Editing the code of violence in Northern Nigeria

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By Hauwa Ibrahim

Nigeria is in a unique position, the world’s seventh-most populous country about 200 million people and projected to become the third-largest country by 2050. While Nigeria is becoming one of the most populous countries in the world, the current educational system struggles to meet the demand and needs of its current citizens.

It is becoming, to a certain degree unprepared to meet the emerging educational needs of its steadily growing population. In many societies, access to education is a fundamental human right.

For example, the Framework for Action (2000) Dakar argues that education is a fundamental human right. Although federal law mandates access to education in Nigeria, many Nigerians, especially women and girls, still remind uneducated, especially in the rural areas.

A report on Global Girls Education complied by the British Council in 2014 reported that Nigeria ranked 153 out of 186 on the Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living. This report also indicated that northeast Nigeria has the most illiterate and uneducated population in the world.

Nigeria, rich with its cultural diversity and natural resources, faces many social and economic challenges that threaten the stability of the country. For many Northern Nigerian youth, living in this context often translates into unemployment, social isolation, and hopelessness, making them ripe for anti-social behaviors.

Sometimes, under the guise of religion, extremist groups recruit youth by offering them a sense of identity and purpose. Lack of opportunities often place them at risk of involvement with extremist groups such as Boko Haram. Science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) have the adeptness to pull these pupils out of the jaws of Boko Haram.

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There is need to edit the code of violence. Here is how—International collaboration to flight violence giving children and youth alternative to pugnacity through education, especially, the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education, knowing that each child is endeared with intelligence, initiatives and creativity. STEAM certainly pulls out the creativity and encourage engagements, rather than joining extremist ideology – an opium for the powerless, illiterate and poor.

Editing this code of violence, we can do—we are doing it— the collaboration with Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), University of Rome, Corinne Cressman, Stacy Scott, Arlene Lieberman and many more during the summer 2019, certainly went beyond the limit of a class lesson plan and other limitation. The curriculum developed with students of Wellesley college, university of Rome and other contributors, gave pupils in the three camps, motivation, creativity, desire for the impossible, to be passionate and intense.

The focus was on social-change, providing for the (STEAM) Summer camps, to thrive beyond once off. It provided the space to think, create, innovate, criticize and strategize for coming years.

We received 500 STEMKits, made by students of Wellesley college, for the camps and moral support from Director Layli Maparyan. The support enriches the mind and emboldens the spirit to explore new ways of engaging. Among the many things it did was to focuses one on one, on how to convert dreams and visions into a meaningful life and a meaningful mission, to engage, excite and bolster pupil’s imagination and thinking. The vision is for a future that has an expanded student-centered science experiments and science education for communities regardless of language barriers or previous science education.

Three communities in two states of Northern Nigeria hosted the three camps, thus— Bauchi town, Hinna Village, and Gombe city, championed by the Shehu Usman Abubakar Foundation. Over 100 schools were represented and the camps attracted over 1,200 pupils ages 10-14. The pupils’ engagement and joy with each subject left us all in awe. The student-centered, interdisciplinary, community-engaged, culturally responsive, and sensitive, hands-on summer camps used over 80% of materials found in the localities, inspiring the pupils to think through each process critically, while shining their “inward little lights” brighter, better and growing confident on the ability to be the best—they did.

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With minimal instructions, pupils performed science experiments related to density, pH indicators (Bases & acids), osmosis, bodily reflexes and reactions, the period of pendulum, genetics (recessive & dominant), fingerprints analyses, Oobleck, and blood typing kits. In technology and engineering classes, students had the opportunity to build baking soda and vinegar-powered rockets, create support structures to absorb shock to prevent eggs from breaking when dropped from the second floor of a building, and make self-supporting da-Vinci bridges.

Students drew on their creativity and culture to express themselves in art classes. Creative arts ranged from beading and jewelry making, free drawing, finger painting, to custom cube creation and so much more.

Most importantly, local drummers and singers joined us to bring back memories of tradition and culture, and using local instruments encouraged the youth to maintain a connection to their rich cultural heritage.

Unlike typical mundane math instruction, mathematics was taught using fun-filled activities such as jokes, play, math challenges and races, scavenger hunts, and encouraging hands-on manipulation to strengthen math skills. For example, pupils were taught how to make a calculator using cups and make math dice using cardboard, both of which strengthen their ability to solve mathematical equations.

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Our long term goal is to positively impact the STEAM education by creating cultural appropriate curriculum incorporating all aspects of STEAM, using items in localities and communities to see children in communities be independent with skills and knowledge to compete in local, regional and global economy as well as reduce youth unemployment by teaching youth cultural traditions and entrepreneurial skills that can be used to generate income. Since the schools belong to the community, we will encourage the culture of ownership of the school STEAM curriculum.

Another alternative education initiative is to slow down dropped out of school, such as working children and children in conflict situations, to get instruction through education centers established outside the formal school system.

Example—enroll in learning centers or satellite schools using local languages, parental engagement and lower average of student-to teacher ratio, while encouraging community friendly projects with community involvement—
All work without rest—makes works boring, shortly after the conclusion of the camps we took time off for recreational activities—the Wazirin Dutse (Prime Minister), Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu respected and revered Nigerian, invited the students, my colleague, Prof. LaShawnda-Lindsay-Dennis and I to celebrate the Islamic Eid Mubarak (2019) at the Palace of the Emir of Dutse, a ceremony filled with pageantry and fanfare with several hundred of horses and riders.

We later traveled to Yankari game reserve for safari and the strong and brave went on the highest Bima mountain in Gombe State for hiking. We also visited with opinion, religious, and communities’ leaders, chiefs, Emirs, top government officials including the Presidency. It was a trip to remember.


Hauwa Ibrahim is a Nigerian born Harvard University lecturer.

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