What does this learning space have to offer?

For many years females in Nigeria have lived in fear merely because they wish to receive an education. This learning space will most importantly offer girls and women a safe space to learn and grow, both independently and from each other – incorporating the collaborative learning space at every step of the way.

This space can offer

  • A safe space
  • A source of knowledge
  • Inspiration
  • A sense of pride
  • Hope for the future
  • A purpose
  • A platform for empowerment
  • A space to share knowledge and learn from others
  • A sense of belonging

References

Reuters/Stringer. (2015). School girls walk to school. [Photograph]. Retrieved from: http://www.ibtimes.com/nigerias-education-crisis-boko-haram-targeting-schools-teachers-students-devastating-2177842

What does this learning space look like?

While the key focus of this learning space is the mentorship program detailed in this post, this program will be rooted in a larger learning space which incorporates development of personal learning, authentically embedded beyond the classroom learning and significant learning taking place within the group environment.

Schools wishing to incorporate this program may run a holistic education program that could look something like this:

Mindmap created with SimpleMind+

Mission and vision statements for Girls’ education in Nigeria

The Mission:

This Future Learning Space (FLS) is committed to empowering girls and women to view themselves as powerful, deserving, intellectual and aspirational figures within their communities and throughout the country.

The Vision:

Through educational programs that actively engage role models, this FLS will empower girls and women to enact change within their communities. Once a shift occurs within the personal learning space, individuals will be equipped to inspire debate about the importance of girls’ education. Advocates will emphasise a bright future and argue that promoting girls education is beneficial for the entire country.

Future learning space – Personal learning space + Beyond the classroom learning

The personal learning space is an area I would like to focus on as a future learning space for the girls of Nigeria. After years of violence and oppression, the goal behind this future learning space would be to to build self-confidence in their ability both to achieve academically and to strive towards any aspirations they may have for the future.

Mentorship has been proven to be highly valuable for many young people, professionally, personally and academically. My idea for this program was inspired by this article, where members of Harvard staff participated in a mentorship program for women and minorities entering into college.

One of these Harvard mentors, who participated in a similar program when she herself was entering college, claims that a program like this introduces students to the ‘power of building community’ and also has the potential to connect ‘like-minded students’. I believe it also has the potential to build upon and enhance personal learning spaces for many students.

My proposal is to move into the beyond the classroom learning space by setting up a voluntary program where students are connected with influential women either from their community or from the broader national community.

These partnerships would act as a source of support and inspiration for girls wanting to learn from highly knowledgeable and experienced individuals. Bozeman & Feeney (2007) suggest that mentoring is the ‘informal transmission of knowledge’ from a person with a high level of expertise to a person open and eager to learn. Hence why I have decided to make this a voluntary program to be implemented. I acknowledge that not all girls may wish to participate.

As I have discussed the learning spaces section of this site, significant research supports regular, authentic and meaningful beyond the classroom learning. Lorenza (2009) strongly advocates that learning experiences that ‘bring the outside world in’ offer unique opportunities for students to understand the bigger picture and the world they live in.

A quick google search revealed a number of inspirational and powerful women doing incredible things for the country of Nigeria. Below is a just a sample of some of the women I would like to contact to take part in this program:

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Other inspirational women such as Malala Yousafzai or Michelle Obama, who have expressed a keen interest in working to improve girls education in Nigeria, may be interested in lending their support to an initiative such as this.

References can be found at this PDF

SO what might a future learning space look like for the girls of Nigeria?

Females in Nigeria have suffered though many years of fear, oppression and being regarded as a lower social status than their male counterparts. Their right to an education has been stripped from them by extremist groups such as Boko Haram, with the more than 100 school girls still missing in Northeast Nigeria serving as a reminder of constant control and oppression.

The future learning space I design for the girls of Nigeria aims to prove to them that they are valuable members of society, who do not deserve to be discriminated against based on their gender. I want to build on their own personal learning spaces and promote the idea that receiving and education not only improves their lives dramatically, but it also benefits their families, communities, the economy, and the wider world. I want these girls to feel empowered to bridge the liminal space and spread this message among their communities. Moreover, I want these girls to feel they are supported in a group learning environment, where the strength of female empowerment is behind them , cheering them on, to achieve their dreams.

