Nigeria's teachers have gone on a nationwide strike and staged rallies to protest the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls by Islamic militants, demanding that schools receive better protection from the government.
"All schools nationwide shall be closed as the day will be our day of protest against the abduction of the Chibok female students and the heartless murder of the 173 teachers," National Union of Teachers President Micheal Alogba Olukoya told reporters, according to Reuters.
Close to 270 girls were taken from an all-girls school in Chibok on April 14 by terrorist group Boko Haram, which threatened to sell them as brides to Islamic militants. Despite Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's promises to do everything he can to find the girls, and the U.S. and U.K. sending teams into Nigeria to help in the search and rescue efforts, the girls are yet to be found.
Boko Haram has been waging war on the Nigerian government for the past five years now, and has targeted schools, churches, and government buildings in its deadly attacks that have resulted in thousands of deaths.
Nigerian citizens have been taking arms against the terrorist group, arguing that the army is not doing enough to counter the threat. Last week, vigilante groups staged an ambush against Boko Haram fighters at the village of Kalabalge and managed to arrest at least 10 and kill an unspecified number.
During Thursday's protests, around 40 teachers reportedly marched down the streets of Maiduguri in front of Governor Kashim Shettima's office, chanting "bring back our girls" and holding placards saying "vulnerable schools should be fenced."
"We remain resolute in our resolve to continue the campaign even as we mourn the death of our colleagues until our girls are brought back safe and alive and the perpetrators of the heinous crime are brought to book," Olukoya stated.
Another 350 teachers gathered in Lagos for the same cause, bringing attention to the severity of the crimes being committed by the militants.
"Children's lives are being threatened, kidnapping all over the place, stealing, maiming of life, that's what we are saying should stop," said teacher Ojo Veronica.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a released video that he would be willing to trade the girls for prisoners being kept by the government.
"It is now four years or five years that you arrested our brethren and they are still in your prison. You are doing many things to them and now you are talking about these girls? We will never release them until after you release our brethren," Shekau asked.
Jonathan's government has reportedly said that it is not open to such a deal.