A Dapchi schoolgirl narrates how the abduction of 110 occurred. A Boko Haram commander grabbed her hijab as she fled.
“When we heard the gunshots, all the students ran to the school gate. When we reached the school gate and were trying to open it, two vehicles parked in front of it”, Usman tells Pulse in an exclusive chat in her school compound.
On the chalkboard in her classroom, the words “the day I will never forget in my life; 19 Feb 2018,” are scrawled in bold letters.
The school itself is deserted. It's been that way since the mass abduction, a teacher mutters to Pulse.
The beds in the hostel still have the sheets of February 19, the plates in the school dining have been left the same way and in the distance, a bird chirps inconsolably.
Dapchi town itself wears a ghost look these days. A couple of men show us round the school while watching their backs in trepidation.
The air around Dapchi is dry. The atmosphere on the streets is tense.
“When we saw the vehicles parked before us, we jumped over the school fence. About half of the students were standing outside. Some of us ran towards the vehicles believing it was the police”, Usman continued, her eyes welling up with tears and palpable grief.
Usman says a Boko Haram commander grabbed her hijab as she made to flee.
“After seeing others go in that direction, I went in that direction too. When I saw him, I remembered that Boko Haram members wear turbans wrapped around their faces so I exclaimed and withdrew.
"I was about to escape when one of them grabbed my hijab. I pulled it off and managed to escape. I ran back to the hostel but they followed us inside with their vehicle. But some of us ran to the bush and managed to escape”, she says in an emotion laden voice.
A teacher at the school says the terrorists arrived during prayers.
“When we were praying, they just came. So we heard them shooting in the town. Everyone was sad because of the fear and shooting.
“So we were running here and there but they didn’t kill anyone. Their aim I think was to capture the children and they got some of them which they left with”.
Another staff who preferred that his name be left out of this story, reels out the names of the missing girls from a sheet of paper spread before him; whilst sat on a mat with other teachers and parents crest-fallen behind him.
“…She was in JS3. You’ll see her phone number. My child has been abducted. She was named Aisha Kachalla. She was in SS2C. Behind me here is Garba Tella.
“His daughter’s name is Zainab Abubakar and she was abducted too.
“Habiba Musa Jakana. She was in SS3 and she was 20 years old. If you see her, she is crippled”, he continues, his voice trailing off.
Another staff at the school says Boko Haram members who led the operation pretended they were there to help the girls; a deception that led to more girls ending up in their arms and trucks.
“They took so many students from the hostels. The leaders were shouting ‘come let us help you”’.
He adds that there’s still no security in the school.
“We don’t have any security for such situations. In order to avoid future occurrence, I’m pleading with the government to provide security because the moment the government says the school should be reopened, the parents will not allow their children to come because everyone is now thinking that we are not safe.
“You have gone round the school. Have you seen any security men? No. We are now just living on our own”.
The Dapchi kidnap mirrors the abduction of 276 girls from a school in Chibok on April 14, 2014.
President Muhammadu Buhari says he won’t rest until the abducted schoolgirls of Dapchi and Chibok return to their homes.
“There will be no rest till the last girl, whether from Chibok and Dapchi, is released. The girls, like all our citizens, must enjoy unhindered freedom and pursue their legitimate aspirations.
"The Dapchi and Chibok students are our girls and must enjoy our protection. They must live to achieve their individual ambitions, to be great women of tomorrow. It is our duty to protect them.
"We are determined to restore peace to all part of the country - from the West to the East; North to the South”, the President said when he visited Dapchi on March 14, 2018.