While controversies still hover around the horrific details of 300 Nigerian girls who were taken hostage around 18 months ago from Chibok Government Girls Secondary School by Islamic terrorists, it is claimed that there’s still some struggle to get back the remaining girls.
p class=”entry”>The heartbreaking news that the Islamist militant group Boko Haram had taken these girls simply because they had the nerve to attend school, started the social media campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, in an attempt to secure their return.
Only slightly more than 50 of these 300 girls have managed to escape the clutches of the terrorists and the impetus started to get them back appears to have slowed down, according to the Atlanta Black Star.
However, one man who has not forgotten the plight of the terrified young girls and is prepared to do something to help those who have escaped, is none other than billionaire Robert F. Smith, the second-richest African-American in the world, according to Forbes.
Smith is also founder, chairman and chief executive of Vista Equity Partners and has now set up a fund to pay for 21 girls, who were fortunate enough to have escaped Boko Haram and had the guts to enroll in scholarships at the American University of Nigeria (AUN).
“I was driving two of my own children to school, and it just hit [me] as a parent,” Smith told The Guardian. “And then the scale of Chibok. Even if it was just two or three, it’s a tragedy, but 300?”
According to the Education Policy and Data Center, female secondary school net attendance rate is only 29 percent in comparison to a national average of 53 percent in northern Nigeria. Since the 300 girls were initially targeted for attending school and the 21 escapees have since enrolled in AUN, you can appreciate the enormous risk these brave girls are facing.
Dr. Margee Ensign, vice chancellor of AUN, said in April this year that about 46 other Chibok girls who escaped the clutches of the terrorists, wanted to attend the school, but there were no funds to pay for their education. He hoped that funds could be raised from the university’s foundation, but Smith has come heroically to their aid.
“He said, ‘I’ll cover their expenses for as long as they needed it,’” Ensign said of Smith’s offer to pay school fees and expenses of all 21 girls. “And then – it was just incredible – he basically said, see if you can find the rest of the escaped girls, and we’ll help them too,” he added. “We’ve got the Black Lives Matter campaign going on in the U.S. at the moment, and these girls matter too,” Smith said. “Their lives matter not just because of the events that happened, but just because their lives matter.”
This isn’t the first act of kindness the billionaire African-American has done for others in need since he set up the privately owned organization, the Zoëlimax Foundation. The aim of the foundation is to enable those less fortunate to realize their full potential by providing the necessary funding or resources.
The Foundation is trying to alleviate rural poverty in Nicaragua and improve understanding through cultural exchange in one of their projects named “Viviendas Leon.” Another program, “Teach With Africa,” aims to bring educators to South Africa to teach and learn with the students, which will hopefully empower both students and teachers alike.
“Since I came to this school… I have full confidence now that I can express myself everywhere I go,” Mary, an escapee, told The Guardian. “I never thought for once in my life that I will be in this kind of environment. I feel much better because of the love and care shown by everyone.”
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