok schoolgirls

By Elizabeth Osayande

Two survivors of the 2014 abduction of 276 girls by Boko Haram in Chibok, Patience Bulus and Mercy Ali Paul recently emerged graduates from United States colleges, courtesy of full scholarships and personal growth opportunities from the Murtala Muhammed Foundation, MMF, and Victims Support Fund.

They shared their journey of abduction to becoming social activists.

Recall that on the night of April 2014, no fewer than 276 female students between the ages of 16 and 18 were kidnapped by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno state, Nigeria.

While 57 of the girls escaped immediately from their captors, and more were rescued by military operations, 91 girls are alleged to still be in captivity.

In a statement by MMF and VSF, who announced the graduation of these girls, Miss Bulus graduated from Dickinson College, majoring in Gender Studies and Religion; Ali Paul graduated from Northern Virginia Community College, NOVA with an Associate Degree in Social Science.

The statement added that Bulus was also inducted as an Honorable Member of the National Society of Leadership and Success at Dickinson College in 2021.

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For Patience Bulus: “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 graduated 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 to 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.”

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 I became determined after that to reclaim my life. 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 the 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.”

Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode

Speaking at Patience’sgraduation in Carlisle Pennsylvania, USA, the Founder and CEO of Murtala Muhammed Foundation, Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, 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 we celebrate 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.”

Aisha added that with 91 girls in captivity, many of the Chibok schoolgirls have returned as mothers. She added that rape, coercion, and extremism are often weapons of war; the need to protect women and girls must not be ignored. Sexual slavery/reproductive health are at heightened risk in conflict zones.

The Founder, MMF who noted that VSF initiative also gave the girls psychosocial support, immigration support, and essential aid and resources for their academic development, called on relevant authorities, both national and international, to invest in education, especially for the girl child, and also tackle insecurity.

“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 c.60%, 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.”

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