#BringBackOurGirls & defend the right to education

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On April 14, over 200 girls, most of them aged between 16 and 18, were abducted as they slept, from their school in Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria.

More schoolgirls have been kidnapped since.

All of these girls are missing, their whereabouts and safety unknown.

Islamist armed group Boko Haram claimed responsibility. It aims to overthrow the government by force to make Nigeria an Islamic state.

Since July 2009, Boko Haram has carried out a brutal campaign of bombings and gun attacks across Nigeria – including attacks on churches, police stations, schools, newspaper offices and the UN.

It has singled out school pupils for lethal attacks over the past couple of years. Teachers have been shot dead as they taught their classes, scores of children killed as they slept.

In the last two years, over 60 schools in north Nigeria have been forced to close after attacks by armed groups. Another 50 schools have been burned or seriously damaged.

In September last year, Boko Haram members shot dead 50 university students as they slept. The abduction of the girls in Chibok follows a pattern.

Many schools across north-east Nigeria have closed as a result of attacks, or through fear of being targeted. Parents have withdrawn their children from schools, fearing for their safety.

Deaths from violent attacks in Nigeria have risen sharply in recent months. As Amnesty reported at the end of March, more than 1,500 people have been killed during the first three months of this year alone.

Yet this conflict has remained largely ignored. Until now.

Public concern across the world at the fate of the kidnapped girls has been mobilised on social media via the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. Disgust at Boko Haram was matched with outrage at the Nigerian government’s failure to respond to the abductions.

The US, UK and France have now despatched teams of experts to Nigeria to help recover the girls.

But the threat to their lives and to other school children and their right to education remains.

Join the call on the Nigerian government to do more to rescue the girls and protect other children and their right to education. You can take action here.

** A version of this article was published in the Belfast Telegraph on May 9 2014. **