Below are some points of evidence for investing in girls’ education from the Malala Fund website. I would hope to educate my students on all of these facts.

References

Malala Fund. (n.d.). Evidence for investing in girls’ education. Retrieved from: https://www.malala.org/girls-education

Girls education in Nigeria

While extremist group Boko Haram has made schooling impossible for many boys and girls in Northeast Nigeria there are a number of other barriers to education faced by girls in other regions of the country.

10.5 million primary school aged children are out of school in Nigeria, making it the country with the highest rate of non-school attendance in the world (Ndukwe, 2017), and with the majority of those being female (Archer, 2014). As the statistics from the film Girl Rising suggest, many families, when forced to make a choice, will opt to send their male children to school and send their female children to work – in local markets, looking after other children, or for other domestic services (Archer, 2014). In these communities women have a lower social status and therefore it is the males who are granted the privilege to be educated. But without education the lower status of women in perpetuated and there is no breaking free from the cycle.

On a recent trip to Nigeria, Malala Yousafazi, representing the Malala Fund, visited 14 year old twin girls in their home town of Lagos. Like many towns in Nigeria, Lagos has no public school. Sending the girls to a private school would cost the family roughly $70 per term. When the twins mother became ill and was no longer able to work, earning money for the family became the responsibility of these girls, forcing them to quit school while there brothers continued to attend.

These, like many other girls across the country, have serious ambition and dreams for their future. Yet none of that will be possible without education (Yousafazi, 2017).

References

Archer, D. (2014). Nigeria’s girls and the struggle for an education in the line of fire. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/may/15/nigeria-girls-education-boko-haram

Image 1) Mahoney, K. [UNHCR]. (2014). Young girls attend a maths class… [Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/africarenewal/news/african-child-day-un-education-envoy-urges-focus-kidnapped-nigerian-schoolgirls

Ndukwe, I. (2017). Nigerian girls often still drop out of school to work, despite country’s increasing wealth. Retrieved from: https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-07-13/nigerian-girls-often-still-drop-out-school-work-despite-countrys-increasing

Yousafazi, M. (2017). Malala Yousafzai: notes from my Girl Power trip to Nigeria. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/jul/21/malala-yousafzai-girl-power-trip-nigeria-women-education

Nigeria – a site for global concern

Nigeria is the richest country in Africa, but it has the highest number of out-of-school girls in the world. When I first visited the country in 2014, the government spent 9% of its budget on education. This year it’s only 6%. (The international benchmark for spending on education is 20% of the overall budget‘ (Yousafazi, 2017).

I have been drawn to discuss the education climate in Nigeria, after learning that the Malala Fund categorised Nigeria as a ‘priority country’, where the most girls of all the countries the fund supports miss out on secondary education.

Similarly to the stories of the girls featured in Girl Rising, both males and females in Nigeria face many barriers to education. Extremist group Boko Haram, which operates within in Nigeria, is said to be one of the deadliest extremist groups in the world (Human Rights Watch, 2016). Human Rights Watch (2016) estimates that 10,000 innocent Nigerian civilians have died at the hands of Boko Haram since its inception in 2009.

Boko Haram roughly translated from the dominant Nigerian language of Hausa means ‘Western education is forbidden”, this group has made schooling almost impossible to continue in some parts of the country.

Countless attacks on schools, teachers and students have been undertaken by this extremist group. The incident which received the most global attention was the 2014 kidnapping of 276 female students from a Government Secondary School in Northeast Nigeria. A number of girls have been released over the three years since the initial kidnapping but more than 100 girls still reman missing (BBC, 2017).

