Boko Haram Escapees to Be Enrolled at Dickinson

Drew Kaplan '20, Opinion Editor

Four Nigerian women who escaped from Boko Haram will be enrolled at Dickinson College in the upcoming year. They will join the 295 other international students enrolled at the college.

According to a press release by the college, the women were part of a group of more than 270 women who were kidnapped by the terrorist organization in 2014, after the group entered the village of Chibok in Nigeria, where many of the women attended school.

Their Dickinson tuition will be covered by the “Murtala Muhammed Foundation and the Nigerian government’s Victim Support Fund.”

According to President Margee Ensign, the women are the first participants of a Bridge program, which will bring out students to campus who were affected by natural disasters or conflict.

“I am so excited to welcome these students to Dickinson as the first members of our Bridge program…These women are inspiring and full of hope for a promising future,” she explained. “My hope is that we can get additional funding to allow us to serve other young people who have been affected by conflict or natural disasters.”

The four women will begin study at Dickinson College “as part of a new college-preparation initiative at Dickinson that seeks to provide educational opportunity to young people from regions of the world experiencing conflict and natural disasters—and for whom higher education would otherwise be impossible,” according to a press release by the college.

In the press release, Ensign described the women as “incredibly motivated and hardworking.” She furthered that “these young women had very limited prospects where they lived,” but with their degrees, they will be able “become doctors, lawyers and other professionals so desperately needed” in Nigeria, and be able to help others. “After graduation, I hope these women return to their countries to engage in conflict resolution, peace building, women’s empowerment, education and economic development,” added Ensign.

The women were previously enrolled at the American University of Nigeria (AUN), where President Ensign had previously served as president. At AUN they, with their parents’ permission, were “enrolled in college prep courses especially designed for them and received psychological counseling and support.” Their tuition at the AUN was covered by an unnamed American donor.

Before arriving at Dickinson, the four women attended Bronx Community College of the City University of New York.

“The right to an excellent education should be that of every Nigerian child and I am confident that a Dickinson education will prepare the young ladies to take their rightful place in the world,” wrote CEO of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation Aisha Muhammed-Ovebode in the press release.

Boko Haram, the name of which translated means “western education is a sin,” captured the women on April 14, 2014. Some women from the group died in captivity, while others were released after negotiations between the organization and the Nigerian government. However, 112 women remain missing, and are, according to the release, “intensely sought by the Nigerian government, aided by other countries, including the United States.” The group is known as the “Chibok Girls” and were the center of the “#bringbackourgirls social media movement.” Boko Haram has “has killed thousands of people, looted towns and destroyed schools,” and employed captured women as “suicide bombers to blow themselves up in crowded public spaces.”

“People need education, opportunity and hope —and that’s what we are providing,” said Ensign.