Community mobilization, local actors in Nigeria lead education strategy development

On the outskirts of Yola city in Adamawa State, Nigeria, situated several kilometers from the nearest public schools, sits the community of Rumde Baru. Experiencing a high level of out-of-school children, local leaders and residents came together to pool a small amount of money and purchased a piece of land which would serve as a dedicated space for learning.

Sunday, a volunteer teacher who works with out-of-school learners, spoke about the challenges children in the community face, “Because we are dealing with children affected by crisis, most of them are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Having a dedicated learning space locally to provide basic education to the most vulnerable children “reduces parents’ tension because their children are safe and protected” and “provides a safe and conducive learning environment for both the teachers and the learners,” according to Sunday.

However, Rumde Baru was one of many locales impacted by historic flooding in 2022, which left 4.4 million people across the country affected. The location identified for learning would frequently become inaccessible and unusable for learners and educators alike.

This community mobilization effort highlighted the need to establish a dedicated space for learning, which led to resourcing under the Education Cannot Wait’s Multi-Year Resilience Programme (2021-23) in Nigeria. Through this funding, Save the Children, a co-lead agency of the Global Education Cluster (GEC) alongside UNICEF, constructed a temporary learning center to provide a safer facility for learners, elevated to prevent flood damage.

Image of old school facility in Nigeria
Image of new school facility in Nigeria
Old learning facilityNew learning facility
Education in Emergencies in Nigeria

Nigeria has been facing an acute humanitarian and protection crisis. As of 2023, an estimated 8.3 million people are in need of assistance, including 6 million people affected by conflict in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe (BAY) states. Armed conflict, insecurity and climate crises have resulted in mass internal displacement, and as a result, an estimated 1.7 million children are without access to school in the BAY states.

To meet these challenges, the Nigeria Education in Emergencies (EiE) Working Group is in the process of renewing their Strategy with support of the GEC. As part of these strategic consultations, in Yola in Adamawa State, the Working Group is engaging with the local government, education stakeholders and partner organizations to commence their strategy refresh.

A focus area of the Working Group’s EiE response is on out-of-school children. Many children in Nigeria remain in temporary learning spaces and poverty remains among the top barriers to children’s access to education. “Their parents sometimes send them on errands [or selling goods],” says Sunday. “As such they are not consistent in coming to the center.” There is also a need to increase capacity of the formal education system to reach and incorporate learners currently in informal schooling.

Thanks to the collaboration between community leaders and the EiE Working group, the local government has agreed to utilize the temporary learning center in Rumde Baru in the morning for public primary school. And, the Ministry of Education plans to formalize the facility as an official government school in 2024, which will see government teachers assigned to teach. This will increase the longer term sustainability of education within the community.

It will remain a space for non-formal school in the afternoon for out-of-school children in the community, taught by volunteer teachers, with the overall objective of mainstreaming these students into public school.

Engaging sub-national actors

The Working Group’s new Strategy, which will replace the 2021-2023 iteration, seeks to build on this type of progress with local leaders at the forefront of its design and implementation. To do this, the Nigeria EiE Working Group and the GEC ran workshops to engage actors at national and sub-national levels to identify strategic priorities and emphasize local ownership in EiE responses.

One participant, who is an Adawama State Cluster Coordinator working on education in emergencies, said, “The strategy workshop that we have today is one of its kind. It is important that issues are brought from all angles, from the basics, and gives opportunity for ownership of the strategy.”

Another commented, “As first-hand implementers it is important that our views, from lessons learned and experiences, be considered and developed in strategies for the education sector.”

Education Secretary in local government: “I know some of the problems we are facing in the field. I believe when [the strategy is] implemented it will go a long way in solving the problems we are facing in this [community]. It will foster teaching and learning, it will bring results in the education sector.” UNICEF state education consultant: “Our participation is very, very important to give us a voice to the whole humanitarian sector, and particularly for the education sector, bringing [forth] our relationship and our experience with the beneficiaries within the country.”Adawama State Localisation Task Team - Street Child Nigeria: “It is important that we are in the strategic meeting because we are able to see that local partners are able to implement or mainstream the various sustainability strategies […]to have an impact on education at the local level.”
Nigerian educator being interviewed
Video snapshot of UNICEF state educator consultant in Nigeria
Video snapshot of Nigerian state localization task team member

Once finalized, the Strategy will outline how to continue delivering education in emergencies planning in Northeastern Nigeria, including through more effective resource allocation and increased capacity development of teachers and educators. There will also be a focus on anticipatory action to build resilience in the face of climate disasters, such as flooding.

The Strategy will enable education stakeholders to operationalize the delivery of strong EIE programming, mainstream learners into formal education and empower local actors to take full ownership of EIE delivery.

“My spirit is always willing to help children who sincerely need educational support,” reflects Sunday, about his volunteer teaching work. “I see their hope being restored and [they] are willing to pursue their education just as children in formal setting.”

Banner photo: © UNICEF/UN0269857/Knowles-Coursin


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