Interview: Nigerian-American Sophomore Helen Onuorah Shares Thoughts on Nigeria’s Tragedy

Meredith Oldham, Features Editor

That could have been me.

Students throughout the Ann Richards School discuss their disbelief on the matter of the April 15th kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian school girls, however few have the same insight and connection to the news story as high school sophomore, Helen Onuorah. Onuorah is the daughter of two Nigerian expats and in addition to attending an all-girls school like those kidnapped, she is also within the primary age group of the missing girls.

Onuorah speaks to a group about ideas for her own school’s future.

The Polaris Press reached out to Onuorah last week and she agreed to do a quick interview with us on the current happenings in Nigeria as well as the future of the tragedy-stricken nation.

PP: How did you feel when you heard about the kidnapping in Nigeria?

O: When I heard about the kidnapping a few weeks ago, my first thought was how can over two hundred girls just be taken without anyone there to stop it. My second thought was where could these girls possibly be? They could’ve been sent off to different places, maybe not even in Nigeria anymore. These girls are Nigerian, my age and they attended an all girl school. This situation could’ve happened to me or any other girl. I’m just thankful I live in a country where I or my friends don’t have to walk around in fear that someone might try to harm us because we are girls who want an education and a future.

PP: How do you feel about the way the Nigerian government and international governments are dealing with the situation?

O: To me, it really seems like other governments are more concerned with the kidnapping situation than the Nigerian government itself. Those girls are the country’s future, their citizens, yet I don’t understand why there isn’t a strong effort being made by the Nigerian government. If they can’t do it alone, I sure hope that all the governments assisting in this crisis– such as the U.S.– can really lend a hand and bring those girls home safely.

Onuorah (left)
Onuorah (left)

PP: We heard that your mom is heading to Nigeria this week– is she worried considering the current situation in Nigeria?

O: The kidnapping situation happened in the northeast region of Nigeria, while my mom was born and is traveling to the southeast region of Nigeria. There’s a lot of Muslim-Christian tension in Nigeria, although it’s rather peaceful in the southern region, where the majority is Christian. She isn’t really worried though, mostly anxious because she hasn’t been home [to Nigeria] in over 20 years and nervous because she also hasn’t been on a plane in a long time!

PP: How do you think the kidnapping is going to affect the future of Nigerian education and government?

O: I’m sure this kidnapping wasn’t the first sign of rebellion against girls’ education, yet if–and I sincerely hope– the girls are found and returned to their homes, there will be an effort from the Nigerian government to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again. More importantly, there should be a push to equalize the right to education for everyone, boy and girl.

PP: Similar to the last question, what do you think we can learn from this horrid situation?

O: Students everywhere, especially us Ann Richards girls, should appreciate our right to education in this country. There are always complaints about school, assignments and long days, from myself frequently, but without all of this, where would we be? Without an education, we can’t advance and mature. We definitely shouldn’t take the opportunity to attend an all-girl school for granted and we shouldn’t draw out all the negatives either. The kidnapped girls from Nigeria had to suffer because of their education while we here in America don’t even have to worry about that happening to ourselves.

Thank you so much to Onuorah for agreeing to this interview. You can help the effort to locate the Nigerian girls by promoting awareness on social media with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.