AFT President Randi Weingarten expressed the outrage of AFT members over the "abhorrent, unconscionable and morally reprehensible" actions taken by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria. The group has taken responsibility for abducting nearly 300 young girls in separate incidents recently.
Making the crime more horrific has been the Nigerian government's slow response and failure to rescue even one of the victims. In the weeks after the extremists kidnapped nearly 300 girls from their boarding school in northern Nigeria April 14, they continued their raids and abductions in other Nigerian towns, kidnapping 11 more students on May 6.
Through social media, the plight of the girls and their families has been brought to international attention. "All eyes of the world are watching to make sure everything humanly possible is being done to find the girls," says Weingarten.
In a May 7 letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson wrote that she welcomed his "pledge of U.S. assistance to the Nigerian government to ensure these children can be returned to their communities, and the perpetrators brought to justice."
"This horrifying incident has resonated with our members, who are shocked by the kidnapping itself, and deeply concerned about the larger issue of continuing threats to girls and young women as they seek to improve their lives through education," Johnson wrote.
The global community is in an uproar over children being targeted in acts of terrorism. "It is equally heinous that the terrorists have threatened to sell the girls into slavery just because they were going to school," says Weingarten.
"The AFT is praying for the girls' safe return to their homes and families, and we stand with the people of Nigeria in their hope to live in peace and security," says Johnson.
To raise the pressure for action, the AFT and Education International are urging people to create signs bearing the message #BringBackOurGirls, take Instagram photos of people holding the signs, and post them to the AFT's website at http://aftunion.tumblr.com/submit. See samples here http://aftunion.tumblr.com/BringBackOurGirls.
[Barbara McKenna, Eric Duncan, AFT press release]