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Abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls: ‘Attacks unacceptable, schools should never be a place of fear’

Save the Children appeals for the immediate release of up to 450 kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria’s Zamfara State

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Abuja, 26 February 2021 - Save the Children is horrified by reports that up to 450 schoolgirls have been abducted from a school in Nigeria’s Zamfara state. The aid organisation is appealing for their immediate release and for any perpetrators to be held to account.

Sadly, this is only the latest in a series of abductions in the region, the organisation said.

In recent months, hundreds of children in Nigeria have gone through the trauma of being abducted by armed groups. This includes 27 students who were kidnapped earlier this month in Niger state, and some 300 schoolboys who were abducted in Katsina in the country’s northwest in December.  

Save the Children warns that being kidnapped, witnessing kidnappings, experiencing school attacks, and being forced to flee and take refuge from armed groups are extremely traumatizing events for young children and adolescents.

Save the Children is deeply concerned about the protection of children in the places that should be the safest for them. Schools have been targeted by armed groups for some time. 

Mercy Gichuhi, Nigeria Country Director for Save the Children, said:

“We are deeply concerned about the abduction of these girls from the Government Girls Secondary School by suspected armed groups this morning. Their safety and well-being remain our primary concern, and our hearts go out to them and their families.

It is unacceptable that attacks on schools and students has become a recurring scenario inNorthern Nigeria. Schools are supposed to be safe places for children to play, learn, realise and release their full potential. Instead, they are being turned into places of fear.”  

“We condemn any attacks on schools, students and teachers. Children have the right to an undisturbed education in a safe environment.

“These attacks and abductions can cause severe psychological trauma to children, and create the risk  that they will never return to school because they or their parents will think it’s too dangerous.

The children and their parents must be given adequate support for a swift return to normal life, and those who are still missing must be found as soon as possible. Every day spent outside their community is one too many.

“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.”

Nigeria is set to host the 4th International Conference on Safe Schools in 2021 and is one of the first African countries to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, a political commitment to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities from the worst effects of armed conflict.

Save the Children urges the Nigerian Government to ensure that children have access to safe, quality and uninterrupted education at all levels.