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Helping girls heal after Boko Haram

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By Abraham Adekunle

Rebuilding lives through education against the scars of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

The horrors inflicted by Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria echo through the shattered lives of countless individuals, particularly the young girls who were targeted in brutal attacks and abductions. Against this backdrop of despair, the Lafiya Sarari girls’ school emerges as a beacon of hope, offering a path towards healing and a brighter future through education. While the previous article highlighted the school’s positive impact, a deeper understanding requires delving into the wider context of Boko Haram’s atrocities, the complex challenges faced by survivors, and the crucial role of education in their recovery.

Before delving into Lafiya Sarari, we must recognize the immense suffering inflicted by Boko Haram. Since 2009, the group has waged a brutal campaign of violence, displacing millions, killing thousands, and terrorizing communities. Their targets have included civilians, security forces, and educational institutions. The Chibok girls’ kidnapping in 2014 became a stark symbol of their brutality, leaving families shattered and the world horrified. Beyond the immediate physical harm, Boko Haram’s violence has inflicted deep psychological trauma on survivors. Abductees like Hassana faced forced indoctrination, violence, and unimaginable horrors. Returning home, they often struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety.

Boko Haram’s legacy of trauma and the journey of healing.

These invisible wounds can manifest in self-harm, aggression, and difficulty forming relationships. Recognizing the immense need for support, the Neem Foundation established Lafiya Sarari specifically for girls like Binta and Hassana. Moving beyond mere education, the school provides a trauma-informed haven where girls can heal and reclaim their lives. Trained counselors offer individual and group therapy, employing various techniques like expressive therapy and art to help them process their experiences and build coping mechanisms. The school’s approach goes beyond individual healing. Recognizing the societal stigma faced by survivors, Lafiya Sarari fosters a supportive community where girls can find understanding and belonging.

Peer support groups and shared activities help them rebuild trust and forge bonds with others who share their experiences. The stories of Binta, Hassana, and Falmata offer a glimpse into the transformative power of Lafiya Sarari. Binta, once overwhelmed by grief, now dreams of studying law at Cambridge. Falmata, who struggled with emotional outbursts, now helps her brothers cope with their own trauma. Hassana, who once relied on violence, now finds solace in art and music. These transformations are not easy or instantaneous. Years of therapy, consistent support, and a nurturing environment are essential. Yet, they offer powerful evidence that healing is possible, even after unimaginable suffering.

Beyond Lafiya Sarari: Addressing the systemic challenges.

Education plays a crucial role in Lafiya Sarari’s approach. It goes beyond academics, serving as a tool for empowerment and rebuilding shattered lives. The girls learn essential skills, gain confidence, and discover their potential. As Binta says, “education can be their revenge.” By acquiring knowledge and skills, they gain the tools to build a future for themselves and contribute positively to their communities. While Lafiya Sarari’s success is inspiring, it’s crucial to recognize the limitations of individual initiatives.

Of course, the fight against Boko Haram requires a multifaceted approach. Continued efforts to combat the group’s violence are essential for long-term peace and stability. Additionally, addressing the root causes of extremism – poverty, lack of opportunity, and social marginalization – is crucial for preventing future generations from falling prey to such ideologies. Moreover, nationwide support for trauma-informed education and mental health services for survivors is essential. While Lafiya Sarari stands as a model, its approach needs to be scaled up and replicated to reach the vast number of individuals affected by Boko Haram’s violence.

Related Article: Reclaiming the lost from Boko Haram

Finally, the girls of Lafiya Sarari offer a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of education in overcoming even the most devastating trauma. Their stories are a call to action, urging us to recognize the lasting impact of Boko Haram’s violence, support survivors in their healing journey, and address the systemic issues that contribute to such atrocities. By fostering a future where education, empathy, and justice prevail, we can help the girls of Lafiya Sarari, and countless others like them, reclaim their lives and build a brighter future for Nigeria.

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