3 men from the Education Authority were invited to attend to find out what the project is all about. They were old and wise and in high esteem amongst the participants, but honestly, their lack of understanding and the fact it added 3 more men for me to deal with made me resent them at first. Then seeing them so keen to join in the active learning games and answering questions like 5 + 5 made me happy for them to be there.
These men are community people who have been selected by the religious leaders and village heads to teach children English, maths, Hausa and social studies. At present the children in these villages are only learning the Quar’an so ESSPIN (Educatioin Support Program in Nigeria) has brought this project to introduce secular education to provide the children with their basic primary education.
This week I followed some of the teachers to the villages to support them. . .
On Tuesday I was feeling very disheartened as I visited 3 teachers and only saw classic Nigerian chanting and ‘chalk and talk’ learning.
Black board, chalk, mats, slates, exercise books, etc have all been provided by ESSPIN.
With 60 children (when there are only supposed to be 30) plus 20 adults watching (all male – parents, religious teachers, people from the Education Authority, and who knows who else – “prominent members from the village”) I didn’t know how to support the teachers so didn’t interfere much. Although the project has been accepted by the village, some people don’t like the thought of ‘Western Education’ and ‘Western culture’ in the village, plus me being female made me want to tread carefully.
When this teacher chanted ABCD in Hausa followed by EFGH in English I was so depressed I asked for them to take me home, obviously trying to hide my feelings as these teachers were “trying.” I tried to remember that this is their first ever try at teaching after only one week of training.
So on Wednesday I set off to a different government area expecting the worst, but feeling slightly more positive as I had thought of strategies on how to support these teachers (with help from mum). I arrive at the LEA (Local Education Authority) with alphabet charts, songs and number cards tucked under my arm but the LEA officials had different ideas for me. They wanted to take me to all the villages to meet the village head, village elders, religious leaders and other “prominent people of the village” – all men.
A village in Birniwa, Jigawa State. The Village’s religious leader in the centre holding the prayer beads, village head behind him to the left, LEA officials on the right, the rest “prominent members.”
So I just follow, flick of my slippers (flip flops) climb onto mats that I have only ever seen men sit on and just sit. Then after a brief translation of a long discussion I am asked to say something. And I am not good at this type of thing normally and I know they think that I have brought this project to them when I haven’t – I am ‘just’ training the teachers so I have no idea what to say. So I thank them for welcoming me to their village and hope to return soon to support their teacher.
People say things like – ‘the fact that you can greet them in Hausa will make them accept this project.’ And that really annoys me. So I try to tell them, politely, that they should accept the project (lead by ESSPIN, not me) because they want to educate the children of the village, to enable them to be literate, have choices in the future etc. Not because of me. I am only training the teachers. In 2 years I will return to England and know that my children will be educated.
I am very happy to see children counting with bottle tops.
Out of 6 teachers that we visited, 5 of them were doing something that I had taught them and providing some sort of child centred teaching methods. So I am back to feeling positive and ready for the second week of training which starts on Monday.
I have never taught reception children before but I guess that this must be a classic example of children when they are having their first go at writing the letter ‘a.’ There is a very good one in the middle. These children have never held chalk and written in English or Hausa before, but they learn the Quar’an in Arabic by firelight, using ink and quills on boards, writing the opposite way from us -from right to left.