In the town of Eiyenkorin in the western Nigerian state of Kwara, ICS staff are taking a breather. They’ve just celebrated 12 months of ICS volunteers’ work in the region. Jack Howson looks at what was achieved last year by 95 ICS volunteers working to improve standards of education.
In 2018, 95 young people from the UK and Nigeria worked together to improve education standards in Kwara State. Over 12 months in the field, four cohorts of volunteers worked with a range of local schools and partners to give children a better chance of a brighter future.
Even though primary education is free here, Nigeria is home to one fifth of the world’s out-of-school children. Getting these kids back into education poses a massive challenge. And faced with poor government funding for schooling and a lack of resources available to teachers, you have to be creative to solve problems in these classrooms.
From successfully lobbying the local government to pay teachers their salary, to putting on holiday camps for kids to get extracurricular education, here’s how four groups of ICS volunteers in Nigeria made a sustainable impact in 2018.
Did you do any of these things on placement?
1. Finding out what the community wants
When the first cycle of ICS volunteers arrived, they wanted to find out what did and didn’t work. They set out to do a ‘baseline survey’ of 40 teachers and 40 students across four schools – as well as spending three days observing lessons – to understand the teachers’ and students’ needs.
Asking questions about the quality of education, they discovered that despite teachers being motivated about their lessons, they had frustrations about a lack of resources and the local government failing to pay them their promised salary. As a result, in three of the four schools they surveyed, teachers often simply wouldn’t turn up.
2. Petitioning for full payment of teachers' salaries
Seeing the results of the research, they set out to do something about it. With the local government failing to pay teachers the full amount of their salary on time, volunteers set out to lobby the State Ministry of Education for a change.
The result? Payments to teachers in Kwara State increased from 45% of the salary owed to them up to 91%.
3. Put on extra lessons for 220 kids in the holidays
When school finished for Easter, our ICS team spotted an opportunity. The volunteers decided to hold a holiday camp for 70 children aged 10-15, with each volunteer holding classes on subjects like maths, vocational skills such as soap-making and workshops on topics like creative writing.
When the third week was up, the volunteers and students celebrated with a showcase of the products they’d created and sold these to community members. And the camp was even continued in the summer – with attendance more than doubled to 150 – by the next group of volunteers.
As Gift Obafemi, one of the young participants said: “The holiday camp made me an entrepreneur. It’s encouraging you want to take the time with us.”
4. Fundraising £2,500 to repair what’s broken
At Ogele Secondary School, the volunteers’ baseline research showed that one huge thing holding the 800 pupils back was the poor state of the schools. With broken ceilings in two of the three classrooms, seasonal rain and the scorching heat of the sun would often interrupt lessons.
The team set up a crowdfunding campaign, raising £800 – enough to replace the floors and metal ceilings of the classrooms, and even painted a mural while they were at it. Never satisfied, they only went and did the same again – in three more schools – raising a further £1,700.
5. Getting local children engaged with global issues
For the past year, children in Apata Ajele have been learning about global issues and life skills like human rights, the environment and personal hygiene during a children’s club held every week. Started by the first group of volunteers, it was instantly a hit – and it hasn’t stopped since.
The emphasis is on having a good time and teaching the 3 to 15-year-old children skills and knowledge they might not receive through school, all while improving their confidence. The children are now sharing their new knowledge with their families and other people in the community.
6. Involve the community with ICS work
Community Action Days – a staple part of ICS placements around the world – are a chance for volunteers to get the community together to talk about big issues. Taking place every week, a new set of volunteers takes it in turns to lead a session on a topic they’re passionate about.
Some of our favourites include a tree planting in partnership with Nigeria’s National Parks Service and a World Health Day celebration including first aid training from one of the medically qualified volunteers. They also organised a science fair and inter-school quiz where students battled it out for prizes for their school, supplied by local philanthropists and business people, including a borehole, a toilet and supplies of paint to brighten up their classrooms.
7. Showing teachers there’s not just one way to teach
Exasperated by their students’ lack of concentration in class, teachers would often turn to physical discipline to try and take control. Through teacher training, ICS volunteers helped show teachers at Araromi Aguyen School different methods to keep their class engaged.
They worked with teachers to adapt their classroom management and lesson planning and understand their students’ different learning styles better. And schools agree that their input is working. Students are paying more attention in class, teachers are enjoying their jobs again – and the skills will last long after the volunteers leave.