In an intimate ceremony during a graduation thanksgiving at a church in Washington, human rights workers who sponsored the education of Chibok girls in the U.S. formally handed one of the girls, Debbie, back to her father.
Her father (name withheld for his safety as he still resides in northeast Nigeria) is visiting the U.S. for her graduation.
After a symbolic presentation of her diploma to international human rights lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe, Debbie answered questions on whether she purchased the diploma or worked hard to earn it. “I worked for it,” she declared.
Thereafter she presented the diploma to her dad who extolled her virtue in maintaining cultural norms of respect and fulfilling the Chibok rite of honouring her dad for helping achieve this milestone. He commended her hard work and faithfulness which he said he could always count on.
Mr. Ogebe then declared that Debbie owed nothing having met her obligations to study hard and complete her high school education while she in turn affirmed that the charity – Education Must Continue – owed Debbie nothing.
Mr. Ogebe reaffirmed the fatherhood of her parent over her and acknowledged her mum in absentia both of whom he attested had properly raised Debbie making the job of educating her easier for the organisation compared to others.
He reiterated that the parent had a say over the future direction of his daughter and should let EMC know how they may further assist her.
“The importance of this rite of passage is to ensure that the girls and their families understand that they have not lost their bonds, and they have input and process control. There is no assumption that she is gone for good or lost to America and therefore no more connected with her roots. Familial engagement is a critical component of our program ethos,” says Emmanuel Ogebe.
“This is why we have invested heavily in family visits. Each year, the Chibok girls have a chance to visit their families in Nigeria and family members have visited them in the U.S. One girl just returned from her third family visit to Nigeria in two and a half years just this week which is more than can be said for the 106 girls in Nigerian government custody.
“Unlike them, EMC girls are able to visit home and stay in their natural home ecosystem which is highly therapeutic for them. During the parental visits to the U.S., we evaluate and consult on next program steps. This is all the more needful now with the completion of this major phase of their lives,” he adds.
“Debbie and dad will over the next few days sign up afresh for future program services for her if they so wish as is our standard practice. This is critical because we found out last year that the government of Nigeria used fake signatories or impostors to falsely claim revocation of guardianship from us. Till this date most of the parents whose daughters were taken haven’t signed any such authorization. For limitation of liability, we have notified those families we are not responsible for what happens to their daughters under the auspices of the FGN.”
At the event, Mr. Ogebe commended the girls for their good morals and strength of character in addition to their work ethic which led to their obtaining diplomas where their colleagues, seeking an easy shortcut, failed. He recounted the painful day when the girls were informed they would have to repeat 11th grade and how today they have truly overcome.
On display at the reception were a series of awards obtained by Debbie over the course of her two years in an American high school. These included distinctions in Math, Geography, History, English and Bible as well as an Isaac Newton award in Physics (Redacted copies of the awards are provided for her security.)
At the end of the ceremony, the three girls currently in EMC’s US college program engaged the two recent high school grads in a tug-of-war contest to symbolically “pull them” into college.
“We are exceedingly grateful that these girls can be peer mentors and a support system for one another in addition to the wonderful host families comprised of lawyers, doctors and accountants,” says Emmanuel Ogebe. “Indeed, it took a village to raise a child and we gratefully acknowledge all the professionals who supported them with medical and other needs.”
“We are thankful that we did not receive one dime of funding from the Nigerian government so they can’t claim credit for this. Ironically the girls from our program who the govt took away and funded have no diploma today after 1 year. This is why God alone takes the glory especially when Nigeria’s Women Affairs minister claimed we didn’t put the girls in school. Most bizarre of all is the fact that out of the 106 Chibok girls in government custody, not a single girl is in school today,” he adds. “This is a classic David and Goliath epic and for this we are thankful.”