Annas Shuaibu says he awoke to the sound of gunshots fired by men who burst into his boarding school in northwest Nigeria in a night raid.
He and hundreds of other boys were rounded up and forcibly marched out of the school and into a nearby forest.
After several hours trekking through woodland, the gunmen ordered them to stop walking and warned them not to try to flee, Shuaibu said.
“They said even if you tried to escape, or we allowed you to run, you will go nowhere. Rather, you will die in the forest,” he said.
Shuaibu, 16, was among 344 students who were kidnapped from Government Science Secondary School, an all-boys boarding school, on December 11 in Kankara, in the state of Katsina.
The boys were held for six days before security services rescued them on Thursday from Rugu forest, a vast woodland area that spans four of Nigeria’s 36 states.
The incident evoked memories of Boko Haram’s 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls in the northeast town of Chibok.
Shuaibu, who said he did not know how many people held them, said the boys received little food, sometimes resorting to eating leaves and drinking from pools of water in the forest.
On Friday, with their ordeal over, the boys were taken to meet the governor, and then President Muhammadu Buhari.
Many details surrounding the incident remain unclear, including who was responsible, whether ransom was paid and how the release was secured.
The Islamist militant group Boko Haram said it was responsible for the abductions but there was no confirmation of this.
Katsina Governor Aminu Bello Masari has said security will be strengthened at schools across the state.
Parents were reunited with their children late on Friday: weeping mothers and fathers hugged their boys, and some parents knelt to kiss the ground in gratitude.
Shuaibu recalled his fear of never seeing his family again.
“We feel extremely happy,” he said. “Some of us didn’t expect that we would return.”