More than 300 children kidnapped from school are still in the hands of criminal gangs in Nigeria, with many now missing for nearly two months. Some of those abducted are just two years old. While many of the more than 1,000 children taken have been released, often after extortionate ransom amounts were reportedly paid, hundreds of families are still desperately waiting for news of their children.
Hadiza Hashim is the mother of five children marched at gunpoint out of the gates of an Islamic school in Tegina, Niger State, on 30 May, when 134 students were kidnapped. The two youngest, Walid and Rahama, are just two and three years old. They were later released along with other toddlers who were too small to walk. But their three elder siblings remain in captivity.
The eldest, Umma, is just 13 and loves watching cartoons like Tom and Jerry with her younger brothers and sisters. Wracked with anxiety, her mother has not heard from them since the kidnapping.
"I saw my two-year-old carried by a man with a gun. He was shouting at the boy to shut up because he was screaming for me, his mother. I couldn't do anything," Mrs Hashim says. Parents of the missing children are desperately trying to raise funds, but a schoolteacher's salary in the area is less than $400 a year, making the sums demanded far beyond their reach.