By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
CHIBOK, Nigeria (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The parents of the 21 Chibok schoolgirls freed by Boko Haram in October after two and a half years in captivity must be involved in the Nigerian government's efforts to care for the girls and reintegrate them into society, campaigners said on Friday.
The girls were released after Switzerland and the International Red Cross brokered a deal with the jihadist group, and have since been held in a secret location in the capital Abuja for assessment and debriefing by the state.
They were taken back to Chibok in northeastern Borno state to spend Christmas and New Year with their families, but will return to the government safe house in Abuja on Sunday, said Garba Shehu, spokesman for Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari.
"Their previous educational preparation has been very weak. They will be put through remedial education and skills acquisition," he said, adding that the girls would leave the house in Abuja eventually.
Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaign group called on the authorities to allow the freed girls to also be cared for by their families.
"Although the rescue process has altered the dynamics of their custody and protection, we should not usurp the role that their parents played and must continue to play in their lives."
"They (the girls) ultimately belong to their families and their community," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014 sparked global outrage and prompted global figures, including U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and a list of celebrities, to support a campaign #BringBackOurGirls.
While the group of 21 freed girls were able to see their families in Chibok over Christmas, they were not allowed to return to their family homes, instead having to stay in a state safe house under armed escort, relatives said.
Rose Ibrahim said her sister, one of the freed girls, became distraught when her visit ended last month.
"Rahab was crying, holding me, she didn't want me to go," Ibrahim told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"The army didn't want to release them to us because they said it's not safe," she said.
Nigerian's army said on Thursday it had found another of the Chibok girls, Rakiya Abubkar, wandering near Algarno, a former Boko Haram stronghold, with a six-month-old baby.
The first of the Chibok girls to be rescued, Amina Ali, was located in a forest with a baby and a man claiming to be her husband in May.
Ali's discovery put the disappearance of the girls back into world headlines, and the Nigerian government last month said it was involved in negotiations aimed at securing the release of some more of the girls.
(Reporting by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, Writing by Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)