President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday promised scholarships to all the abducted Chibok schoolgirls, including those that had escaped from the insurgents’ camp.This is even as he also assured that he would soon meet with the parents of the abducted female students, including the escapees.He gave the assurance to Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani rights activist, who was shot by the Taliban three years ago, for campaigning for girls’ education when she visited the president at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
She is in Nigeria to support girls’ education and campaign for the release of the Chibok girls abducted on April 14 from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State .
July 14 of each year has been set aside as Malala Day by the United Nations for the world to focus on getting all girls in school.
Director of Communications, Malala Foundation, Eason Jordan, said President Jonathan told Malala that “he was willing to meet with the parents of the Chibok girls today (yesterday).”
Jordan said: “The families are eager to meet with anyone that can help them. The president said to Malala that he can guarantee that all the girls that have been kidnapped including the ones that escaped, will be given scholarships to go to school in other parts of the country. These were the things that he said and we hope that he will be able to bring them to pass.”
The President also referred to plans to launch Terror Victims Support Fund and a committee to partner state governments, civil society and other stakeholders.
Malala told State House correspondents that her foundation had raised $200,000 in support of the education of the abducted Chibok girls.
She stated that the President assured her of two things, to meet with the parents and some of the escaped Chibok girls as well as their safe return from their abductors. She said while praying and hoping for the safe return of the girls, she would not stop campaigning for the education of the girls.
Malala said during the interaction, the President seemed genuinely concerned and pained by the abduction of the girls, saying they were his daughters.
She said: “I am here in Nigeria on my 17th birthday for a price, which is to see that every child goes to school. This year, my objective is to speak up for my Nigerian sisters, about 200 of them, who are under the abduction of Boko Haram and I met the President, Goodluck Jonathan, for this purpose.
“I conveyed the voice of my sisters, who are out of school or who are still under the abduction of Boko Haram. And for those girls who escaped from the abduction but still do not have education. And in the meeting, I highlighted the same issues which the girls and their parents told me in the past two days.”
“The parents said they really want to meet with the President to share their stories with him. And I asked the President if he wants to meet with the parents of the girls, the President assured me that he would meet with them,” Malala said.
“I spoke to the President about the girls who complain that they cannot go to school despite the fact that they want to become doctors, engineers and teachers. But the government is not providing them any facility.
They also need health facility, security, and the government is not doing anything. These are the issues I presented to the President today. And the President fortunately promised me that he will do something for these girls and he promised me that the girls under the abduction of Boko haram will be released as soon as possible. This is the promise the President made and I am hopeful that his promise will come through and we will soon see those girls return soon
“I am hopeful that these two promises, the return of the girls from Boko Haram and meeting with their parents will be fulfilled and we will see it soon. Even though the promises have been made, it does not mean I am going to stop talking. I will be counting days and I will be looking when those girls are going to be returning home. I can’t stop this campaign until I see those girls return back to their families and continue the agitation. This is the position of the Malala foundation.
My father and I and the entire family want to speak out for those 10.5 milliom children who are out of school. They have no access to education because of many problems. And I am hopeful that the international community will take serious action because if we think this country is in Africa and is not going to affect other countries, we are really wrong. If we leave 10.5 million children illiterate, these children can become terrorists, they can be violated and they can be deprived of their basic human rights, at the end they will not be able to help their country in developing.
“So if we want the whole world to be successful, it is important that every child should go to school. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, only 1.5 percent of the budget is spent on education which is a small amount compared to Pakistan which has increased its own to 4 percent. Money spent on education should definitely be increased. This is how this country is going to be developed and i believe in the power of education. If Nigeria must have a bright future, every child must have an opportunity to go to school”.
Asked if the President spoke on progress made so far to rescue the girls, Malala said, “he has made promises. The President said these girls are his daughters and he is pained by their sufferings and that he has his own daughters and he can feel what they are feeling. The President has expressed his solidarity with those girls and his sadness. He has assured that these girls will come back home safely. He has several options but that he will choose the best to ensure the girls are released safely”.
Speaking on the funds raised to support education, she said, “we have set up the malala fund and through the fund, we have raised $200,000 and we want to use it to contribute to those children’s education. We have started working with two organisations here in Nigeria to be able to help these girls continue their education”.