In Nigeria, confrontation with deadly violence leaves Catholic teen in grip of fear
AFUNU GAMBO is a Catholic student at St. Matthew Primary & Secondary School. She is 16 and lives in the town of Television, in the Zango Kataf region of Kaduna State, Nigeria. Afunu’s father has died and her mother has to take care of the family of four. Like too many youngsters in Nigeria, it was her lot to witness first-hand brutal violence perpetrated by Boko Haram. It happened two years ago. Her experience has kept her out of school for a couple of years now. She said of her feelings: “I detested school and didn’t want to have anything to do with school again; I had become afraid of life itself.” This is what happened:
“One fateful day, I happily went to school and, after the assembly, there came a noise from the outside; out of curiosity, I peeked out to see what was going on: I saw people running helter skelter and all the students as well as the teachers were panicking. The teachers gathered all the students and announced that all was not well; they said that there was a violent fight going on between Muslims and Christians. We were told that everybody should remain calm and wait for their parents to come pick them up; school would be closed until further notice.
“I was afraid; all I could think was: ‘who would take me home?’ Then, all of a sudden, there was the sound of a gunshot, a short distance from my school; out of fear, we all rushed to our various classes; and, looking out the window, I saw a woman who had been shot dead. I didn’t know her; it was one of the student’s mothers, who had come rushing to come to school in order to save her son’s life. I was shivering, I had never seen someone being killed before; nor had I ever seen human blood until that day; tears gushed from my eyes and I was chilled to the bone.
“Everyone felt that they were going to die that day; a teacher gathered all the students as well as other teachers in one classroom and locked the door. We spend two or three hours there, without food or water, and no one dared make a move. Finally, policemen came to our rescue, took us to the police station and later in the day our parents came to us.
“My beautiful dream of achieving something meaningful in the future has been shattered and this experience made me so angry and sad. That same day, in the evening, I thought that all the drama had ended; but I did not know that my 12-year-old sister also had a harrowing experience.
“She was on her way back from school and was not aware of the clash between Muslims and Christians; she felt trapped, as she saw people running, running for their lives; she started running herself, and lost her way, ending up in a neighboring village. We searched for her diligently but she was nowhere to be found; my family and I cried our eyes out; just when we were about to give up, we found her in the church with a strange man who told us how he found my sister in that neighboring village—in a state of shock, she finally remembered the name of her school, which helped the man trace her back to our village.
“These incidents made me very sad and angry. The saddest moment of my life came when I was separated from my friends during the incident; and how I came to detest school and how my dream of becoming a nurse seemed to have gone down the drain. I lost my self-confidence and my sense of self-determination.
“Yet, in all that I have gone through, God has been faithful; he has been my pillar of strength by using Sister Maureen Ahyuwa to help me overcome my fear and regain my sense of self-determination once again, even though I am still in the process of fully recovering. I pray that one day I will regain my self-confidence and overcome my fear and go back to school once again.”