Saa is one of the 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014. To commemorate the one-year anniversary, she shared her experience with press and supporters while visiting Los Angeles, and then later in Washington D.C. where she visited the U.S. Congress. Many people along the way asked how they could help. Here are links to organizations that support Saa and some of the other girls who escaped.
Saa is not my real name. I only use it for protection. I am one of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram on April 14th of last year. This is my story.
I attended a boarding school because staying at home was too dangerous.
At first Boko Haram would kill only the Christian men. They would tell the woman to go and get married but they would kill the men. Then Boko Haram started killing the Muslims who would not fight the jihad with them.
One person in each village would go house by house and tell the Boko Haram which houses were filled with Christians and which ones were filled with Muslims. Then they would come at night when everyone was asleep and kill the Christians.
Boko Haram attacked my middle school when I was in the government girls secondary school Bama. That was the first time. I crawled out a window in the back of the school. That is why I fled the town.
I stopped going to school after that for awhile because I was so scared. But my dad used to be a teacher and is a pastor now and my parents are very supportive of my education. I knew I must try again.
The second attack was a year ago on April 14th at my boarding school in Chibok.
The girls slept in the dormitory but it was just a day school for the boys. The teachers slept in the staff area. We were studying for our final exams in chemistry.
The week before was vacation and I had gone to visit my aunt in a near-by village.
At about 11:30 at night, my friend woke me up and said: “Do you hear that?” We then heard gunfire. We got out of bed. We had a little money so we grabbed it and put it her sock. We did not have time to grab anything else. We were only wearing pajamas.
We heard motorbikes and thought it was our teachers coming. We then saw men in military uniform and thought they were soldiers there to protect us.
The men gathered us together and asked us questions: what we were doing there, why we were not married, why we were in school. We knew then that it was Boko Haram.
The men asked us where the food was stored and asked us where the block-making machine was. We did not know.
There were many vehicles and motorbikes.
At first they marched us away on foot. Then they herded us to a big long truck. We had to first step onto a small car and then into the back of the truck. It was filled with sacks of grain and we sat on top. We were so scared. The men told us that if we didn’t get in they would shoot us.
There were about 50 of us in the back of the truck.
There were three remaining girls standing outside the truck but no more space for them to sit. Boko Haram asked them if they were Christian or Muslim. One girl said she was Muslim and she was. The next girl said she was Muslim but she was not. She was Christian. And the last one said she was a Christian and one of the soldiers decided to kill her. We were so frightened. Then the men let them go.
Boko Haram set everything on fire before we left. The buildings burned. All our books and clothes burned.
We drove in the dark through the forest. It was a bumpy road. There was a car in back of us and vehicles in front of us.
Some girls began to jump from the truck. I thought I should jump too. My father did not know where I was. My family did not know how to reach me. Boko Haram told us they would shoot us if we tried to escape but I thought I must jump.
One of my friends said she would jump with me and we began to slide over the sacks to a spot where we could jump.
Some girls were put inside cars. Those girls never had the chance to jump. They never had the chance to escape.
I watched as other girls jumped. Some jumped alone and disappeared into the forest. Others jumped with a friend and then ran away. Boko Haram told us they would shoot us if we tried to escape but I told my friend that I would rather die and let my parents have a corpse to bury than for me to go with Boko Haram. I had to find a way to get home no matter what.
We waited until there was more space between the truck and car behind us. I jumped and hid in the forest. Then my friend jumped but she injured her leg in the fall. She couldn’t walk so I helped carry her. When I got tired she crawled on her tummy.
We sat under a tree. I told her: don’t cry. God will help us. He will help us find a way home.
We sat there all night. When the sun came up I decided that I must find help. My friend couldn’t walk so I told her to stay there. I will go and find help.
In the forest I found a shepherd and his family. He was Muslim man. He and his wife were busy packing their belongings.
I asked for help but he said he would not help us. I tried to convince him because if he didn’t help us, I didn’t know who else could. Then he decided to help and he carried my friend on his bicycle to a village near the forest.
Then a man in that village took us home on his motorcycle.
When we got to my friend’s house, her family was crying. They were ready to take her to a hospital.
The driver and I then drove 20 more minutes to my house.
My family was all there. Everyone was crying. My mother was crying. My neighbors were there too. Everyone was so happy.
My friend was given a scholarship to go to school outside Nigeria but she said she wouldn’t go unless I got one too. That was because I helped save her life.
Now I am studying in a safe place. My parents miss me but they always encouraged me to go to school.
My favorite subjects are life sciences and math. I want to study medicine. I would like to get a scholarship to go to university in the United States because going to school in Nigeria is not safe.
Since the kidnapping, Boko Haram attacked the town where my family lives. My mum and two of my brothers survived because they hid in the bush. My mother would make a circle in the dirt with sliced onion to protect them from snakes. Sometimes at night she snuck into town to get food.
My mum has now moved to safety. But my family are now refugees. My mother is sick too. Maybe from hiding in the forest all that time.
And the Boko Haram insurgency continues. Many people have left their homes to and look for a safe place to live. My brother’s baby daughter died in the forest where they were hiding. And the week before this anniversary I learned that two of my uncles were killed by Boko Haram.
I am asking people around the world to help bring back the other girls. To not wait, to have hope and to do something now.