From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, has attributed the inability of many of the rescued Chibok schoolgirls to express themselves in good English to the poor state of education in the state prior to the advent of  his administration.

Governor Shettima, who formally opened up on the concerns expressed by many Nigerians over the girls’ poor command of English, insisted that the girls deserved ovation for even trying at all.

Making reference to the statistics from the World Bank in partnership with European Union and the Presidency, Shettima revealed that the activities of the Boko Haram insurgency had widowed no fewer than 54,911 women and rendered 52,311 children orphans, noting that the unofficial figure may be higher.

“The truth is that we either take care of these orphans or ten to 15 years from now, they will be the monsters that will drive us out of this land,” he said.

He spoke in Abuja, yesterday, at a ceremony organised by a feminine rights advocacy group, Girl Child Concerns, to celebrate the graduation of 42 Chibok girls and 31 indigent girls drawn from Kaduna, Plateau and Borno states.

The 42 girls were among the 57 who escaped, hours after their abduction.       

In April 2014, Boko Haram had abducted 276 girls from an all female public secondary school in Chibok. Of the figure, 57 escaped leaving 219 missing. Of the 219, 106 are back, while 113 remain missing.

Defending the girls, he said: “You must have heard some of these girls speak. It is often said that it is only those who have been in the deepest valley that would appreciate when they are on top the mountain.

“If we knew where they were coming from, they deserve a standing ovation,” Shettima said amidst cheers.

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He added that education was at a dismal state as at the time he assumed office, emphasising that only N20 million was spent on feeding per month for 76 secondary schools.

“Then, I went to Government Girls Secondary School, Maiduguri, with a student population of 2,500. I asked the principal how much they were getting for feeding and she said N1.2 million per month. I did a breakdown and it came to N5 per student, per meal, discounting leakages and N5 cannot even buy a sachet of water,” he said.

Shettima said while the school had no perimeter fence, hostels meant for 20 students had over 120 crammed together.

“And guess what? The school had only two maiguards (security men). In the evening, sugar daddies lurked around, wreaking the lives of these students.”

He said Boko Haram had given rise to at least 24, 900 widows and over 54, 000 orphans, stressing that if the authorities in north Nigeria refused to take care of this vulnerable population, they could be breeding a more ferocious band of future terrorists.

“For us in northern Nigeria, we have no option than to embrace western education,” he advised.

Similarly, the Board chairperson of the Girl Child Concerns, Dr Mairo Mandara, lamented that the educational advancement of girls in the north had been greatly constrained by a combination of economic, social and cultural factors.

According to her; “it was difficult getting a school for them at the time we took custody of these girls. Schools refused to accept those students out of fear of the consequences that could follow if it is discovered that the girls were in the school.

“In one school, some parents threatened to withdraw their children if we were offered admission. Bethel International Christian Academy, Jos and Ulul Albab Islamic School Katsina gave us succour by not only giving admission to the girls but also created special remedial classes to get the girls up to speed to be able to catch up with others,” she noted.