After The Boy Escaped From Boko Haram, He Still Wasn't Free : Goats and Soda The terror network abducted him in northeastern Nigeria. His father was killed trying to rescue him. What would he do next?
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The Little Boy Who Escaped From Boko Haram

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The Little Boy Who Escaped From Boko Haram

The Little Boy Who Escaped From Boko Haram

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Picture huge eyes, a beautiful smile and a sadness no child his age should have to endure. This is the story of a young boy who survived Boko Haram captivity in Northeast Nigeria and military detention afterwards. He shared his experiences with NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Good morning. Good morning. Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: How are you?

QUIST-ARCTON: How are you? I'm fine, thank you. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I'm fine, thank you.

QUIST-ARCTON: You're fine, thank you.

This little boy is bright-eyed and polite. And he's learning English. He's probably around 6, but he doesn't know his age for sure, and there's no family here to tell us. This young boy's face crumples, and his eyes cloud over and well up with tears when he tells me he, two brothers, a cousin and his mother were abducted, and his father was killed by Boko Haram in Northeast Nigeria. For his own safety, we are not saying the boy's name or where he comes from.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Speaking Hausa).

QUIST-ARCTON: The memories make him weak, but he's a courageous boy and continues with his ordeal.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Speaking Hausa).

QUIST-ARCTON: The young boy picks up his story and says after they killed his father, Boko Haram took them to the bush to a school in a village. It was a Quranic school. They were there for what he remembers as about a year. Then he, a brother and cousin decided to sneak out in the middle of the night. And that's how they escaped and reached a village where they were found by the Nigerian military.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Speaking Hausa).

QUIST-ARCTON: The brothers were taken to the main barracks in Maiduguri, the regional capital, and held in military custody for interrogation and investigation for many months, says this survivor of Boko Haram captivity. Still horrified, he describes a harrowing time with the military and says former captives were herded in their dozens into small rooms. It was stifling hot, and babies were dying, he remembers. And again, his face creases into near tears at the memories as he furiously furrows his brow to stop crying. The young boy was released into the care of government social workers at a rehabilitation center supported by the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Singing in Hausa).

QUIST-ARCTON: Teachers hold classes and organize activities to try to keep the children happy and busy. But the boy says he misses his family, especially his brother, cousin and best friend who are still being held by the military and his mother who's still missing.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Speaking Hausa).

QUIST-ARCTON: Meanwhile, Borno State Commissioner for Higher and Special Education Ahmed Jaha says children across the region orphaned or separated from their families by Boko Haram violence are top priority for the government. Otherwise, he warns, they could become the violent extremists of tomorrow.

AHMED JAHA: In our enlightened self-interest, these orphans - we either take care of them today, or from what I can see in Borno today, with more than 40,000 orphans, they are going to be a disaster that is going to consume everybody. They will be the great monsters that are going to consume all of us in the near future.

QUIST-ARCTON: UNICEF and other relief agencies are offering orphans and children like this young former Boko Haram captive counseling and encouragement.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Speaking Hausa).

QUIST-ARCTON: Before he skips off to join his classmates, the boy brightens up considerably when he starts discussing soccer. I want to be a soldier, he says first, then adds he wouldn't mind being a soccer player either. I'm quite good at heading the ball, and I'm a team player, he says. For just a moment, his boyish composure almost makes me forget who's speaking - an impressive child for all the suffering he's witnessed. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Maiduguri.

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