Parents of girls abducted from Nigerian school cherish keepsakes

DAPCHI, Nigeria, March 2 (Reuters) - Kachalla Bukar's eyes filled with tears when he looked at a blue plastic basket containing his 14-year-old daughter's belongings.

Aisha Kachalla is one of 110 girls abducted on Feb. 19 by suspected Boko Haram militants from her school in Dapchi, a dusty, remote town in the northeast Nigerian state of Yobe.

The basket contains noodles, underwear, clothes and other items her parents packed to make her life at boarding school more comfortable -- before it was interrupted by men shouting and brandishing weapons.

Now those mundane items are the only connection he has to his daughter's recent life while he and other parents wait for news.

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Parents of abducted Nigerian school girls cherish keepsakes
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Parents of abducted Nigerian school girls cherish keepsakes
Kachalla Bukar, father of Aisha Kachalla, a missing student of Government Girls Science and Technical College, holds a dress of her daughter in Dapchi, in the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
A drawing is seen on a wall of the dining room at the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A computer lab block is seen at the Government Girls Science and Technical college in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 27, 2018.REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A classroom is seen at the Government Girls Science and Technical college in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 27, 2018.REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A picture of Afisat Grah, a missing student of the Government Girls Science and Technical College, lies on a cloth at her home in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 24, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Clothes of Maryam Adam Kontoma, a missing student of the Government Girls Science Technical College, lie on her mother's bed at her home in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria February 24, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Hajiya Gana Mohammed, mother of Afisat Grah, a missing student of the Government Girls Science and Technical College, sits beside her daughter's books and clothes in her room in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 24, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Adama Mustapha, mother of Salamutu, Fatima and Maryam Mustapha, missing students of the Government Girls Science and Technical College, sits near her daughters' clothing and provisions in her house in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 24, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Relatives of the missing school girls react in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Notes written on a blackboard during a class on February 18, 2018 at the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amina Usman, a 15-year-old student, who was among the pupils who escaped from the attack on the school, stands outside her house in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Some pieces of student clothing and a mattress are seen inside a student accomodation at the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mother and sisters of Fatima Dala, a missing student from the Government Girls Science and Technical College, stand by the wall covered in Fatima's writings at their home, in Jumbam village, Nigeria February 24, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Usman Dunoma holds the school uniform of his missing daughter, abducted from the Government Science and Technical College, as he sits with his wife in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Women walk along a street in Babangida, Yobe State, Nigeria, February 22, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Alhaji Audu Danga, father of a missing student Falmat Audu, abducted from the Government Science and Technical College, holds his daughter's school uniform and clothes in front of his house in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Last meal served to students before an attack by suspected Boko Haram insurgents, lies on the ground at the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A woman walks on a street in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Parents of missing school girls check name lists in Dapchi in the northeastern state of Yobe, after an attack on the village by Boko Haram, Nigeria February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
Fulani women wearing nose rings and beads stand on a street in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria, February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH "DAPCHI PARENTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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"When we went to school on Tuesday she was not among the girls that have been found," he said, holding up a pink dress that was part of her school uniform.

For the father-of-six, the box and its contents are keepsakes to be cherished but also a reminder of the moment he learned his second eldest daughter was missing.

"Her colleagues who have returned then gave us our daughter's school box with her personal belongings. That was when we realized our daughter is actually missing," he said.

The Dapchi abductions may be one of the largest since Boko Haram took more than 270 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Chibok in 2014. That case sparked an online campaign and spurred several governments into action to try and find them.

Many of those girls remain in captivity, though some have escaped or been ransomed.

MILITARY CHECKPOINT

Bukar is not the only parent to hold on to his daughter's belongings. Others hold on to photographs of their girls.

Alhaji Audu Danga, 50, sat outside his mud house in Dapchi clad in a dark kaftan and held up two dresses, one pink and one blue, which were used to distinguish school attire and home clothing for the students.

His missing 20-year-old daughter Falmata Audu is among the oldest of the school's 906 students. Most are between 11 and 19.

A Reuters team passed a military checkpoint, put in place following the attack, to enter the empty compound of the Government Girls Science and Technical College.

Empty single story buildings containing classrooms and dormitories were spread across the sprawling site, interspersed with skeletal trees sprouting from red soil.

Messages daubed on walls, blackboards and rows of empty bunk beds provide a glimpse of school life while missing ceiling tiles in a dusty classroom hint at the poverty that is rife in northeast Nigeria.

Amina Usman was one of the girls who escaped the jihadist group whose name roughly translates as "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language widely spoken in northern Nigeria.

"I thought I will never see my parents or family again alive. I thought that was going to be the end of my life," she said.

"I don't want to return to that school again, except if I get transfer to another place. I am scared, even if the government provide security."

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Kingimi in Dapchi and Lanre Ola in Maiduguri Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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