Among all of the news about education in northern Nigeria, one of the most compelling facts is how social, economic and political factors negatively influence education opportunities for girls. Issues around educating school-aged girls have been widely reported as challenging in many countries, but the numbers in northern Nigeria are eye-opening. For example, in many northern Nigerian states more than 50% of young women ages 15-24 have no experience with formal education - See http:// www.epdc.org/epdc-data-points/schooling-northern- nigeria-challenges-girls-education. Equally disturbing, fewer than two thirds of girls who begin a primary school education actually graduate, and the numbers are even worse for girls who begin their secondary education. While these issues are certainly underscored and made worse by Boko Haram’s kidnapping of over 270 school girls earlier this year, extremist acts do not define the issue – there are many other factors influencing these challenges. For example, in regions where women have a lower social status, many parents opt for early marriage or to send their girls to work in markets rather than to school.
See http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/may/15/nigeria-girls-education-boko- haram.
The Akron Match Challenge - We Need Your Help!
Through a very generous challenge aimed at completing the second classroom building before the start of the next academic year, St. Paul’s has offered to match every dollar AEP raises up to $50,000! In order to reach this goal, our goal is to collect the full $100,000 before August 31. We are already on our way with $20,000 received to date ($10,000 raised, matched by St. Paul’s).
Educational Opportunities in Nigeria More Challenging Than Ever
The state of education in northern Nigeria is ever changing. Recent reports indicate that Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school in the world. Of the estimated 57 million school-age children worldwide who do not attend school, 10 million of those children live in Nigeria. Add to that the burgeoning population in Nigeria (it is estimated that children 15 years old and younger account for nearly half of the Nigerian population), combined with much lower than average government support for education, and it quickly becomes apparent that children and parents in Nigeria are in dire need of our help.
Welcome New AEP Board Members
We are thrilled to welcome Paul Frank and Angela DiMezza to the AEP Board. Paul and Angela are members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron, Ohio. Both Paul and Angela come to us with great experience – Angela has been to Nigeria, seen the school site and visited with parents and children, and Paul has for many years been deeply involved in international education- focused mission work.
St. Paul’s has partnered with us for several years now – they funded Angela’s and Nan Bartlett’s trip to Nigeria in 2011, and contributed substantially to acquire additional land (quadrupling the property available when the school project began), to erect the perimeter wall around Grace International, and to begin construction on the second classroom block. We are truly blessed to have the benefit of Angela’s and Paul’s experience and guidance, and the continued support of St. Paul’s!
Tax-Exempt Status Granted!
AEP qualifies as a tax- exempt public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
After an exceptionally tedious wait (and with the help of a gentle push from CT Senator Chris Murphy’s office), our application for determination that AEP qualifies as a tax- exempt public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code was recently granted. Previously AEP maintained its tax-exempt status through a sponsorship agreement with St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. While we will always remain closely linked to our supporting parishes in Connecticut and Ohio, AEP’s new status as an independent public charity enables us to apply for grants offered by a broad range of grant-making organizations. As you can imagine, there are many educational grants available and quite a few of them are targeted to international education opportunities. We are actively researching grant opportunities and seeking a professional grant writer to assist us.
Your Help is Needed Now More Than Ever! - Part 2
AEP began in 2009 to support Bishop John’s vision to provide educational opportunities to children of all faiths, regardless of gender or ethnicity in a less fortunate part of the world. We learned during our 2009 trip to Nigeria that certain school children in northern Nigeria were discriminated against, and that our mission partners live very close to an area that has, for years, been a hotbed of religious tension and violence. We started with the same goal we have today – to educate children of different faiths side-by-side without discrimination so that they learn together how to resolve their differences by non-violent means.
We knew nothing of Boko Haram (which had just formed in 2009), or that their acts would today represent the most extreme violence in the region, all in the name of stamping out modern education.
We always knew that our work was important. Only through the light of wisdom that shines more clearly in the dark shadows of tragedy have we recently understood our work to also be urgent. The many writings similar to Lola Shoneyin’s article that I mention above, written in response to the mass kidnapping of Nigerian school girls, have revealed much greater insight into just how dire the state of education is in northern Nigeria.
We have gained an appreciation for the challenges facing northern Nigerian school girls – challenges not all that different from those documented in other parts of Africa (another informative article discussing non- profit assistance for female students in Zamfara state is at http://tinyurl.com/pahqwzz). As Ms. Shoneyin points out in her article, the World Bank recently reported that Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school in the world.
We are not only helping our mission partners provide an education of reconciliation over violence – we are indeed helping them provide an education in the first place. It is no wonder that demand for additional classroom space at Grace International is so high, with many families asking when the second classroom block will be ready.
