Editorial: Chibok girls’ graduation shows the importance of educational opportunities

10 May 2022

Congratulations are due to Lydia Pogu and Joy Bishara, two of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls who have recently completed their masters degrees in the United States.

The two cousins were among the 276 schoolgirls abducted in 2014 by the Islamist group known as Boko Haram. Around 160 have subsequently escaped.

Boko Haram can be loosely translated as “education is forbidden”, referring to modern, Western-style education.

Chibok girls Joy Bishara, left, and Lydia Pogu at their high school graduation in 2017 [Image credit: Ota News]

Lydia also says that her abductors told her “that school is a taboo for women and warned us that if we go back to school, they will come for us”.

Boko Haram’s extremist interpretation is shared by other Islamist groups, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, which in March 2022 closed girls’ high schools just hours after they re-opened for the first time since the Taliban takeover seven months previously. 

Boko Haram’s opposition makes the success of Lydia and Joy all the more impressive.

Originally, says Lydia, she never wanted to return to school. “I personally decided I was not going to go back to school anymore,” she explained, “because they [Boko Haram] advised us that wherever we went, they were going to find us.”

Yet with help from a US-based charity, Lydia and Joy were able to study in the US, graduating first with high school diplomas from Canyonville Christian Academy, then with undergraduate degrees from Southeastern University, then masters degrees from the same institution.

Now the two women want to use their skills to help other victims of injustice and oppression.

Lydia and Joy’s story demonstrates the importance of providing educational opportunities to the persecuted and marginalised – something very dear to Barnabas Fund.

Through our Living Streams school places sponsorship programme and other educational projects, we support 120 schools in Pakistan, providing a Christian education for more than 11,000 Christian children.   

We also fund adult education, such as adult literacy classes in Senegal which have allowed many believers there to read the Word of God for themselves and thereby deepen their Christian faith, and similar adult literacy classes for brick-kiln families in Pakistan.  

Through the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life, including The Shepherd’s Academy, we are providing pastoral and theological training opportunities – from short courses to doctoral degrees – to grassroots church leaders from 23 different countries.

May the Lord continue to use education to bless individual believers and build His Church across the world.

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