Following several months of rehabilitation and integration programme extended to the 106 rescued Chibok School girls, plans are in top gear to get them absorbed by the American University of Nigeria (AUN) Yola in the next academic session in September.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Aisha Alhassan stated this during a meeting/lunch with the rescued Chibok girls and their parents in Abuja on Saturday.
She added that the Federal Government is also intensifying efforts to release the remaining Chibok girls, appealing to the sect to explore dialogue to address whatever grievances they have against Nigeria instead of venting their anger on innocent school children.
According to Alhassan, the federal government has concluded plans with the AUN to offer scholarship to the 21 Chibok girls earlier released but had to start fresh negotiations so that all the 106 released girls will get equal opportunity to study under the same environment where they can maximize their potentials.
The minister also stated that four of the girls were rescued with children but denied that none of them was pregnant, saying that none of the girls was diagnosed with HIV.
She said, ” The American University since the release of the 21 girls, just like other development partners in the country, has indicated interest in supporting the girls and indeed, some of them are supporting even the programme that we are doing, like the UN women, UNFPA, UNICEF, the UN systems are supporting government in this rehabilitation programme.
“Other people have also indicate interest that they are going to support the education of the girls just like American university has done. From the time the 21 came they indicated interest in supporting the girls in their education when they finish this programme.
“They have been preparing just for the 21 but we are talking to see how the others can be accommodated not necessarily by them bearing the cost or anything because we have many people that want to support the education of the girls. Government can support the education of the girls and has indeed promised and even the government alone without the help of these people can send these girls to school”.
She further revealed that 14 of the girls who jumped out of the Book Haram truck while they were being taken into captivity four years ago are already enjoying scholarship at various grades in the AUN.
The minister explained that government does not want to take the easier option which is negotiate for their admission in different Institution, adding that a lot of international organizations and donor agencies have expressed willingness to cater for the education of the children.
She however disclosed that government is more disposed with AUN because the university has shown great commitment and also has facilities for foundation education curriculum where the girls will spend some period so as to dust up their academic appetite.
According to her, the girls have overcome their initial psychological trauma with the help of 25 teachers, 4 mentors, 6 psycho-social therapists, 2 doctors and 2 nurses, adding that they have also undergone rigorous psycho-social and religious rehabilitation and are now ready to face the world and their education.
The minister also debunked the allegations that the Chibok parents were disconnected from their children and were not allowed to see them just as she denied that none of the girls were under obligation to stay in the rehabilitation camp, insisting that those who were peddling the rumour do not mean well for the children.
In a media chat with journalists, Alhassan stated that all the girls are physically fit, saying that the last one who had a corrective surgery arising from the injuries she sustained when she was in the Boko Haram den has been discharged from the hospital.
She added that the girl is recuperating in the camp with her parents while an artificial limb has been ordered for the girl who came into the camp amputated.
She also stated that the school will assess them and place them in the appropriate classes according to the results of their placement examination test.
Throwing more light, the Assistant Vice President, Foundation Programme, AUN, Reginald Braggs, said that the university will do all it can to accommodate the remaining Chibok school girls but refrained from making any emphatic commitment.
She said, ” We have made plans to bring in the first 21 girls because that was what we first heard of in October last year. When I showed up the other day discussing with the Minister, initially we were focused on the 21 but the Minister said ‘well we have 82 others’ and she is right.
“So I will talk to the President of AUN and we are right now looking at the options and what we can do in partnership with the government, to see if we can bring all the girls to one place as the parents and the girls wishes so that we can start them in one foundation, move them all to the same academic level”.
Meanwhile some of the Chibok school girls thanked the government for the rehabilitation programme. They also confirmed that their parents were allowed to visit them and also declared readiness to go back to school.
Helen Musa, the leader of the first batch of 21 released girls said, “We have enjoyed here, we learn well, Mama Taraba (Hon. Minister) is taking care of us, we are so grateful for what she has done for us” adding that she wants to be a doctor.
Another Chibok girl, Hawa Tarka, the leader of the second set of 82 released girls said, “I will like study law if I am going to school. I am feeling good because my parents are allowed to come and visit us.”
The lunch was punctuated by musical interlude from the Chibok school girls choir group led by Gloria.
Others present at the lunch were the families of the abducted school girls, Chairman of the Parents Association Mr. A Yakubu, the leaders of Chibok pastors fellowship, and the Chief handler from the Ministry, Mrs Bulus, the DSS medical team and two of the Chibok girls who escaped from the truck but now students at the AUN.