Malala, who became a global celebrity after surviving being shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ education, was visiting Nigeria to support an international campaign for the release of the teenage students abducted in mid-April by the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram.
“The president promised me … that the abducted girls will return to their homes soon,” Malala, who has called the 219 missing students her “sisters”, told a news conference after a 45-minute meeting with Jonathan at the presidential villa.
The Pakistani teenager, who turned 17 on Saturday, at the weekend met parents of the schoolgirls snatched from the northeastern village of Chibok by Boko Haram militants fighting to establish an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria.
The Nigerian girls’ plight triggered an international #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign supported by Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie.
This has drawn attention to the war in Nigeria’s northeast, where Boko Haram, which is inspired by the Taliban and whose name means “Western education is sinful”, has killed thousands and abducted hundreds since launching an uprising in 2009.
With the girls still missing three months after their April 14 kidnap, Jonathan faces criticism at home and abroad over the deteriorating security situation in Africa’s leading oil producer and biggest economy.