'Tragedy into Triumph'

Margee Ensign

Margee Ensign

Program Started by President Margee Ensign Now an Educational Haven for Escaped Boko Haram Refugees

A program established in Nigeria by Dickinson President Margee Ensign today welcomed more than 100 young women who until recently had been held captive by the terrorist group Boko Haram. Ensign started the New Foundation School (NFS) in 2014 at the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola where she served as president during the height of Boko Haram’s terrorist insurgency.

Reacting to the news of the women’s safe arrival, Ensign said, “I’m so proud of these young women. Their resiliency and hope are inspiring to me and to the world. When the kidnappings occurred, the people of AUN and Yola came together to turn tragedy into triumph. This represents the amazing things communities can achieve when they work together toward a shared mission. The leadership team at AUN should be credited for their tenacious work on behalf of the Chibok women. My heart goes out to those still held captive. I hope and pray that their safe release comes soon.”

In April 2014, Boko Haram militants kidnapped nearly 300 female students from the Nigerian town of Chibok, capturing with it world attention. Fifty-eight of these women escaped within days of their capture. Ensign subsequently brought 24 women to AUN on full scholarships.

“It was an overwhelming experience to see these young women reunited with the 24 women we have been educating for three years,” said Dawn Dekle, current AUN president. “There were hugs, tears, joy and screams today. AUN made history, and it was Margee Ensign’s moral courage that allowed it to happen. Her legacy continues.”

Ensign led AUN as it faced enormous security challenges from the Boko Haram uprising. She also founded and chaired the Adamawa Peace Initiative (API), a Yola-based group of civic and religious leaders that has successfully promoted peace in the area through education, empowerment and community development. At the height of the crisis, the AUN-led API fed 300,000 refugees who fled to Yola to escape the brutality of Boko Haram. Ensign’s work has been recognized internationally, including a feature in the Smithsonian magazine story, “Escape From Boko Haram,” which lauded Ensign as a “fearless American educator.” Under her leadership, AUN was awarded in 2017 the prestigious Peace Now award by the international organization of the same name.

Watch Ensign discuss this news during a recent interview with 21 CBS News, WHP Harrisburg: 

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Published September 15, 2017