Chibok Residents Heartbroken on Anniversary of Girls’ Abduction – Voice of America
It has been a year since Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from their dormitories in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok. At least 56 girls have escaped, 219 are still missing. Today, the town is a community in mourning.
Bare bed frames still fill the ruins of the abandoned grounds of the Chibok Secondary School for Girls.
A group of soldiers guard the entrance.
It has been a year since Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from their dormitories in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok. At least 56 girls escaped, 219 are still missing. Today, the town is a community in mourning.
On April 14 last year, there were no soldiers to protect the schoolgirls sleeping here. Some girls were already asleep when militants forced their way through the gate and into their rooms.
Saratu, 19, was struggling to fall asleep when the sound of gunfire ripped through the night.
“The moment the men spoke in Hausa, saying they were soldiers and that we shouldn’t be afraid, we knew it was Boko Haram,” she recalled.
The men made the girls leave their beds and gather in the schoolyard.
“They told us we shouldn’t be in school. That education, ‘book,’ is bad, ‘haram,’ and that we should come with them,” Saratu said.
They made the girls climb into pickup trucks and took them away but not before looting the storage rooms and setting the school ablaze.
Saratu escaped, injuring her leg as she jumped from the vehicle. A man from the village found her and carried her home.
The month of April is mango season in southern Borno State. The sweet smell of ripe fruits is everywhere. Chibok, a close-knit community of several thousand inhabitants, lies at the end of a long, dusty road. Everyone here is either related to, or knows, one of the abducted schoolgirls.
On Sundays, families head to one of a dozen or so churches to pray for the girls’ return. After church, Yana Galang, falls to her knees clutching her Bible. She has eight children, including 17-year-old Ruvkatu, who is among the missing kidnapped girls.
“People say the girls are in Gwoza. Others say they have been married off. The truth is only God knows where the girls are,” she said, adding that she misses her daughter. “My daughter, she’s a very funny girl. Even when she saw me, if I’m sad. She would come and kneel and stay with me. Mummy, what is worrying you [she would say]. Don’t keep yourself so worried.”
Outside, in the yard, stands Ruvkatu’s older brother Salam Yama, who is getting married in a few weeks.
“Just yesterday I told a friend that I still pray that Ruvkatu will come back so we can celebrate it together,” he confided.
Across the road, stands Lawan Zanna. His daughter, Aisha, had just turned 18 when she was kidnapped. Today is her 19th birthday. Speaking about it, his voice cracks.
“Aisha is a lovely daughter… A hard-working girl. When I heard that she had been abducted I worried to death,” he said.
Some of the parents were invited by President Goodluck Jonathan to the presidential palace in Abuja last July. They say the president promised he would have the girls back within a week. That was nine months ago, Zanna said.
“If he was really serious about bringing back our girls, why hasn’t he done more to find them?” he asked.
The girls were back at school to take exams when they were abducted.
“She came to me and said ‘Daddy, what will you do for me if I do well on my test?’ I promised to further her education. I promised her many things,” he said, explaining that he had promised his daughter that if she did well, he would pay for her to go to university.
That was the last time they spoke.