The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

May 12, 2014

Nigeria's stolen girls, clueless leaders

Why, many are asking, did it take the world so long to pay much attention to the kidnapping of more than 300 schoolgirls by Muslim fanatics in Nigeria?

For starters, the buck stops with President Goodluck Jonathan, among other Nigerian political leaders who clumsily tried to sweep the crisis under a rug.

Fortunately, this particular story of a monstrous terror-crime also offers glimmers of hope for Africa’s future: inspiring examples of ordinary Nigerians who proved to be better than their governmental leaders.

The fecklessness of their political and military leaders in response to the April 15 raid on a girls’ boarding school by Boko Haram terrorists was a deplorable betrayal of the Nigerian public’s trust.

A day after the attack in northeastern Nigeria, the country’s military announced that all but eight of the girls had been rescued. They soon retracted that statement. None of the girls had been rescued, although about 50 escaped on their own.

Worse, Amnesty international charged this Friday that Nigerian authorities knew the attack was coming as much as four hours before it occurred, but failed to act.

They should have been prepared. Boko Haram, whose name in the Hausa language roughly means “Western education is sinful,” has turned school attendance into a death-defying risk in recent years -- and not only for girls. A similar raid on another northeast regional boarding school killed 29 teenage boys in February.

At least 1,200 people are estimated to have died in Boko Haram violence and the Nigerian military’s security crackdowns this year alone.

It is hard to exaggerate the courage that it must take for children and their parents to pursue an education under such conditions. Yet secondary school enrollment in Nigeria has increased dramatically over the past 10 years, according to the World Bank. That’s a tribute to how much Christian and Muslim children and their families value education as a route to upward mobility, even at great risk of violence from anti-education terrorists.

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