‘Heinous violation of human rights’: More than 300 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria

More than 300 schoolgirls were abducted on Friday when unidentified gunmen raided a school in Zamfara State in northwest Nigeria.

Security forces are searching for the girls, who were taken from Government Girls Secondary School in the town of Jangebe. It was the second case of a mass school kidnapping in less than ten days in the area, which is becoming a target for militants and gangs.

Save the Children has called for the immediate release of the schoolgirls and for the perpetrators to be held responsible.

“It is unacceptable that attacks on schools and students has become a recurring scenario in the Northern Nigeria,” Mercy Gichuhi, Country Director for Save the Children, said.

“Schools are supposed to be safe learning zones for children to play, learn and realise their full potential. Instead, they are being turned into places of fear.

“We call upon all parties to refrain from targeting school children, and to ensure that the kidnapped girls in Zamfara state are immediately released and returned to their families.”

Gichuchi also said these types of abductions put girls at risk of never returning to school.

“These attack and abductions can cause severe psychological trauma to children and it puts them at risk of never returning to school, as they or their parents think it’s too dangerous.”

Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Guterres said the girls must be released to their families immediately, and unconditionally.

“I am appalled by the abduction of more than 300 girls during an attack on a secondary school in Nigeria today,” Guterres said.

“Attacks on schools are a heinous violation of human rights.”

Just over a week before the schoolgirls were abducted, 27 schoolboys and multiple staff members were kidnapped from their school in the Kagara district of Niger state, on February 17. One boy was killed during the raid. The boys were released on Saturday, one day after gunmen seized the more than 300 school girls.

Many parents in northern Nigeria are worried about sending their children to school, fearful of the increasing occurrence of kidnappings.

“This is a gross violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience for children to go through — one which could have long-lasting effects on their mental health and well-being. We utterly condemn the attack and call on those responsible to release the girls immediately and for the government to take steps to ensure their safe release and the safety of all other schoolchildren in Nigeria,” Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in Nigeria said.

“Children should feel safe at home and at school at all times — and parents should not need to worry for the safety of their children when they send them off to school in the morning.”

School kidnappings in Nigeria were first carried out by jihadist groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province. The tactic is now being employed by other militant groups, who have an unknown agenda.

To date, the most well-known school kidnapping in Nigeria occurred in 2014, when 270 school girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. Many of these girls still remain missing.

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