Nearly two dozen Chibok, Nigeria schoolgirls who were released from Boko Haram’s captivity will have the opportunity to get an education courtesy of black American billionaire Robert Smith.
Smith, who founded a private equity firm, is offering scholarships to 24 Nigerian girls, 21 of which were abducted by the terrorist group two years ago.
According to Nigerian publication Leadership, senior assistant to the president on media and publicity Mallam Garba Shehu said that the girls, who are being treated as adopted children of the federal government, will be admitted through negotiation at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, a top school in the country. Shehu added that Smith “is offering to take responsibility for all the others who will hopefully be eventually set free.”
In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped as many as 276 girls from Chibok and forced them to either join their army or become their slaves. They were subjected to rape, torture, starvation and forced marriages, according to the New York Times. Since 2014, the group has abducted about 2,000 girls and boys. The Nigerian government negotiated the freedom of the 21 girls in October.
Smith, who is known as the “quiet billionaire,” started his fight to help these girls in 2015 when he learned of the bleak fate of 50 victims who had escaped.
“I was driving two of my own children to school, and it just hit [me] as a parent,” he told the Guardian in 2015. “And then the scale of [Chibok]. Even if it was just two or three, it’s a tragedy, but 300?”
He noted the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and said, “these girls matter, too.” He added, “Their lives matter not just because of the events that happened, but just because their lives matter.”