Improving Nigerian Education…Together

This blog entry will briefly explain what exactly I will be doing in Nigeria and the current education situation that exists there. Although this information will probably shift and develop as time goes on, the basis is this:

I will work with local partners and national volunteers to improve the quality of education for children, especially those most disadvantaged, such as girls and children with disabilities. The Kwara State College of Education (CoE), where I will be spending most of my days, has an Early Childhood Care Education Center (ECCE). Here I will be able to collaborate with other teachers to implement new curricula, conduct lectures, and promote gender equality. I’m hoping to use my Montessori training in these new situations.

The reason Nigeria would benefit from having volunteers like myself is because the poor quality of education is driving successive generations of Nigerians deeper into poverty. Getting to the root of this and improving the education system will hopefully break the cycle of poverty and support a larger number of Nigerians to fulfill their potential as active members of society.

Nigeria is growing exponentially, with children below the age of 16 forming 45% of the population. Despite the country’s high oil revenue, it is estimated that between 50%-70% of the people are living below the poverty line. Lack of basic services like water, education, and health care have kept the majority of Nigerians in a state of poverty. Children experience difficulty attending school because many cannot afford necessary fees for uniforms and books. Many others have to stay home and help with domestic duties. In several parts of Nigeria, girls do not have equal access to education due to early marriage practices, child labor, excessive house work, harassment, and even violence. The overall quality of Nigerian schools is also in need of improvement. Only about 30% of middle-school aged students (less if you’re a girl) can read simple sentences and solve addition equations. It is estimated that 75% of primary school teachers are inadequately qualified to teach and receive a very small salary. As a result, learning becomes stymied and poverty continues.

I am not telling you all this to rag on the Nigerian education system or to depress anyone. These are the unfortunate facts. I believe that this can change, little by little, on all levels – from federal and institutional policy all the way to grassroots teaching and learning.  I love CUSO-VSO’s dedication to eradicating world poverty and its belief that sending skilled volunteers is a powerful way to create positive change.

Because of this, I want to help CUSO-VSO in its mission. It costs tens of thousands of dollars to send a volunteer like myself abroad for two years to work. Wowzers…that doesn’t seem like an effective use of money, does it? Well, we believe it is, because instead of just giving those thousands of dollars as aid and hoping it gets spent in efficient ways, CUSO-VSO instead sends passionate people with unique skill sets and determined hearts. Through relationship building, skill sharing, and combined effort, ordinary people actually can make a world of difference…and a difference in the world. And we can do it together.

That said, I am offering you the opportunity to donate to CUSO-VSO so that it can continue to recruit and train volunteers like myself (or you, if it strikes your fancy!) across the globe to help close the gap on world poverty. You can read more about this and make donations on my CUSO-VSO Donation Page. My aim is to raise $3000 to give back to this amazing organization. As always, the teeniest tiniest bit counts.

Peace, Julie


Something Good’s in Store

In Pidgin English, which is widely spoken in all parts of Nigeria (and often with a regional splash combining pidgin with one of the hundreds of local languages), there is a lovely little phrase that brings a smile to my face: “Betta dey for okra soup.” This phrase implies that something good is in store or that good times have arrived. If you haven’t noticed, it’s also the name of this blog.

There is something pretty awesome happening in our world today (believe it or not). There is hope. There is love. There is effort. There is awareness. There is also a smorgasbord of unsavory things happening, too, which don’t necessitate mentioning because that’s what the news media is for 😉 “Trouble dey call you.” (read: Always lookin’ for trouble!)

But if we don’t notice and highlight the positive and beautiful in our world, then what can we rest our weary minds upon? If we don’t believe in betta dey for okra soup, then what can we hope for? I will soon be working as a CUSO-VSO volunteer in the culturally rich and palpably diverse country of Nigeria. I’ve read a fair bit about this place, and the best word I can think of to sum it all up would be ALIVE. Nigeria is teeming with life, with hope, with tenacity, and with promise.

I feel so blessed that I will be able to live and work alongside and together with people whom I never would have gotten the opportunity to meet. My purpose in going is not to impart superior Western knowledge or to save those less fortunate than I. That is just silly and wrong. Rather, I’m going to live, to learn, to love, to connect, to share, to collaborate, to offer, to receive, and to grow.

Please refer to the “About This Blog” tab to learn the specifics of what I will be doing while abroad. If you would like to subscribe to my blog, please click the link on the right hand side of this page. If you would like to learn about donating to CUSO-VSO, visit my CUSO-VSO Donation Page (more information given in the “Improving Nigerian Eduation…Together” post).

Thanks for following me on this trip, and hopefully I’ll have some good stories for you soon!  Peace, Julie