The first time I met Lawiza Zakariyyah was in late 2012. She was a skinny girl with plaintive eyes who had come to Lagos in search of qualitative education that could launch her from the backwaters of her village in Mubi, Adamawa to the bright spots of the world.
Lawiza claimed to have been educated up to JSS 3 before her sojourn to Lagos. Unfortunately, she could hardly speak or write passable English. She told me that her teachers in her former school in Adamawa State used Hausa and Arabic as the medium of instruction. While this may not have been a bad idea in itself; it, however, reduced the competitive edge the girl had.
But Lawiza’s zeal to acquire good education was not dampened. She asked her teachers questions in her smattering English; she courted the best students in her class who could help her grow; and she forced her aunt with whom she was staying in Lagos to her enrol her in a private English lesson. For the skinny girl from Adamawa State who is also adept at clothes making, Lawiza believe education was the key to a bright future.
Lawiza has the same dreams the Chibok girls have (I won’t use had). She only wants education. Like the Chibok girls, she has seen the naked terror of Boko Haram. And she wishes she had not experience such.
In late August 2014, my friend left her new home in Festac for Adamawa State to see her parents. Her aunt had begged her not to make the journey because of the activities of Boko Haram. But Lawiza missed her parents so much that the threats of the terror group amounted to nothing in her mind.
Alas! She should have stayed back in Lagos. While in her village, Boko Haram attacked the village. She told me that people were killed and girls were taken away by the marauders. She and her family were lucky to escape unscathed.
In the unfolding daylight of the following morning, Lawiza boarded a bus going to Lagos. But the bus had barely left car park before it ran, alongside others, into Boko Haram’s ambush. Again, Lawiza was fortunate to escape without a scratch. She eventually made the journey to Lagos on a truck conveying rams and goats.
Lawiza and I joked about her double lucky escapes. Her aunt vowed not to let her go to Adamawa again. And we laughed, again.
But in the afternoon of 29th October, 2014, Lawiza could not laugh. Beads of tears rolled down her face in torrents. She refused to stop crying until we were alone. She then told me some members of her family had been killed by members of Boko Haram at Mubi, Adamawa State earlier that day and she had just received the news. The same menacing marauders that nearly ended her dreams of acquiring education had killed them.
There are many girls in the north-eastern part of Nigeria who are not as fortunate as Lawiza. The Chibok girls have spent more 195 days in the belly of the beast. Even if they are rescued (I sincerely pray they come home alive, intact), the psychological trauma of what they must have gone through will trump Lawiza’s. In any case, their abduction will forever shape their lives.
Some school children are dead; their dreams buried with them. The beautiful futures they envisioned have been taken away from them. They were collateral damages in a needless, mindless orgy of violence.
Lawiza is lucky to still have life and the opportunity of being educated. I hope the 219 Chibok girls will have the same opportunity soonest. But what happens to those school children, especially girls, who were, and will not be so fortunate?