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by Craig Layne
This week at a special forum on Capitol Hill marking the fifth anniversary of the kidnapping in Nigeria of hundreds of Chibok schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram, Dickinson College President Margee Ensign spoke before members of Congress. “Research from around the world shows us that educating girls and women is the single most important intervention any country can make. When girls and women have access to education and income, societies become healthier: Children live longer, economies grow faster and governments are less corrupt.”
Ensign was part of a panel organized by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of Florida, who has arduously engaged her congressional colleagues to ensure that the Chibok girls are never forgotten and to raise awareness of the havoc that Boko Haram continues to wreak in Nigeria.
“We are being successful in this campaign,” explained Wilson. “I’ve been to Nigeria three times, and I know the ‘Bring Back our Girls’ movement is moving forward and won’t stop until every one of these girls has been found.”
In addition to remembering those still being held captive, Wilson wanted to celebrate the efforts of the former Chibok girls, now young women, who are rebuilding their lives and planning their futures.
Ensign shared information about Dickinson’s Bridge Program, which she established last year to provide educational opportunity to young people from regions of the world experiencing conflict and natural disasters—and for whom higher education would otherwise be impossible.
Members of the Dickinson community participate in a forum in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carl Socolow ’77.
Joining Ensign on the panel was Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob, a visiting international scholar at Dickinson, and Patience Bulus, who is enrolled in the Bridge Program. Bulus managed to escape her Boko Haram captors and shared parts of her story last year with The Philadelphia Inquirer. She is now focused on her education and bringing attention to the more than 100 Nigerian women who remain missing.
“The Bridge Program is preparing me to reach my goals, and I can already see a bright future ahead,” said Bulus. “I am so grateful for the opportunity I have been given. I hope and pray that people fleeing violence in their countries are given similar opportunities. There have been so many people who have spoken on behalf of the Chibok girls, I hope the world does not forget about those that are still in captivity and many other women out there whose names and faces we do not know.”
“Today, as we hear Patience’s story, let’s imagine what the world would look like if all girls and women had access to education,” said Ensign. “I call on the members of Congress to ensure that education programs for girls around the world are expanded. And I urge everyone to consider bringing more young people to America to study in programs like our Dickinson bridge program. In a time of great uncertainty in the world, one thing that we can be sure of is that education makes the world more peaceful and just.”
Published April 10, 2019