‘Bring Our Girls Back to School’: Campaign Hopes to Send Boko Haram Escapees to College

AP Photo/Haruna Umar
AP Photo/Haruna Umar

An advocacy group in Washington, D.C. is working to raise funds to keep ten Boko Haram escapees in American schools, with two accepted to four-year universities but lacking resources and family to keep them going.

The ten girls are from Chibok, the town in which, in April 2014, ISIS-affiliate Boko Haram invaded an all-girls’ school and abducted more than 200 teen girls, most working on a physics examination at the time. Few escaped, and none were rescued; these girls jumped off moving trucks and deep into the dense Sambisa Forest of northern Borno state, Nigeria, to get away.

More than a year later, some of these then-high school girls are ready to go to college, and all want to continue their educations in America. A group called the Education Must Continue initiative has started a Go Fund Me page to raise money for their tuition as well as basic needs like school supplies, clothes, and hygiene products. They are seeking to raise $75,000; at the moment, they have raised $200.

The group argues on their Go Fund Me page that a donation will help the girls “become living testaments to the good that came out of this horrid atrocity that sparked the global BringBackOurGirls campaign,” and that educating them is a “significant forward-looking human capital investment”– with education, the girls may one day return to their villages and help reconstruct what Boko Haram has destroyed.

Spearheading the initiative is Emmanuel Ogebe, a human rights lawyer instrumental in getting the girls out of Nigeria and bringing them to the United Stats for safety. Ogebe, who has written about his experience working with victims of Boko Haram in Nigeria for Breitbart News, brought the girls to the United States in April, the one-year anniversary of their abduction and escape. At the time, the Washington Post reported that all ten girls were placed in schools and all received scholarships. Some will move on to vocational schools, but at least two have, since then, been accepted to college.

“For the moment, the girls have a very sheltered experience that is not fully American,” said Ogebe in a recent interview. “At some point, they have to encounter the ‘real’ America. Very frankly they need coping skills. They need survival skills.” A full college experience could help provide that. Ogebe noted that it is difficult even for rural Americans to move to a city like Washington, D.C., “but the transition from rural northern Nigeria to the capital city of the United States of America is a much tougher road to travel.”

Breitbart News reached out to Ogebe for more information on his project; he replied with an except from an unpublished speech delivered at Bowie State University this year, where he explains that his conscience drove him to raise the funds to get them out of Nigeria in the first place, but now their potential must be fully realized:

Okay we can’t all go to the forest & bring back those girls. But what are we doing about the ones that escaped, the ones that took their lifes into their hands. & the ones that jumped. What are we doing? And I left & came back to the states with no clear plan of what to do, couple of weeks later, I got an email, oh their hiding in the forest because there is another attack, & it haunted me. They escaped once, will I leave them to be attacked again. Could I live with myself if that happened? […]

For me the driving force of bringing these ten girls to America if a bunch of evil people could sit down & plan systematically to go to a school & take hundreds of girls out & enslave them can’t a bunch of decent people say you know what we too can take a few girls & put them back in school.

Leaving the girls in the “very conservative north of Nigeria, which is predominantly Muslim,” he says in the speech, would have been to expose them to further trauma from the stigma of having been, if only for some hours, a “Boko Haram wife.”

To donate to help these girls pay for their education, please visit Education Must Continue’s Go Fund Me page.