Six years ago, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls. Where are they now?


Endurance Bulus and Esther Joshuaheld hands as they were marched out of their dorm room at gunpoint that April night. Herded into the help of an originate-bed truck, they lost their grip on every other. Amid the mass of scared students, Endurance heard Esther’s comfortable notify quiz, “What’s going to happen?”

Then any individual jumped off the side. With out notice other ladies were tumbling into the darkness, engaging to chance being shot or lost within the unknown wooded space to flee their captors. Endurance looked next to her, but Esther had been pulled deeper into the truck. Endurance pushed her formula to the threshold and jumped without Esther.




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After Esther Joshua became once released from captivity, she got a call from her friend Endurance Bulus, who escaped for the interval of the kidnapping and is now studying within the U.S. Endurance entreated Esther to select her second chance at life. “Right here is our most attention-grabbing opportunity to form one thing correct,” she stated.

For 5 years a insurrection insurgency in northeastern Nigeria had vexed the bid and shut down colleges. The Authorities Secondary School for ladies in Chibok had reopened in April 2014 for students to select their final assessments. In a bid where decrease than half of of all ladies abet foremost college, these students had defied the probabilities they were born into lengthy sooner than the conflict reached them. But around 11 p.m. on April 14, automobiles of militants from Boko Haram, whose title roughly interprets to “Western education is forbidden,” forced 276 ladies from their dorms onto automobiles and drove toward the lawless quilt of the Sambisa wooded space, a nature reserve the jihadist community had taken over to wage a bloody conflict against the govt..

The assault sparked #BringBackOurGirls, an world campaign embraced by then U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. Chibok, a far off, puny-known metropolis sooner than the kidnappings, got here to indicate about a of Nigeria’s major elements—corruption, insecurity, the invisibility of the melancholy. Media covered every fashion: The 57 ladies who escaped early on; the ordeal of 10 of the ladies who hurt up in plenty of American colleges; videos released by Boko Haram exhibiting short-tempered captives; two emotional releases of a complete of 103 ladies, reportedly in alternate for cash and prisoners; four ladies who are stated to like fled later on their very private.

Of the 276 Chibok students kidnapped, 112 are aloof missing. Some are believed to be uninteresting. Two and a half of years within the past, the govt. organized for bigger than a hundred survivors to like a study at a tightly controlled campus in northeastern Nigeria. Since then, there’s been relative silence.

Endurance spent the summer seasonafter the kidnapping in her village of Askira, listening to gospel tune and coming to terms, she says, with the premise that the assault had ended her education. Esther’s mother got here to circulation to once, but Endurance wasn’t at house. Journalists wanted to know what came about that night; of us requested if she’d viewed their missing daughters. Repeating the memoir of April 14 had turn into arduous.

Endurance and nine other survivors licensed a proposal to like a study within the US. She embraced the opportunity, despite the indisputable reality that neighbors in her village warned her of us that young ladies folks get into effort removed from house.

Round the same time Endurance became once getting engaging to circulation in a international country, a college safety guard visited Margee Ensign, president of the American College of Nigeria (AUN) campus in Yola, a metropolis of several hundred thousand other folks. She told Ensign that her sister and 56 other ladies had escaped rapidly after the assault.

Some had jumped from the automobiles, grabbed tree branches, hooked their ankles, and then glide unless they came across succor. Others, akin to Mary K. (who requested that simplest her final initial be vulnerable), had ridden with the kidnappers for hours. When the truck stopped, Mary conspired in conjunction with her classmates of their local dialect: They’d wreck up into groups of two, quiz to utilize the john, and then glide. The abductors, arguing amongst themselves, didn’t search out them. It took Mary 24 hours to get house, and when she eventually did, she came across her village engulfed in combating. Ensign and her workers drove to Chibok and returned with two vans of survivors who wanted to proceed their education at AUN.

“We weren’t engaging,” Ensign recalls. “Boko Haram became once aloof within the home. Nonetheless it wasn’t a laborious resolution.” Two dozen students settled into the college’s campus, encircled by a high wall and secured by guards in crisp, crimson uniforms. The well-liked college attracts children of govt ministers and ambassadors, and Ensign knew the scholars from Chibok—who got here from melancholy-quality govt colleges, spoke almost no English, and had good survived a t*******t assault—would be at a vital downside.

Ensign known as a meeting and appointed a extensive, no-nonsense Detroit native named Reginald Braggs to succor them manufacture high college. He space up the New Basis School (NFS), a tailored program to prepare the 24 young ladies folks from Chibok for varsity. It provided extracurriculars cherish tune lessons and taking a uncover trips. Seniors from the college’s honor society mentored them.

