Photo Credit: Naijamayor, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Naijamayor, Flickr Creative Commons

The world was shocked when on April 14, Boko Haram Islamic militants burst into a school in the Chibok community in Borno state, Nigeria. The militants kidnapped 276 girls from their beds. Only 53 girls managed to escape, and 223 girls are still missing.

Schools should be places students can learn without fear.

In Northern Nigeria, girls endure violence to receive an education. In 2008, the net enrollment of girls in secondary school was 22%, which is less than a quarter of girls receiving a secondary education. Child marriage is rife, with 78% of girls marrying by age 18. The region also has the highest rate of fistula in the country.

Boko Haram has led a murderous campaign against education in Nigeria. In Borno state alone, more than 800 classrooms have been destroyed. Boko Haram, which translates to ‘Western education is a sin’, does not want to see girls attend school in Nigeria. The story of Boko Haram is not new. Like the Taliban, and various other terrorist groups that have attacked girls’ education, they are afraid of the power of an educated girl. They are afraid of the power of education. The independence and freedom of women and girls terrifies them. It is their fear that leads to them suppressing the power of girls.

Educating girls has been proven to be the highest return investment for solving poverty. An extra year of primary school boosts a girl’s income by ten to twenty percent. An extra year of secondary school boosts a girl’s income by fifteen to twenty-five percent. When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. Children born to educated mothers are twice as likely to survive past age five. Educated girls are more likely to change the world.

Why would Boko Haram be afraid of girls’ education, when there are countless benefits?

It is believed that the Islamic militants have had mass wedding ceremonies where they forced the girls into marriage. It is also believed that they have sold some of the kidnapped girls for 2000 naira, or $12. Not only have these girls been denied their right to an education, but they have been forced into a marriage, against their will and have been trafficked.

No girl should be denied access to a quality education.

No girls should be forced into a marriage.

No girl should be trafficked.

The world needs to wake up to the severity of this issue. The voices of the 276 girls kidnapped can not and should not be silenced. The voices of the 276 girls kidnapped can not and should not go unnoticed. The voices of the 276 girls kidnapped and should not be ignored.

The kidnapping of the Chibok girls could have happened anywhere. It could have been your daughter, sister or even your niece. Recently, eight other girls have been kidnapped by the militants, highlighting how serious of an issue this is and why the International Community must get involved. We need to stand up for the Chibok girls so that this mass abduction will not inhibit the school attendance of other girls.

Stand up for the Chibok girls so their voices can be heard.

Stand up for the Chibok girls so they can return to school.

Stand up for the Chibok girls so they can be freed.

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Cover Photo Credit: Rosemary Lodge, Flickr Creative Commons