A Pakistani teen who survived certain death after a terrorist’s gunshot to her face has met with the mothers of Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by elements of the group Boko Haram.
On the first leg of a three-day visit, Malala Yousafzai, now 17, and her father, Ziauddin, spoke with some of the mothers, telling them she saw the more than 200 kidnapped girls as her sisters and would stand up for them.
Yousafzai’s recovery led to her advocacy for education for girls.
Speaking with the Nigerian News Agency, she said: “On my 17th birthday, my wish is to see every child go to school, and I want to see my Nigerian sisters being released from their abduction, and I want them to be free to go to school and continue their education.”
Though it recently became the leading economy in Africa, Nigeria has one of the world’s worst records for education. More than 10 million children aged between 6 and 11 are not in school. There is a shortage of more than 200,000 primary school teachers.
At a meeting this week with Yousafzai, President Goodluck Jonathan disputed criticism that his government was not doing enough to find the girls. He called it “wrong and misplaced,” according to a presidential statement.
Jonathan has not met with any of the parents, though some regularly make the dangerous drive from Chibok to join activists who have held daily rallies in Abuja.
Parents of the missing girls were quoted this week by The New York Times pleading for international support. “American, France, China—they say they are helping, but on the ground we don’t see anything,” said Lawan Zanah, father of one missing girls; his frustration was echoed by school principal Asabe Kwambura, who feared that the international campaign #BringBackOurGirls was slacking.
“Continue the campaign,” she urged. “Our students are still living in the woods. We want the international community to talk to the government of Nigeria to do something because they are doing nothing.”
The government, the Times reports, just hired an American public relations firm for $1.2 million. “That money could be better used to pay for security at schools,” observed Nicholas Kristof, a Times journalist.
Meanwhile, a San Francisco-based charity promoting education for girls in Africa received $900,000 after articles that appeared in the Times. Camfed, aka the Campaign for Female Education, says the money will help 3,000 girls continue high school across the continent.