Over the subsequent two years,none of the missing students were released. Rumors of nightmare prerequisites in captivity—forced marriages, enslavement, hunger—were omnipresent. Then, in Might possibly also 2016, Chibok pupil Amina Ali escaped from the wooded space in conjunction with her puny one. Five months later, Nigeria’s govt reportedly provided Boko Haram cash and prisoners for the discharge of 21 ladies. Severely malnourished, they were taken to a health heart in Abuja, the capital, to be assessed by a psychiatrist, physician, sports therapist, imam, and social employee. They stated the militants had given them a option: Convert to Islam and marry, or turn into slaves. Most chose slavery, the media reported.

In Might possibly also 2017, 82 more ladies were released. Their tearful reunion with their of us became once broadcast across the sphere. In the U.S., Endurance Bulus watched recordsdata images, scanning the names of those rescued. Her heart leaped when she landed on Esther Joshua.

Endurance recalled the day Esther transferred to Chibok from one other college. Endurance had sized her up and decided she’d form to take into accounta good sidekick: They were from the same tribe and of their next-to-final twelve months in college. Quickly they were inseparable and deliberate to employ portion of the summer season of 2014 together at Esther’s home. When Endurance learned that her 103 currently freed classmates would be a half of those studying at AUN, she texted a chum: When Esther arrives in Yola, enlighten her to call me.




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Students from Chibok pick photos on the final day of class sooner than final assessments and then summer season recess. The rigorous academic time desk prepares them for varsity entrance assessments. Fifteen students like graduated from the NFS program and are studying at AUN. Some return to NFS weekly as mentors.

Early one September morning in 2017,a chaotic scene unfolded within the domestic terminal of the Abuja airport. More than 100 children tugging truthful suitcases and taped-up boxes streamed into the departure gate. Alarms screeched as they moved by arrangement of metallic detectors without pausing. A option of policemen began to cry. The teens’ muscular safety escort pulled an officer aside and leaned in shut. “These are the Chibok ladies,” he stated. None of them had flown commercial sooner than. “Can you allow them by arrangement of?” he requested. The policeman became once surprised but agreed.

Quickly the airplane touched down in Yola, a sizzling, dusty metropolis in northern Nigeria. The community piled into eight buses and became once delivered to the campus of AUN.

That morning, the college went from housing and instructing 24 Chibok students to 130. The young ladies folks settled true into a calm existence of studying and praying. Esther became once intimidated by the busy college. In Chibok, there had been no laptops or yoga or karaoke nights. In Yola, game rooms were geared up with televisions, plush couches, and motivational sayings painted on the walls. The dorm became once divided into four “properties,” every named for a effectively-known lady.




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On the AUN campus, a dorm cherish this one holds bigger than a hundred students from Chibok.

Quickly after Esther arrived, one other pupil passed on Endurance’s message. On the telephone, Esther told Endurance every little thing that had came about within the wooded space and swore her to secrecy. “Don’t let it cease you,” Endurance informed. “Right here is our most attention-grabbing opportunity to form one thing correct.”

In a four-bed dorm room, Esther stacked her new books onto shelves and emptied her suitcase into the cloth cabinet. Her new computer rapid stuffed up with selfies and photos that Endurance despatched over WhatsApp.

Before every little thing the new students saved to themselves, consuming of their very private building and going to the gym early on Saturdays. Earlier than lengthy, they began dining within the important cafeteria, and a few attended classes within the library.

But they’re no longer weird and wonderful students.Boko Haram pledged to kill them if they returned to varsity. Guards gape their building and practice them at any time when they leave. On campus they like got a 24/7 enhance system: 11 pupil affairs “aunties” who live within the dorms, a nurse, and a stroll-in psychologist’s location of job. Some like bullets and shrapnel aloof lodged of their bodies. One has a prosthetic leg. One other walks with a cane. Most spent almost three years in captivity and battle with lingering trauma. AUN officials yell the protection is wanted. But some ogle it as sheltering them.

“After they were first released, they were saved together by the govt. in some facility in Abuja. After that, they were shipped off to AUN,” stated Anietie Ewang, the Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Explore who has closely followed the case. “It feels cherish at every stage they’ve been secluded.”

Over time the scholars from Chibok were paraded in front of cameras when it has served a objective. When they were in Boko Haram captivity, the pleasing checklist of hundreds of ladies in gray hijabs became once a impress of the once scrappy community’s upward thrust to vitality. When they were in govt custody, a vivid press convention with the president good a day after their rescue provided the govt. a political triumph. Now, they’re grown ladies folks. When will they retain shut how their memoir is told?




