It’s a beautiful sunny morning in early April. The sun is streaming through the window of my car creating a dappled effect of light and shade on the dashboard, the car is full of happy chatting and giggles as I prepare to drop my three youngest children to school. A quick kiss and hug from my son and my two daughters before they bounce off in to school and I am off – rushing to make it to university for my Tuesday morning classes.
Life is busy but good. As I drive I switch on the radio to catch the latest news headlines. What greets my ears is shocking. The news that morning focused on the kidnapping of 276 teenage girls from an all-girls government secondary school in northeast Nigeria by a group of terrorists know as Boko Haram. Up to that point I had never even heard of Boko Haram.
I remember listening as the reporter explained that the chances of getting the girls back were slim, attacks on schools and kidnapping of students was not an unusual occurrence and that these young girls had been singled out simply because they had wanted to learn. I could feel anger and disbelief consume me. Boka Haram was sending a message to all young girls and their families: ‘educate your girls at your peril’.
When did educating girls become such a threat? Malala a case in point. I thought of our own three precious girls all so happy in their schools, among their friends, listening, learning, playing and out thought of the parents of those 276 young students. What unimaginable grief had been visited upon them by the actions of madmen?
I also remember thinking how lucky I am. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn and attend college as a young woman but I was now in the exceptionally lucky position to be able to return to university – as a mature student – to complete a long held dream to study Journalism, already a wife, mother of four and entrepreneur. I felt guilty at the educational blessings bestowed on me simply because I was born in Ireland, a country which encourages education and learning for all, regardless of gender. These girls did not even get the chance to finish their secondary school education never mind attend university. Their full potential stunted at the hands of terrorists.
When Senator Fidelma Healy Eames invited me to join her in supporting the Irish #UpForSchool campaign petition I felt, as a mother of three daughters, I had an obligation to get involved. The aim of the #UpForSchool campaign is to put pressure on world leaders to realise the United Nations Millennium Development Goal to get all children into school and learning by 2015. At present it is estimated that 58 million children world-wide are denied the right to go to school.
While we may have our problems, economic and otherwise, in Ireland and have underfunding in our educations system, overcrowded classrooms and reduced resources, our children are able to go to school safely. Our girls are supported and encouraged to reach their full human potential.
I am asking all Irish people, but in particular Irish students, to sign the Irish #UpForSchool petition and to join with the 1.5 million others from around the world who have already pledged their support. We have an obligation to help these young Nigerian girls and to help and support all children all over the world who suffer so much in order to simply go to school.
You can sign the Irish Up for School petition on-line http://www.aworldatschool.org/upforschool/upforschool-upforlearning-join-the-irish-campaign.
Or visit the Irish UpForSchool Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/upforschoolireland
Caroline Duggan is Marketing Communications Manager for Education Matters and Volunteer Campaign Coordinator for the Irish #UpForSchool campaign.