Why a school in Gusau?
Nigeria...a land of complexity and diversity...is a land divided by politics, social structures, different ethnicities, religions and economics. A relatively young democracy, Nigeria declared its independence from Great Britain in 1960 and has struggled to create a sense of “being Nigerian” ever since. As tribes and religions strive to preserve their own identity, disagreements and sometimes communal violence arise with some regularity. So why a school in a northern city in Zamfara State, a town that was once a leper colony? Gusau’s past may hold a link to her future. Perhaps Gusau can be made whole by education. Gusau is currently under Sharia law, a Muslim code of behavior taught in the the Koran. Sharia law was re-introduced in 1999-2000 as a way to regain stability and an ordered societyin the northern regions. While minorities such as Christians and those who adhere to traditional religions are not subject to Sharia law, the society conducts itself according to the tenants set forth in the Koran. Although Muslims and Christians coexist, the minority must follow the lead of the majority.
Limited educational opportunities
Educational opportunities are limited at best, with a lack of adequate schools for the population. Students wishing to advance past the elementary level must pass an entrance exam to enter middle school and then high school. There are few state high schools and standards are relatively low. Furthermore, many families lack the financial resources to send their children to school. Parents provide uniforms, purchase books and supplies, provide transportation, and pay tuition. More commonly, children who can afford an education go to schools sponsored and run by religious institutions. Many Christian children attend schools on church grounds. Some Muslim children attend madrassas, Islamic schools run by imams. This structure almost ensures that these children are educated separately, with little opportunity to learn each other’s perspectives and cultures. Bishop John Danbinta has lived and worked among his Muslim neighbors with shared understanding and respect for quite some time. He has a first-hand view of how Christian and Muslim children in the Gusau region could benefit from attending school together, and most importantly, how such a learning model could materially contribute to long term communal harmony. That is the vision for Grace International School. We’ve had the opportunity to visit and experience Gusau and meet the people, making this project extraordinarily special. We were able to see our funds in action.