One in ten children in Nigeria are classified as “vulnerable,” according to the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs & Social Development (FMWASD). A child is classified as vulnerable if, because of the circumstances of birth or immediate environment, is prone to abuse or deprivation of basic needs, care and protection and thus disadvantaged relative to his or her peers. This makes Nigeria’s orphan and vulnerable children burden one of the highest in the world. A recent situation assessment and analysis conducted by the FMWASD found that approximately 80 per cent of these children were not attending school.
“The rate of vulnerable children attending school is particularly concerning as the best way to alleviate poverty and create opportunities for young people is to provide them with a quality education,” said Uzo Nwagwu, Chief Operating Officer for GE Nigeria Oil and Gas. “We at GE feel strongly that if we can introduce education to pupils through information technology, we can start making a positive impact on the lives of people who need our help the most.”
In December, GE teamed up with the AVSI Foundation, which began its operations in Nigeria in 1988. AVSI’s mission is to implement projects to improve the situation of women and vulnerable children through the provision of education, health and capacity building.
While AVSI has been providing education to vulnerable children at two schools in Lagos State, SS. Peter and Paul Nursery and Primary School in Ikate Elegushi and St. John Nursery and Primary School in Oreta, they needed a partner who could help them provide education to pupils and teachers through information technology.
GE set up an information technology laboratory with 15 desk computers to introduce this form of education to 25 nursery and primary school teachers, who will now be strengthened through IT aids. Because of this, 360 vulnerable children will have access to computer-based education for the first time.
The new computer laboratory is designed to provide urban children aged five to 11 a meaningful, yet fun, learning experience during school hours, in a safe environment. It will provide an otherwise unavailable educational experience and bridge the digital divide among at-risk children. It hopes to increase children’s interest in careers in computers and provide them with the necessary tools to help them become more competitive in school and in today’s job market.
“We hope this new computer laboratory will not just provide necessary equipment to pupils of these schools, but also make learning exciting and fun, so they are encouraged to continue their studies and pursue careers in information technology,” said Uzo Nwagwu.
Each week, teachers will conduct hands-on experience working in the laboratory with students. Each pupil will have direct access to the computers. In addition, students will complete assignments guided by the computer teachers. There will be a regular assessment of progress to ensure this initiative and the associated technology is making a real impact on the lives of the students.
These computers will hopefully not just give students access to education content and technology, which is essential in today’s globalised environment, but also a window into the outside world. All it took for innovative entrepreneurs to start companies such as Facebook and Google was a computer and a secure internet connection. Perhaps the next big idea lies in the minds of one of these bright students, who are today seen as vulnerable, but tomorrow as global leaders.