Pupils rally behind 223 Nigerian girls

EASTERN Cape girl pupils have added their voice to the global call for the return of nearly 300 schoolgirls who were abducted by an Islamic fundamentalist group in Nigeria last month.

Grahamstown's Victoria Girls' High School teamed up with Victoria Park Primary School pupils last week in a protest action against the mass abduction of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls that has touched a chord around the world.

The girls were abducted by Islamic militant Boko Haram last month, from the north-eastern town of Chibok, in Borno State and 223 of them are still missing.

To show their support for the global Bring Back Our Girls social activism campaign, 276 girls from the schools stood together on a field, holding up posters with the slogan "It Could Have Been Me" to highlight the plight of their Nigerian peers.

Head of publicity and marketing at VGHS Nadia Czeredrecki-Schmidt said their chosen slogan hits home as many of the abducted girls are of a similar age.

"Our school has pupils who are originally from Nigeria so it certainly hits home when your classmates are from the affected country," she said.

The pupils join scores of people around the world who have showed their support for the Bring Back Our Girls campaign – aimed at highlighting the girls' plight and putting pressure on the relevant powers to act – including local and international celebrities. Prominent people, including American first lady Michelle Obama, and Pakistani pupil and education activist Malala Yousafzai, have posted photos of themselves carrying placards with the campaign slogan on social networking site Twitter with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

In South Africa, local celebrities led a group of men and women in a 3km march to the Nigerian Consulate in Sandton, Johannesburg, last week. Men are posting photos of themselves baring the slogan "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" after reports that the girls had been sold as slaves or married off to men in neighbouring countries.

VGHS pupils Khanyisa Marangxa, 14, and Uviwe Songca, 14, showed compassion and concern for the young girls.

"What the slogan "It Could Have Been Me" means to me is that, if I lived in that country I could have been taken. The very thought of it is terrifying. No-one knew who it was going to be until it was too late," Marangxa said. - Chanice Koopman