Girls who escaped Boko Haram refuse to be victims

Al Jazeera talks to three students who escaped after more than 200 girls were abducted in Nigeria a year ago.

Yola, Nigeria – It has been one year since more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram, an armed group which wants to form an Islamic state in the region.

The schoolgirls have been the focus of a worldwide campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, calling for their release.

On the night of the abductions in Chibok, a town in northeastern Borno state, three girls jumped off the moving lorries in which Boko Haram were transporting them. 

Al Jazeera met up with the girls and while they have been through a terrifying experience, they do not want to be portrayed as victims. They insist on talking about what they have done since they escaped – focusing on their education. 

They are now studying at the American University of Nigeria here in Yola, the capital of neighbouring Adamawa state. They do not want their faces or names revealed in order to protect their families and other girls still in school in Chibok.

Al Jazeera: Do you want to go back to Chibok?  

Blessing: Yes. I want some changes in Chibok, like the environment. I want to be a lawyer. I want to fight for justice. Wait, I want to say something to my school friends who are still being held captive by Boko Haram! 

Al Jazeera: Of course … go ahead. 

Blessing: I will just pray for them that one day there is hope, that one day God will set them free from the hands of Boko Haram.

Mary: Ask me what you asked Blessing … about if I want to go back to Chibok, because I do. 

Al Jazeera: Why do you want to go back?

Mary: Because my favourite subjects are physics and biology. The reason is I want to become a medical doctor. To go to Chibok and build clinics and hospitals because we don’t have educated doctors there. I will try hard. But it’s hard. This new school is nice. We don’t have many textbooks in Chibok like here. We don’t use laptops in Chibok. We don’t do some sports like we are doing here.

Deborah: I want to say something important before I answer your questions. It’s for the girls still missing. 

Al Jazeera: Please, go ahead.  

Deborah: The message is be brave and courageous. Be a hard worker and always believe in God, that whatever you are going through, God is there for you, he will help you. Have ambition that you are great and you were made to be a great person.

Al Jazeera: Someone tried to take education away from you. How do you feel about that? 

Deborah: It was said that if you educate a girl you educate the whole nation. It is very important. They haven’t stopped me. 

Al Jazeera: What is schooling like in Chibok?

Deborah: Not good. That’s why I am going back when I graduate. The education there is very poor. So I want to help by building a school. I want to empower women by creating centres that will teach them things.

Al Jazeera: So you want to be a teacher? 

Deborah: My favourite subjects are English and biology. I want to be a doctor. I want to save lives of people and help those who are sick but can’t pay their medical bills.

Al Jazeera: Do you think you will be able to finish school in peace now?

Deborah: I like this place because of the good quality education we are getting here. We are sponsored to study here. Everything is paid for. It is an exciting, beautiful environment.

There is airconditioning in the rooms, flushing toilets and I have my own bed. I am happy to be here.

Source: Al Jazeera