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Nigeria has millions of out-of-college students, and years of conflict like decimated the education system. The scholars from Chibok were given a rare opportunity to like a study at one in every of Nigeria’s high colleges.

The Nigerian govt and private donors are masking the costs of no decrease than six years of education for every pupil. Some are eyeing guidelines college. Others belief to turn into actresses, writers, accountants. Fifteen like graduated from the NFS high college program and are studying at the college.

Mary K., who escaped on the day after the kidnapping, arrived on campus in 2014, unable to discuss English. After two years, she became once licensed to AUN. The transition wasn’t easy. She knew other students gossiped about her, and even handed transferring to 1 other college. Now she roams campus and appears to be to know every person. As soon as per week she mentors a community of NFS students on the glorious technique to care for watch over their time, glorious their English, and lag the three standardized assessments they need for AUN admission. This twelve months she’s spending a semester in a international country, in Rome.

No longer the full survivors of Boko Haram’s conflict like such opportunities. In Borno Disclose, the epicenter of the disaster,classes were canceledfor two years. There and in two neighboring states, roughly 500 colleges were destroyed, 800 are closed, and bigger than 2,000 lecturers were killed.




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The camp college teaches simplest elementary grades. The older students must stroll two hours every morning to the closest secondary college.

Fifteen miles from AUN’s campus,Gloria Abuya gets up at 5 a.m. and walks two hours to varsity from the two,100-particular person camp for displaced other folks where she lives. When Boko Haram militants first arrived in Gloria’s location of foundation ofGwozain 2014, they killed the males and ordered their better halves to bury the bodies. Later, they took the ladies. Gloria spent two months in captivity sooner than escaping one night as her captors prayed.

Many ladies folks held prisoner by Boko Haram return to communities that danger them and families that shun them. Gloria doesn’t know when, if ever, she will be able to be able to resume her passe life. “There’s nothing left at house to circulation help to,” she stated.

In Might possibly also 2019, per week sooner than the originate of their summer season vacation, the Chibok students engaging to effect the anniversary of their release from captivity. “It’s very sad due to the we endure in mind our sisters within the wooded space,” stated Amina Ali, as she dressed for dinner after a day of rehearsals for the day’s events. “And here we are, gratified.”

The following day the drama club performed a play whereby two ladies were kidnapped for ransom and their families fought to raise them help. The script poked stress-free at ineffective police, indolent elected officials, and grasping kidnappers. When the captives were freed and reunited with their families, the viewers burst into applause. At the tip, a row of students learn messages for his or her missing classmates sooner than a balloon release.




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The scholars from Chibok drum and advise celebratory songs to commemorate their release from captivity.

“Dear sister, I know the angels are looking out at over you.”

“Dear sister, I in actuality feel you stroll beside me.”

“Dear sister, I can’t wait to peek you again.”

Three families of missing ladies who live in Abuja yell they manufacture no longer like any number to call for updates, manufacture no longer like any warning sooner than recordsdata comes out, and like had no contact with the govt. since a disturbing meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016. The governmentnow infrequently ever feedback. Closing April, the fifth anniversary of the kidnapping, Buharireleaseda message assuring Nigerians that “various efforts are being intensified to genuine the discharge of the Chibok ladies.”

Even now,there are such a extensive amount of mysteries in regards to the night of April 14, 2014: Why did the defense forcedeclarethe ladies had been freed rapidly after the assault? Is it exact that a British Air Force missionpositionedthe missing ladies within the Sambisa wooded space andprovidedto rescue them, but the Nigerian govt declined? (The then president hasdeniedthese reports.) Why like the kidnappings no longer stopped? Since Chibok, 300 elementary schoolchildren werereportedlykidnapped inDamasak, and 110 boarding college ladies were kidnapped inDapchi. (Some students died within the Dapchi assault, and later all but one were freed.)

“Behold at the home,” stated Hamsatu Allamin, an activist from northern Nigeria who’s spent a decade documenting the conflict’s uninteresting and disappeared, of the sparse landscape around Chibok. “There are no roads, no bushes, nothing. How can they good recede?” She has petitioned for an out of doors investigation, but none is drawing near near.Billions of greenbackslike poured into Nigeria to wrestle Boko Haram and succor rescue the missing. These ladies, and the area consideration they attracted, she stated, like turn into a alternate. “Boko Haram is a complete moneymaking undertaking for our leaders, the military, and the kidnappers.”

In a tiny location of job in Abuja, Allamin named emptied towns, groups of unknown children who’ve disappeared, kidnapped convoys, bride kidnappings. She held her head in her hands and squeezed her eyes shut. UNICEFestimates1,000 children were kidnapped since 2013, and the Red Sinfulsays22,000 other folks were reported missing within the conflict. Allamin believes the figure is much better. “Whilst you happen to desire to kill a society,” she stated, “plot the ladies folks.”




