Hawu opened her phone and began to cry. Her sister, Aisha, was smiling at her from the photo folder. She could not smile back. It was not going to be real.
Aisha A-Deri is one of the 105 girls declared missing after suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, on Monday. It’s been five days now since the attack and the girls are yet to be found.
Dapchi, a once quiet, relatively safe town in Bursari local government area of Yobe state, has been thrown into mourning ever since. The families of over a hundred girls have refused to be consoled. They cannot sleep or eat. They do not want money. They do not want empty promises. Only one thing will dry their tears now – the safe return of their girls.
Though President Muhammadu Buhari has deployed troops to search and rescue the girls, that hasn’t done much to ease their pain.
Kawu, the older sister of Aisha, the 13-year-old , SS1 student of the school, says in a whatsapp message soliciting help from anyone in search of her sister: “We are having sleepless nights and smiles have been stolen from our faces. We the whole family are incomplete without you since your disappearance.”
Her message, which aptly conveys the agony in their hearts, reads: “Ummee, when will you be back to us again, to see that your smiling face, calmness, active response to messages and your love for pictures in our phones?”
“Or is that why you prefer to be most in the pictures in our phones knowing that you are going to be missed sometime? If that is the case, missing you is not our wish. Please come back home. May Allah bring you and the rest of your colleagues back to your respective families.”
TheCable called her step-mother who was too grieved to speak, but handed the phone to her step-brother, Kachalla A-Deri. With a voice laced with regret, he says Aisha would have narrowly missed the unfortunate incident had she not been taken back to school a day earlier.
“She had been at home for one week because she was ill. The school told her to go and receive treatment at home. It was on that Sunday evening, at about 6pm, that we took her back to school, and the attack was on Monday evening,” he says.
According to Kachalla, several of the girls who escaped ran into bushes, hid in tree trunks, but some ran into vehicles suspected to belong to the insurgents.
Fondly called Ummee, which means “motherly”, Aisha is the second daughter from her mother and the sixth from her father.
Her father, Kadau A-Deri, tells TheCable that it was a safe town, but they (inhabitants of Dapchi) observed that all the security posts in the town were withdrawn three weeks prior to the incident.
“It is as if they (Boko Haram) are watching. Once the security is removed, they attacked the school,” he says,
“I am very, very sad. But I am still expecting her to come back in sha Allah. She is a child of good character. She always says she when she completes her secondary school, she will further her studies. She said she wants to be a teacher or a nurse.”
But all that ambition seems to have been temporarily stolen from her now, until at least her return, which is highly anticipated, will be soon.
Boko Haram, which forbids western education, has been attacking schools in the bid to press home their point. Between 2013 to April 2014 alone, they attacked up to six schools in Yobe and Chibok in Borno state.