Sixteen-year-old Salma is among 1.5 million children who have been forced from their homes in the Lake Chad Basin over the past seven years because of Boko Haram. Now, with support from Plan International, she’s taking her life back and receiving an education.
She fled with her family in 2012 after Boko Haram attacked her local market, killing and injuring many, and razing homes. After a few days, they ended up in the northeastern town of Madagali, but within weeks Boko Haram struck again.
This time, Salma’s older brother was killed for refusing to join the insurgents.
“People were slaughtered and houses burned down,” she said. “It was a horrific and traumatic experience.”
With the remainder of her family of seven, Salma fled on foot overnight, walking for five hours to escape the attacks. They slept on the side of the road before travelling by vehicle 150 kilometers north to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, the next day.
For the next five years, the family settled in Bulumkutu community, alongside other families who had been forced to flee their homes. Salma missed out on several years of school as her parents, having lost their livelihoods due to insecurity and displacement, became too poor to pay their bills like school fees.
As the oldest girl, Salma stayed at home taking care of her younger siblings and helping her mother to make and sell traditional Nigerian doughnuts in the local market.
“I was very sad not to be in school,” she says.
Plan is implementing emergency education and food security programming in Bulumkutu, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, to enable children and adolescents like Salma to claim their right to learn.
Plan is providing spaces for children to be children, distributing free school materials, and training head teachers in an effort to encourage communities to ensure girls and boys are in school.
Vocational training is also being instituted in various households. Salma’s mother received a grinding machine that has boosted the productivity of her bakery business, allowing Salma to return to school.
She hopes to become a nurse one day.
“I am so happy to return to school,” she said. “I’d love to go back to my hometown when peace returns. There is nowhere like home.”