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“Some of you are about to lag. Some of you are troubled,” the visiting pastor preached for the interval of a private sermon at the New Basis School. “Function no longer be anxious! Whilst you live in danger, you are attracting hazard.”

A couple of new elementspropelled the Chibok kidnapping to the national and then world stage: the option of victims, the truth that they were taken from college, and the organized efforts of the community to submit their names and images. For weeks after the kidnapping, Nigerians with indicators and duct-taped mouths swarmed Cohesion Fountain, a sparse park sandwiched between lanes of speeding automobiles in central Abuja. The hashtag#BringBackOurGirlsgrew to turn into a world cry.

Six years later, a handful of protestors are left. The modern attitude in Nigeria, stated a businesswoman named Aisha Yesufu, who wore a crimson hijab with “Bring Wait on Our Ladies Now” printed on the front, is that moderately about a the ladies like returned and society need to circulation on.

Each and each day at 5 p.m. she and a few others acquire within the same park for a immediate express. “When will we cease?” Yesufu bellowed. Vehicles honked, and the sky threatened to release one other torrent of rain on a moist spring day.

“No longer unless they’re help!” the males round her spoke back. All but one in every of them were linked to a kidnapped pupil. “The fight for Chibok is the fight for the soul of Nigeria!”

“As lengthy as one particular person is out here disturbing return of our Chibok ladies, the universe will echo it,” Yesufu acknowledged confidently. They took down their banner and dispersed.

That echo is a express now, and there became once shut to silence from the govt. since the second community of students became once released. Silent, those 112 stay missing. The attach are they?

Their of us manufacture no longer like any concept. On a tiny hill at the help of a neighborhood of embassies and mansions in Abuja, Rebecca Samuel lives in a stuffed cinder block house. Her daughter Sarah is amongst the missing students. Three photos she retains in her purse show cloak Sarah as a 5-twelve months-passe graduating kindergarten, a sassy 14-twelve months-passe, and a vital teen wearing white. When 82 ladies were released in 2017, Samuel rushed to the health heart where they were held. Security wouldn’t let her in.

As summer season 2019 approached,AUN obtained observe that militants had burned down the properties of several Chibok students’ families. The top of safety, Lionel Rawlins, discouraged the young ladies folks from returning house, but 90 or so decided to circulation anyway. For some, it became once simplest the second summer season since their release, and they were alive to to peek their families.




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Closing Might possibly also, students and college gathered to like time the anniversary of the scholars’ release from Boko Haram. The match incorporated poems, speeches, and a play about a fictitious kidnapping. At the tip, the ladies let lag of balloons, along side 112 shaded balloons—one for every of their missing classmates.

AUN worries about bigger than safety: All these ladies folks are of their 20s, and in this bid it’s unprecedented for them to aloof be in college. In the event that they hadn’t spent years in captivity, many would be starting up families. The old tumble, eight students didn’t return to varsity, and half of of those were stated to like gotten married.

On the Sunday sooner than they left for house, a pastor joined them for a sermon. “Some of that it’s possible you’ll perchance furthermore like got passed by arrangement of poor issues, by arrangement of the shadow of loss of life,” he preached.

“AMEN!” they spoke back.

“Some of you are about to lag. Some of you are troubled.” His pitch climbed. “Function no longer be anxious! Whilst you live in danger, you are attracting hazard.”

Grace Dodo, a statuesque pupil who walks with a cane, tilted her head and joined in: “Yes!”

“I desire you to circulation and come help and manufacture your education,” the pastor stated.

While Esther Joshua packed for a outing to peek her household, Endurance Bulus spent the summer season removed from house, on the idyllic campus of Dickinson School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In 2018 vulnerable AUN president Margee Ensign opened a college-prep program at Dickinson, where she’s now president. Sheenrolledfour Chibok survivors.

Endurance studied quietly, mixing in amongst the area students. Then in April 2019 shespokeon a panel at the U.S. Capitol in regards to the disaster in Nigeria. Quickly, Dickinson students began to peep her nice smile and vivid hair wraps on campus. They’d capacity and quiz to listen to her memoir. She’ll enlighten it now. Why no longer? She plans to like a study psychology and turn into a therapist or work with refugees. She’s stopped going to remedy classes herself and has started seeing a profession counselor.

“I’ll on no anecdote put out of your mind,” Endurance stated, “but I’ve began to faux cherish I put out of your mind. I need to circulation on with my life.”

Bénédicte Kurzenis a French photographer who specializes in West Africa and the Heart East.

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