But we need your help and the help of everyone you know who has a passion for the power of education, for ensuring that education is made equally available to both girls and boys, and for fighting against extremist violence and fear.
You can either donate directly from www.africaep.org, or send a check payable to Africa Education Partnership, 99 Sand Hill Road, South Windsor, CT 06109. All of your donations are tax deductible. If you have made a pledge, consider paying ahead to help us raise enough money to complete the second classroom block before the start of this academic year. On behalf of the AEP Board, thank you for your continued support, and especially for helping us reach our goal of opening the second block of classrooms by the start of the upcoming academic year.
Your Help is Needed Now More Than Ever! - part 1
We are reminded weekly about why we continue to work so hard with and for our mission partners in Nigeria.
As this newsletter goes to press, news from northern Nigeria is disturbing the kidnapping of an estimated 276, school girls in the northeast state of Borno, the bombings in Jos, Kano and Abuja, and additional killings in Borno in northeast Nigeria, including 57 male students. Extremists of the Boko Haram cult, have taken many innocent lives (over 3,000 this year alone by one count) and continue to press their agenda against Western (secular) education and in favor of imposing Sharia law throughout Nigeria.
In the words of Nigerian poet and novelist Lola Shoneyin, “the most effective way to defeat [these extremists] and everything [they] believe in is to ensure children, especially girls in northern Nigeria, receive a good education.” See Ms. Shoneyin’s exceptionally informative and very timely article at http://tinyurl.com/m4v3nql. As we continue to support our partners in Nigeria, with your generous assistance we also continue to do just as Ms. Shoneyin urges – help our mission partners ensure that children in northern Nigeria receive a good education.
Contributions from individual and parish donors remain our most important and consistent source of income. Without people like you stepping up at the grassroots level the Grace International School project would not be possible. With your help we have thus far raised just over $170,000, and we have sent over $139,000 to Nigeria to complete the first classroom block and start the second block, with an additional $10,000 ready to send!
In light of recent activities, many in northern Nigeria who have been aware of the state of education have now come forward in written articles and blogs. From these writings we in the U.S. have come to understand and better appreciate the importance of collective accomplishments thus far, and just how critical it is that we continue to move ahead.
Building Two has a Roof!
AEP members recently received photos of the new roof just completed on Classroom Block 2!
Construction on second classroom block has started!
The roof matches the bright blue of Classroom Block 1. The addition of the second building with its seven new classrooms now provides places for another 150-200 students. Additional funds have just been wired to Gusau to complete the interior work in the building, including plastering, electrical wiring, and classroom fixtures.
This structure was begun early last spring when the original building reached capacity. Parents continued to bring children in to register for classes. Originally designated to be a secondary school complex, Grace International now houses students of all ages.
Now that Nigeria has been declared ebola-free, students can head back to classes. Schools in Nigeria had been shut down by the government while the virus was contained and were recently reopened at the end of October.
Bishop John Danbinta has plans to return to the U.S. in the spring of 2015. He is will be traveling with his wife, Helen, who has just received word that her visa application has been approved. This will be her first trip out of Nigeria! The trip is tentatively scheduled for May, but at this point, travel plans are still in the discussion stage.
While here, the Danbintas plan to spend time in both Connecticut and Ohio, visiting the partner churches and spending time with supporters.
A benefit dinner is now in the planning stages in order to raise funds for a bus and the third school building.
We are extremely excited to have Helen travel this time. The message she brings will give everyone first-hand understanding of a woman’s perspective of life in a society where women often struggle for social equality. We look forward to her speech.
Your Donations to Further AEP’s Mission
We have sent over $139,000 for school construction since our humble beginnings…!
Africa Education Partnership’s mission is to provide fund- ing and practical teaching assistance to schools that are accessible to all academically qualified children, without discrimination, and who encourage parents to enroll their girls and boys. With your help and support we are making a meaningful difference to those who attend Grace International School, where girls currently represent a little over 50% of the total student population. Our mission partners are dedicated to providing educational opportunities to academically qualified girls and boys regardless of religion or other socio-economic restrictions.
Please consider making a donation to AEP this holiday season. Your assistance really does make a difference. Our next priorities include funding a school bus to enable children who live further away from Grace International to enroll. Public transportation is not available to school children in most northern Nigerian states. Our mission partners are also now starting to plan for the third class- room building, which will include a library and formal science labs (labs are now set up in ordinary classrooms using portable equipment). We are making progress be- cause of your continued support!
With deepest thanks,
Don Ghostlaw on behalf of the AEP Board of Directors