UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for increased efforts to safeguard schools and educational facilities in Nigeria.
Welcoming the release of some of the children who were abducted from a secondary school in Katsina State, Nigeria, on December 11, Secretary-General Guterres reiterated the solidarity and commitment of the United Nations to supporting the government and people of Nigeria in their fight against terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime.
The Secretary-General Guterres commended the swift action taken by the Nigerian authorities to rescue the children and called for the immediate and unconditional release of those who remain abducted.
He stressed the importance that the released children and their families are provided with the necessary health and psychosocial support.
The Associated Press reports that, bleary, barefoot, apparently numbed by a week of captivity, more than 300 Nigerian schoolboys, freed after being kidnapped in an attack on their school, were welcomed by the governor of Katsina state and Nigeria’s president on Friday.
Reunions with their parents began late in the day.
“Since this incident happened I have not been able to sleep, but now I can sleep,” said Salisu Kankara, a parent of one of the schoolboys who was released.
The relatively quick release of the more than 330 boys took place after a prompt response by the government, which appears to have learned from earlier mass school abductions, especially of the Chibok schoolgirls, that did not have such a happy result.
The students’ nightmare began on the night of December 11 when they were seized by men armed with AK-47 rifles from the all-boys government Science Secondary School in Kankara village in Katsina state in northwestern Nigeria.
They were marched through a forest and forced to lie in the dirt amid gun battles between their captors and the troops pursuing them.
The boys described walking through the bush and different forests, stopping during the days and walking at night without shoes, stepping over thorns and stones.
Nigeria’s Boko Haram jihadist rebels claimed responsibility for the abduction, saying they attacked the school because they believe Western education is un-Islamic.
As the boys’ parents anxiously awaited any news, many in Nigeria and around the world were bracing for a long, drawn-out hostage situation. Many feared the boys would be forced to become child soldiers for Boko Haram.
But the kidnapping reached an unexpectedly satisfactory climax when Katsina Governor Aminu Bella Masari announced the release of 344 boys late Thursday night.