The Safe Schools Initiative, a fund set up to pilot 500 safe schools in northern Nigeria and led by Nduka Obaigbena, brings the Nigerian government and Nigerian business leaders together with the international community to ensure that all children are secure when learning. The fund total currently stands at $23 million. Ultimately, young people will demonstrate because they see the connection between abductions in Nigeria, the rapes and murders of young girls in India, the so-called "honor killings" of Pakistani girls who marry against family wishes, the genital mutilation of girls in preparation for child marriages across Africa and the ever-present reality that 7 million school-aged girls are working full time, often in slave labour conditions, many of them trafficked out of their home country when they should be at school.
Instead of using hashtags or the military, what if we could debate with the Sultan or Boko Haram about what Sharia demands? What if we could ask them to reflect on how their definition of Sharia could be updated to reflect today's world? To ask such questions is not only to critically know and engage the Islamic tradition, but also to remove the monopoly that Boko Haram claims on defining what Sharia is for everyone.
Tackling this terrorist threat demands that we help locate girls who are now in captivity and show Boko Haram that their actions will be met with reprisals. Surveillance and other equipment has to be made available to the Nigerian authorities to root the terrorists out -- but we must also make sure that schools are safe for children to attend. A new 'safe schools' initiative is desperately needed in Nigeria with measures that include guards to reassure worried parents that schools are secure.
The world must wake up to an escalating tragedy now engulfing Nigeria. Today the lives of 230 teenage schoolgirls hang in the balance. We cannot stop terrorism overnight, but we can make sure that its perpetrators are aware that murdering and abducting schoolchildren is a heinous crime that the international authorities are determined to punish.