The shocking story of the kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria is back in the headlines today with the US and Britain offering military support to help find them. But with conflicting reports on the number of girls who were abducted and escaped, the facts of what exactly happened are still unclear. Here’s what we know so far from media reports and our colleagues in ActionAid Nigeria.
On the night of 14 April the girls were taken from their boarding school in Chibok village, in Borno state in north-eastern Nigeria by 200 armed militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram.
The girls were aged between 16 and 18 and were taking exams at the school which was one of the few still open in the area.
Once they realised the girls were missing family members started searching in the Sambisa Forest, one of the hideouts of Boko Haram.
It is still not clear how many exactly were abducted – at first it was reported that 234 were taken. Last week the Nigerian authorities updated the number of girls kidnapped to 276 and said at least 53 of the girls escaped, leaving 223 in the hands of their captors.
Reports of deaths and illness
At least two have died of snakebite, and about 20 others are ill, according to reports quoting an intermediary who is in touch with their captors. There are also unconfirmed reports that some of the girls had been forced to “marry” their abductors, who paid a nominal bride price of $12 (£7). Others are reported to have been taken across borders into Cameroon and Chad.
On 16 April the Nigerian media reported that the military had rescued most of the girls, but the Defence Ministry had to withdraw that claim a day later.
Nigerians, including colleagues from ActionAid in Nigeria, have taken to the streets to protest in almost all major cities, urging President Goodluck Jonathan to act quickly to find the girls, and the hashtag #bringbackourgirls has trended on Twitter, with more than a million tweets so far using the tag.
On Sunday 4 May Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan addressed the abduction publicly for the first time, acknowledging it was a painful time for his country and admitting his forces had no idea where the girls were.
The following Monday, Abubakar Shekau leader of Boko Haram, (Boko Haram means “western education is forbidden”) said that his group had taken the girls. In a video message he threatened to “sell” the girls.
Today it was revealed that eight more girls were abducted from another village in the north east on Sunday night.
Some facts on girls’ education in Nigeria:
- 10.5 million children are not in school in Nigeria out of 57 million globally.
- Out of that 10.5 million, about six million are girls.
- There are more children out of school in Nigeria today than in 1999.
- Nigeria spends about 1.5 per cent of its GDP on education annually. Globally, the recommendation is that states should spend about 6 per cent