An heartbreaking video of some of the abuses faced by girls and women captured by the Boko Haram. WARNING contents may be disturbing to some viewers

References

BBC. (2017). Nigeria Chibok abductions: What we know. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32299943

Human Rights Watch. (2016). “They set the classroom on fire”: Attacks on education in Northeast Nigeria. Retrieved from: https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/04/11/they-set-classrooms-fire/attacks-education-northeast-nigeria

Image 1) Central Intelligence Agency: The World Factbook (n.d.). Nigeria map. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ni.html

Yousafazi, M. (2017). Malala Yousafzai: notes from my Girl Power trip to Nigeria. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/jul/21/malala-yousafzai-girl-power-trip-nigeria-women-education

Hardships faced by girls

*Facts featured in this post were taken from Robbins (2013) documentary film Girl Rising.

I just wanted to dedicate this post to some horrific facts that I discovered while watching Girl Rising.

  • 66 million girls worldwide do not attend school, with many more fighting to continue attending
  • Boys are often chosen over girls to be educated – community and societal values places boys as more ‘valuable’ contributors to the community and economy and therefore, when presented with a choice, should be the ones to be educated
  • Where as girls are often expected to work; fetch water, care for younger children, get jobs or worse – 80% of human trafficking victims are females
  • 33 million fewer girls than boys are in primary school worldwide
  • 14 million girls under 18 will be married each year – many of whom have never been to school and cannot read or write
  • The number 1 cause of death for girls aged 15-19 is child birth – girls who marry young are far more likely to stop being educated
  • Girls with 8 years of education are 4 times less likely to be married as children
  • A child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past age 5
  • Educated mothers are twice as likely to send their children to school
  • A girl has a 1 in 4 chance of being born into poverty –> without education that is where she will stay
  • Educating girls provides the biggest return for a community
  • Being a student makes girls a valued member of the community, enhances their status, improves health, makes them safer

References

Robbins, R. (Director). (2013). Girl Rising [Motion picture]. USA: Documentary Group

Girls Education – a foundation

As I write this blog entry on a fresh Melbourne morning I think about the inequalities I face as a female in Australia; My pay may be lower than my male counterparts, I might face sexism, I might be objectified and valued for by my looks rather than for my brain, or I might face gender stereotypes if I choose to start a family.

Yet can you imagine facing all of these inequalities, coupled with the fact that you may not be educated purely based on the fact that you were born a female?

Robbins’ (2013) film Girl Rising looked at a number of inequalities girls face around the world. He focuses on the true stories of 9 girls from Haiti, Cambodia, Nepal, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Peru, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan, ranging in age from 7-15 years old.

Below I will detail some of the individual barriers faced by these girls to receiving an education. However I STRONGLY recommend watching the film Girl Rising. It is a devastating yet inspiring story of determination as these 9 girls fight for what they think is right.

Wadley (Haiti, 7 years-old) – When Wadley’s home and school gets destroyed by the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, attending school becomes a treasured past time. Everyday Wadley walks numerous kilometres to retrieve water for her family. One day she notices a makeshift school has been erected on the site of rubble where her old school used to exist. Yet despite her extreme excitement, Wadley is turned away, being told to return when her mother can pay the school fees. Wadley knows there is no money for her to attend school, her and her family are struggling to even feed themselves. Yet Wadley’s determination is unstoppable.

“I will come back every day until I can stay.”

Her teacher, admitting defeat, allows Wadley to stay.

Suma (Nepal, 9 years-old) – Despite all of Suma’s brothers being sent to school, the extreme poverty faced by Suma’s family forces her parents to ‘sell’ her to their landlord under a practice known as bonded labour or Kamlari, as it is known in Nepal. They figured that at least she would have a roof over her head and food to eat working as a Kamlari.

Yet Suma faces both mental and physical abuse, is forced to work long hours on very little sleep, is provided little food and poor housing conditions and often does not have access to any kind of sanitation facilities – toilet or shower/bath.

After years of forced slavery she is provided with a glimmer of hope when a member of the Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF) convinces her master to allow her to attend night classes held specifically for Kamlaris to learn to read and write. Over years members of the NYF work to free Suma from her life of servitude, eventually they are successful.

Reference

Robbins, R. (Director). (2013). Girl Rising [Motion picture]. USA: Documentary Group.