On Friday, May 17, 2019, one of the 276 schoolgirls abducted by terrorists in Northern Nigeria in 2014, Palmatah Mutah, has earned an associate degree from a community college in the United States of America.
Her graduation day came 5 years, one month and three days after the ignoble mass abductions that sparked global outrage and ignited the #bringbackourgirls campaign.
The 23-year-old who escaped that fateful April night by jumping out of a Boko Haram truck becomes the first escaped Chibok girl to obtain an associate degree from an institution abroad.
Many Nigerians were shocked most of the 57 Chibok students who escaped could not speak English although they were final year secondary school students.
However Mutah proved to be an exceptional candidate and after just one year in a two-year programme in the US meant to enable them complete their high school education, she took a Community College entrance exam and passed.
She was the only one out of 10 Chibok girls sponsored to school in the US by international human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe to make it to Community College within the first year of arrival.
In January 2016, Mutah along with two other non-Chibok victims of terror and persecution from northeast , who had also successfully passed the entrance exams, began their academic sojourn in a Community College in Washington metro area.
One of the three gifted schoolgirls who was orphaned by Boko Haram in Maiduguri graduated last year with an associate degree in Science while Mutah also obtained her associate degree in science.
Ogebe praised her for her resilience in the face of threats and entreaties from several quarters to quit schooling.
“In addition to her courage, character and intellect, Mutah was also active in her campus Christian fellowship group. She volunteered in her church and also participated in the church’s seasonal mass choir.
“She has also shown exceptionality in other sectors of life. She learnt to drive a vehicle and obtained her Driver’s license. She drove herself to school for over a year and also drove her classmates as well.
“On the whole Ms Mutah is a well-adjusted, fully-assimilated “All-American” young adult with grace, poise and balance,” stated.
He added: “She models the ideals of what young girls given opportunity can blossom to become.
“Mutah’s success was a derivative of personal integrity, principle and discipline coupled with mentorship, nurture, faith and love.”
Ogebe said Mutah’s determination, courage and tenacity have always been there all along, even in 2014 when she refused to abandon her classmate in Sambisa forest after she jumped and injured her legs.
“How will I face your parents and tell them I left you in the forest?” she replied when he friend asked her to leave and save herself.
It was that friend who when given an opportunity to school abroad by human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe then recommended Ms Mutah to be considered for school in America as well.
She again displayed remarkable tenacity during her escape when she went in search of help for her friend and found a herdsman who didn’t want to help.
“If you don’t help us, no one will?” she insisted until he finally went back with her on his bike to rescue her injured friend and ultimately to another village after his wife tended to them.
Amazingly, the friend she helped later reciprocated and recommended to go along with her when given the opportunity to travel overseas for schooling.
An emotional Ogebe said: “The graduation of Palmatah is a highpoint of 5 years of toil and travail. Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.
“She is an illustration of the millions of brilliant kids in Nigeria undiscovered for opportunity but for tragedy and even then until personal vision and intervention.
“I am especially thankful to God for vindicating and honoring our sacrifices and struggles for her.
“Some people said they were not ready or worthy of America but we took the risk all the same. She has proven that any child with the right attitude can reach altitudes.
“Interestingly of all the 11 schoolgirls we flew into America in 2014,in the largest airlift of Nigerian victims, she was the only one who personally flew with me.
“I am also grateful to those who helped us support her these past few years.”
At the graduation ceremony of her college, which is the 14th largest in America, she was one of less than 100 students on international visas from 45 countries to graduate.
During the recognition of special classes of students, she stood up amongst those who speak more than two languages and those who were the first graduates in their families.