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Gang-gang: Merci College pupils show solidarity with abducted Nigerian schoolgirls

The already autumn-tinted trees around the entrance to Merici College in Braddon are more colourful still at the moment because they are festooned with bright ribbons.

If only there were some ways to try to help the morale of Nigerian schoolgirls Hamatsu Ababakar, Saraya Musa, Tabritha Hyelampa and Kaba Malla and all of their schoolmates by telling them that that these ribbons are all about them.

The ribbons are symbols of how the 276 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram are in the thoughts and prayers of the girls of the all-girl Merici College.

Out under the ribbon-bedecked trees on Monday, the breeze making the ribbons stream and twirl in the bright sunshine, Emily Hargreaves (year 11) explained that the ribbons have written on them, by the college's students, the 177 abductees' names that are known. We rescued a pink ribbon from the caprices of the breeze and there on it were the names of Tabritha Hyelampa and Kaba Malla.

"The ribbons symbolise the rainbow," Emily elaborated, "because rainbows represent hope.

"We put them in the trees to represent freedom, like the freedom of birds in trees. The ribbons are a silent prayer for the girls. Of course because we're a girls' school this is a close topic for us. Perhaps we feel for them [the abducted Nigerians] more than other people would. Doing this gives us a connection to the girls."


The idea was suggested to one class by a teacher but once the whole nightmare of what had happened in Nigeria was explained to everyone the project began with gusto. So many more than 177 students wanted to take part that on lots of the ribbons there has been a doubling-up, even a tripling-up, of the known names.

"When the news of the abduction in Nigeria hit the world news the women of Merici College were horrified," principal Loretta Wholley says.

"Not only did they see it as social justice issue they were also concerned that it was an incredible injustice against women. This act of force provokes the deepest feelings of empathy from the staff and students of Merici College for the victims and their families.

"The students have identified each of the girls by name to make a spiritual and real connection with the victims. Symbolism is a powerful way for young people to deal with issues they find hard to fathom.

"By their actions, the girls of Merici College are raising awareness of the total disrespect for life and the indignity of human beings, especially the most innocent and helpless."