Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai on Monday urged Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to meet with parents of the schoolgirls kidnapped three months ago by Boko Haram.
Malala, who survived a Taliban assassination attempt in 2012 and has become a champion for access to schooling, was in Abuja on her 17th birthday to mark three months since Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from a secondary school in Chibok, in the northeast.
At least 219 of the girls taken on April 14 are still missing.
Malala on Sunday met with several girls who escaped Boko Haram captivity and parents of some of the hostages before her talks with Jonathan.
“I asked the president, is it possible for him to go and see the parents, to see these girls, to encourage them and to tell them that yes, their daughters will return home?” Malala told journalists after the meeting, adding that Jonathan had agreed to meet some parents.
The parents she met with appeared “hopeless,” she said, and “need the president’s support”.
Jonathan has faced heavy criticism for his handling of the hostage crisis, which many say has lacked both compassion and urgency, and is not known to have met with any of the girls’ families before now.
The rescue operation was slow to launch and the military was forced to retract a statement issued days after the kidnapping claiming that all the girls had been freed.
The president had planned to go to Chibok in May to commiserate with the targeted community, but cancelled the visit at the last minute without any explanation.
Malala urged Nigeria to do everything possible to secure the release of the hostages, who were snatched from their school under the cover of darkness and carted away in trucks.
“My birthday wish this year is… to see them returning to their homes,” she said.