This article originally appeared in the Queen's Gazette.
With 13 million children who are without access to schools in Nigeria alone, there is an urgent need for educational support – a trend which is expected to grow over time. Adding to the complexities of this issue are the intersections between gender and access to resources in Sub-Saharan Africa.
To address these challenges, modern policy-driven solutions that are culturally attuned, and advance sustainable community-led changes are needed. Working towards this end, Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College, and the City of Kingston recently co-hosted an event at the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning to showcase and raise awareness on enhancing learning in Nigeria.
The exhibit, My Story of Water, uses the power of art to foster creativity and resiliency and was open to the public between June 2- 29. The display included hand-painted water cans and photographs emphasizing the importance of safe access to water, sanitation, pollution, environmental protection, and how basic needs are fundamental to empowering educational development.
The launch event included comments from Queen’s Provost Mark Green, Dean of the Faculty of Education Rebecca Luce-Kapler, Dean of Smith School of Business Wanda Costen, St. Lawrence College President Glenn Vollebregt, Kingston Economic Development Council CEO Donna Gillespie, as well as the Nigerian High Commissioner, Nigerian Ambassador, and Special Advisers to the President of Nigeria.
“The showcase displays collaboration of like-minded people looking to enhance and provide access to education for the most vulnerable members of our communities,” says Hakeem Subair, founder of 1 Million Teachers and a Queen’s alumnus. “We need to show the world what we’re doing, but more importantly how to make society better, and hopefully we can get support from other people who are not yet part of our movement.”
With the exhibition focusing on United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean Water & Sanitation, Queen’s and the Kingston community continues to build ties with Nigeria and support Muna Taro’s initiatives and pursuit of educational reform.
1 Million Teachers is an organization that hopes to attract, train and retain teachers through the use of their online platform and learning modules. Queen’s connection to Muna Taro stems from the CEO of 1 Million Teachers, and Smith School of Business graduate, Hakeem Subair. In 2018, the Faculty of Education partnered with 1 Million Teachers to assist with program development and to create a practice that supports learning in Nigeria and beyond, while advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“When we started 1 Million Teachers we wanted to support teachers and when we were doing that we started seeing gaps in our programming – areas such as inclusivity, and gender responsive education,” Subair says. “The gaps we were seeing led us to taking a systems approach because most times you could see yourself working on a solution, and that solution may become part of the problem. This process led to us collaborating with all the partners we are working with today.”
The Five Cowries art initiative aims to improve educational outcomes by stimulating engagement and encouraging creativity through the amplification of narratives about social and environmental impact in Nigerian.
Girl Rising empowers young girls through the power of story telling and raising awareness of the barriers preventing girls from attending school and gaining an education. From combating early marriage, sex trafficking, domestic slavery and gender-based violence, Girl Rising’s mission is to create transformational change in the way girls are valued.
Together, these organizations advocate for grass roots changes environmental and social and environmental norms across Nigeria, and 14 other African countries.