Dressed in white and black, the ladies of the New Foundation School (NFS) solemnly gathered to honor the Chibok girls still in Bokoharam captivity. The 14th of April 2014 remains painfully etched in their memory. 7 years ago, these same ladies were kidnapped by Bokoharam in their hometown Chibok, North-East Nigeria. In weeping verse, Hauwa John recalls the terrifying moment she was abducted.
“We heard some gunshots from a distance.
We thought the trouble was distant
We were in our hostel, it got closer
We thought it was a dream but soon it became clear that it was really happening
We moved through the night to an unknown destination
We passed through days and nights of bitterness, hunger, and thirst
We lived in the bush
Passing through pains in the hands of the captors”
Hauwa is one of the lucky few who regained freedom and are now completing education at the American University of Nigeria. A special continuing education program; the New Foundation School was established for them to gain a clear academic pathway from secondary school to university.
On this seventh anniversary of their abduction, the ladies host a special service in defiance of the terrorists’ ideology. Bwamakuli Fwa has been working closely with the NFS ladies. She is a mentor and Assitant Coordinator of Student Affairs at NFS.
“I joined NFS in 2016 as a volunteer while I was still an undergraduate student in AUN and officially started work with them in 2018 after my graduation. This event is something that happens yearly. The students organized mostly everything themselves. All we did was advise, supervise and help with their presentations.”
Together with a formidable team of counselors and mental health experts, The NFS team ensures the ladies meet academic and development milestones. Marking the anniversary of their abduction is just one of multiple intervention strategies to enable them to gain closure.
“Personally, I feel it is important to mark a day like this because it is an important part of their healing process and it is also a reminder of how far they have come. So whenever this day approaches the entire Student Affairs team and NFS at large give them all the support they need to mark the day however they want to.” Said Ms. Fwa.
NFS ladies at Chibok remembrance service (facial features silhouetted to protect their identities)
The NFS ladies chose to mark the day in a solemn mood. With interfaith prayers, heartwarming speeches, poems, and songs of hope for better days. Pastor Raymond Obindu read a scripture about Peter’s miraculous escape from prison.
“Peter was saved because he prayed. When we don't know what to do, we pray. Our sisters are still in captivity and many other people are still in captivity. You are not military men so you can't go into the bush carrying a gun to rescue them. There is nothing physically you can do except to pray.” He said
The Amira, the spiritual guardian for the Muslim students also led Islamic prayers, calling for the protection of the girls still in captivity. It was a somber gathering. Tears flowed freely as the ladies, some kneeling others crouched in their seats came to terms with heart-wrenching grief. The ladies poured their hearts out in prayers and poems. Some knelt in thanksgiving for their own lives as others shed tears. Rhoda Peter recited a poem about the abduction, as her words released pent up emotions, there was not a dry eye to be seen.
“I remember those held back
We still cry and pray for you
It is my earnest prayers that we will someday meet again
No matter how long it takes I know someday we will be reunited
I miss you and I know our story will certainly not end like this”
The weighty wording of Ms. Peter’s poem mirrored the despair many felt in their hearts. As the event came to an end, Ms.Hadiza Ibigbami, fondly called Auntie Hajia gave a vote of thanks.
"My beautiful NFS students, just as you are dressed in white and black, life is always in white and black. Without darkness, there can't be light. So we believe even though some bad incidents happened in the past there is hope. Let's hold on to that hope and work towards a better future and gain our ground.”
Auntie Hajia is a Student Affairs Coordinator and also serves as the liaison between the Amira and Muslim students. Asabe Manu gave closing prayers with hopes that the next remembrance will be marked with the Chibok girls still in captivity gaining freedom.
Reported by Rebecca Ikponwonba & Halima Muhammad