The Chibok Girls Education Initiative at the American University of Nigeria (AUN) celebrated its third anniversary on August 25 with an award ceremony. The occasion recognized outstanding achievements among the first group of 24, all of whom are on fully funded scholarships. Having escaped Boko Haram captivity, they were brought to AUN in 2014.
AUN President Dr. Dawn Dekle and Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, Ms. Maryam Uwais, were among the special guests of honor at the ceremony.
Also called New Foundation School (NFS), the initiative was created in 2014 to cater specially for the kidnapped Chibok girls who braved an escape from the captivity of Boko Haram. Eight of the initial intake have graduated from the NFS and are enrolled in AUN to pursue their university education. Among them three are in the University’s pre-med program, Natural and Environmental Science, and two in Accounting. The rest are studying Law, Computer Science, and Journalism.
There were awards for a wide array of activities and achievements, among them the most punctual, best behaved, the most outgoing, and the best public speaker. For athletics, there were awards for students in specific skills, as well as the overall best athletic participant. In the academics category, there was an award for the best student in every subject in both the intermediate and the advanced classes.
“I took special care looking at everything you have done, and I couldn’t be more proud,” said President Dekle in her opening remarks. “You really do live out our virtues of excellence, integrity, and service.”
The President said also that she would continue to work with the girls and to make the word “Chibok” become synonymous with positive virtues–with courage, integrity and knowledge. “This year, I want you to work with me and everyone in this room to make Chibok the latest word in the Oxford English Dictionary. Do you remember when I said we are going to make it something else besides a village? C-Character, H-Honesty, I-Intelligence, B-Bravery, O-Openness, and K-Kindness.”
President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Adviser, Ms. Uwais noted that her invitation was an opportunity to really get to know how AUN is transforming the girls. “I am delighted to be here. Moreover, I am very inspired by what I have seen….This is just an awesome experience for me….This is really a worthwhile endeavor and I am very hopeful that this is just the beginning for all of you….You have come this far and you are going to go much farther because you all have some steel in you.”
Ms. Uwais said through the empowerment that they receive at AUN the students would go on to do great things in life. She charged the young women to remain focused in their studies.
“Even though what happened to you should not have happened to anybody, I am a firm believer in ‘everything-happens-for-a-purpose’… What has happened is that a vast opportunity has been created for you all here. I expect that you will take advantage of it and be true to yourself and your faith. And just reach out for the stars.”
Assistant VP of Community Engagement Reginald Braggs, who coordinates NFS, told those assembled: “This is always the special evening for us. We highlight our students and all of the things that they have done in the last year academically, socially, and athletically.”
Mr. Braggs noted that AUN, being a Development University, felt obligated to do something about the tragedy that had befallen the kidnapped girls. “…We offered these students the opportunity to turn tragedy into triumph.”
NFS grouped the students on different scholastic levels–basic, intermediate, and advanced– starting with English Language, Mathematics, General Knowledge, and Spelling. “[Five] more courses were then added and it became an eight-subject program. They needed to get into a pipeline towards their dream,” Mr. Braggs said.
Mr. Braggs said that the students also participated in a variety of social activities, “Because we really want them to have an overall general type of education, not only focused on academics but also on activities such as basketball, bike riding, art class, game night, movie night, karaoke night, spelling bee contest, and music class.”
NFS Administrator, Jimoh Abubakar, said the program is transforming the young women. “The NFS is a highly organized group of intellectuals, saddled with the responsibility of teaching, nurturing, loving, mentoring, and perfecting the young ladies into a set of confident, academically sound, behaviorally upright, athletically fit, and active women capable of developing themselves and the society at large.”
There was also an NFS Supporters’ Award for the various contributions made by US billionaire investor, Robert Smith, former AUN President and initiator of the program, Dr. Margee Ensign, and others. AUN Founder, HE Atiku Abubakar GCON, was acknowledged for his generosity and commitment to providing quality education to the Chibok girls as well as thousands of other vulnerable out-of-school boys and girls in the Northeast region.