•Malala Foundation pledges educational assistance
President Goodluck Jonathan said on Monday in Abuja he would meet with the parents of the Chibok 200+ girls abducted from their school on April 14 by insurgents.
Jonathan made the disclosure at the Presidential Villa on Monday when he received the Pakistani girl-child education campaigner, Malala Yousufzai, who was accompanied on the visit by her father and some members of her Foundation.
The President told the visitors, who had on Monday met with some parents of the abducted girls, that before they (mothers) left Abuja, he would see them to ‘personally comfort them and reassure them that the Federal Government was doing all within its powers to rescue their daughters.’
Jonathan reiterated his Administration’s commitment to ensuring the safe and proper education of all Nigerian children.
“I personally believe that since about 50 per cent of our population are female, we will be depriving ourselves of half of our available human resources if we fail to educate our girls adequately or suppress their ambitions in any way. We are therefore taking steps to curb all forms of discrimination against girls and women, and have also undertaken many affirmative actions on their behalf,” President Jonathan said.
The President said that the Federal Government was also proactively evolving and implementing policies and measures that will benefit the abducted Chibok girls when they are safely rescued, as well as others that have been adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
He debunked the notion that the Federal Government has not been doing enough to find and rescue the abducted Chibok girls.
He said that the Federal Government was definitely doing everything possible to ensure that the girls were rescued alive and safely returned to their parents.
He however explained to Malala that the Federal Government’s efforts were constrained by the overriding imperative of ensuring that the girls’ lives are not endangered in any rescue attempt.
“Terror is relatively new here and dealing with it has its challenges. The great challenge in rescuing the Chibok girls is the need to ensure that they are rescued alive,” President Jonathan said, stressing that the Federal Government and its security agencies were very mindful of the need to avoid the scenario in rescue attempts in other parts of the world where lives of abductees were lost in the effort to rescue them.
The President said that this challenge notwithstanding, the Federal Government was very actively pursuing all feasible options to achieve the safe return of the abducted girls.
“The time it is taking to achieve that objective is not a question of the competence of the Nigerian Government. We have had teams from the United States, Britain, France, Israel and other friendly nations working with us here on the rescue effort and they all appreciate the challenges and the need to thread carefully to achieve our purpose,” he said.
He also said that his administration had taken some concrete steps to bring smile on the faces of the victims.
These, President Jonathan said, included the establishment of a Victims’ Support Fund, the Safe Schools Initiative and the Presidential Initiative for the North East.
He announced that he would inaugurate a National Committee to oversee fundraising for the Victims’ Support Fund, which will also cater for families of security men and women who have lost their lives in the war against terrorism, on Wednesday, July 16, 2014.
The President thanked Malala for coming to Nigeria to support ongoing efforts to rescue the abducted Chibok girls and promote girl-child education.
“We appreciate your efforts to change the world positively through your powerful advocacy for girl-child education,” President Jonathan told her.
July 14th is Malala Day, a day set aside by the United Nations for the world to focus on putting all girls to school.
Director of Communications Malala Foundation, Eason Jordan, disclosed that President Jonathan told Malala that ” he will be willing to meet with the parents of the Chibok girls today (yesterday).
“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”.
President Jonathan also used the opportunity of the meeting to take Malala through some of the programmes being carried out by the federal government which include, the Presidential Initiative for the North East, an economic recovery programme embarked on by the federal government upon with collaboration with the state governments in the north east. The Safe School Initiative which has already been launched with an initial start off fund of 3.2 billion Naira, with half of the amount coming from the private sector in partnership with United Nations former Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Gordon Brown. The President also emphasised his commitment to making sure that schools are safe, every child enjoy rights to education and that that right is no way violated by anyone be there terrorists, parents or whoever.
The President also referred to plans to launch Victims Support Fund for victims of terror and a committee to be set up in partnership with state governments, civil society and other stakeholders.
Malala while fielding questions from newsmen in the Presidential Villa, disclosed that her foundation has raised $200,000 in support of the education of the abducted Chibok girls on her return.
She said President Jonathan assured her of two things, to meet with the parents and some of the escaped Chibok girls as well as safe return of the girls from their abductors.
She said while praying and hoping for the safe return of the girls, she will not stop campaigning for the education of the girls.
Malala who said during the interaction with the President, he demonstrated one who was 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.
“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”.