IMPACT

Girls Who Escaped Boko Haram Accept Scholarships, Defy Kidnappers By Going Back To School

02/17/2015 09:50 am ET | Updated Sep 17, 2015
- via Getty Images

To Asabe and Ruth, attending school isn't a chore -- it's an act of bravery.

The two Nigerian sisters were among the more than 300 schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram last April. They managed to escape hand-in-hand from the terrorist group. In August, a worker from the American University of Nigeria (AUN) arrived on their family's doorstep in the country's northern Chibok state, The Guardian reported.

The AUN worker, Godiya, was able to help connect the sisters with scholarships to the university through a fund launched in support of the girls who'd been kidnapped. The #EducateOurGirls campaign has raised at least $50,000 in donations, according to The Guardian, which has allowed for the university to educate 10 girls for one year.

To Godiya, providing the scholarships to girls like Asabe and Ruth wasn't just another task to complete for her employer -- the Boko Haram abductions were personal.

The 27-year-old's own sister had been one of the kidnapped girls who, too, escaped. Months after the mass abduction, Godiya had timidly asked university officials if they could help her sister return to a classroom, according to the Globe and Mail.

In Chibok, schools were closed, as community leaders lived in fear of another attack.

"[Godiya] came into my office and, really quietly, she told me that her sister was one of the girls who had escaped, and she and all the other girls were just there in Chibok, doing nothing," Margee Ensign, AUN president, told The Guardian.

Inspired by Godiya's request, Ensign set up the scholarship fund, which also helps provide an education to other Nigerian girls and boys in need. It was then up to Godiya to travel by motorbike throughout Chibok -- overcoming heavy rainstorms and the threats of deadly wildlife -- to find girls willing to accept the scholarships.

It wasn't as easy as it sounds. Many girls were hesitant to return to the classroom, which would put them more at-risk of an abduction. But for the girls that Godiya has helped connect with an education, the risk is worth the value of an education -- and their bravery is inspiring others, too.

"Ten more parents just sort of showed up at our gate and asked us to take their daughters," Ensign told The Guardian.

While many may applaud Godiya and the school's efforts, 219 of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have yet to be reunited with their families. Many of them may have been sold into slavery or forced into early marriage.

Last Saturday marked 300 days since Boko Haram's mass abduction in Chibok, and children's rights activist Malala Yousafzai didn't let the day pass by in silence.

"If these girls were the children of politically or financially powerful parents, much more would be done to free them," Yousafzai wrote on her nonprofit's blog. "But they come from an impoverished area of north-east Nigeria and sadly little has changed since they were kidnapped."

To learn more about and support AUNF’s #EducateOurGirls fund, visit AUNF's website.

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