Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Forty-two girls who escaped from Boko Haram terrorists after their abduction from the Government Secondary School, Chibok on April 14, 2014, have graduated from private schools in Plateau and Katsina States.
The girls were sponsored by a non-profit humanitarian organisation, Girl Child Concern (GCC) chaired by Dr. Mairo Mandara, a foremost advocate of girl-child education in Nigeria and in conjunction with the Borno State Government.
Speaking at a ceremony in Abuja to mark the graduation of 73 girls among whom were the 42 Chibok girls and 31 internally displaced girls, the Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kassim Shertima, said about 54,911 widows and 52,311 orphans were left to bear the brunt of the over three years of murderous insurgency in the North-east part of the country.
The governor also said the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram, have left a total of 5,335 buildings from 503 schools destroyed.
According to him, the figures were obtained from the report compiled by the World Bank in partnership with European Union and the presidency.
He said: â€œA total of 54,911 widows and 52,311 orphans were created by the years of insurgency in the North-east.
â€œThese are official figures, probably the unofficial figure may be twice these number. The truth is that we either take care of these orphans or ten to fifteen years from now, they will be the monsters that will drive us out of this land.â€
The 42 Chibok girls were among the 56 that escaped from the terrorists after they were kidnapped from their school in 2014.
The girls were assisted by GCC to gain admission to complete their education in Nurul Islam Secondary School, Bukuru, Jos, Ulul Albab Islamic School in Katsina and Bethel International Christian Academy in Jos, Plateau State.
Speaking on the challenges posed by these children from broken families resulting from terrorists activities, Shettima said there was need for leaders to take responsibility and do something to ensure that they become useful to the society, adding that failing to do so may be disastrous.
According to him, some elite and political big wigs were already afraid of visiting the rural areas to meet with the common man for fear of being molested.
He added that there was presently a palpable discontent against the elite glaring on the faces of most common men.
The governor stressed that unless the countryâ€™s leadership began to think towards improving the lots of the common man in the society and working for the people, the situation would deteriorate.
â€œThe truth is that we either take care of these orphans or 10 to 15 years from now, they will be the monsters that will drive us out of the land,â€ he said. The governor said his government was paying special attention to education and that about 30 per cent of the annual state budget is being devoted to the sector.
â€œWhere there is a will, there is always a way, we are right now building twenty mega schools across the state and each of them is going to be a state of the art institution with very conducive study environment and kitted with digital facilities,â€ he said.
Earlier, the chairperson of GCC, Dr. Mairo Mandara, expressed gratitude to the governor as well as the Malala Fund who she said did a lot to ensure that the Chibok school girls completed their secondary education.
Mandara recounted some of the challenges faced by the Chibok girl after being rescued, adding that they faced stigmatisation in their quest to secure a new school to complete their studies.
According to her, in some of the schools, the parents even threatened to withdraw their children if the Chibok girls were admitted.
Speaking on the near incommunicado which the girls were kept years after escaping from captivity, Mandara said: â€œToday is a special day for GCC because a group of our graduating girls were kept out of the lime light for the last three years. It was difficult getting them schools at the time we got custody of these girls. Schools refused to accept them out of fears of consequences that could befall them if it is discovered that they were in the school.â€.
Some of the girls who spoke to THISDAY said apart from studying for their school certificate examination, they were also taught several skills that can make them survive economically.
They however refused to be drawn into revealing their experiences while in captivity, describing it as heinous and agonising to remember.