Helping the youth to develop their awareness in choosing the good? The good practices of the Igbarian “Fraternity” school in Nigeria.
Education is one of the most important challenges the Nigerian schooling system has to face, and where at times Nigerian society has to deal with aggressive behavior and religious traditions that imbue fear and a sense of helplessness in the face of evil.
“One day,” Christiane recounts, ” a mother stopped bringing her daughter to school because we had asked the parents to cut the hair of the children who were about to start the first year of nursery school. She said that someone who was believed to be in contact with spirits had told her that her daughter would die if she cut her hair. And this explained why the child no longer went to school.”
Christiane who is of German origin, had worked for many years in the youth section of the Focolare. Through support from a distance project of the New Families association, today she still works with children in Igbariam, a village 40 km away from Onithsa city, south-east of Nigeria, and where the “Fraternity School” is established.
The project started in 1995 as a result of the efforts of a group of the Focolare, which started in the 1980s a human promotion process to offer concrete development opportunities through deep relationships with the local people and respect for local traditions. “Through concrete acts of love for some children, an after-school club was formed, which later, slowly turned into a nursery and then an elementary school. Starting from the nursery school, the endeavour is to give the children a global education, preparing them to face the many challenges of this great nation.”
Instituted in 2006, today the school counts 223 students, with 75 in the nursery and 148 in the primary school. With time, also the parents became involved in an educational and social project which avails of an educational method based on human values, a teaching style that believes in and respects the dignity of the child as a person. Attention is paid particularly to the smaller ones, just as the Gospel says, offering new tools for global human growth. For example, the “dice of love” is used, with which students and teachers live their daily commitment to peace and solidarity.
It is also a novelty since in many Nigerian schools, physical punishment is considered a necessary practice in the educational process. The idea in force is “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” and it is not easy to change this mentality. However, in an interview with the newly instituted “New City Nigeria,” Mrs. Akwobi of the Nwafor Orizu College of Education Nsugbe, affirmed that “current psychological studies have demonstrated that the negative effects of these corrective measures surpass the positive ones and that the children often become tense and aggressive with physical punishments. They are unable to empathise with the teachers and transfer this rejection to the subjects they teach.”
Mrs Akwobi went on to say: “Instead, it is important that they are able to develop awareness in choosing the good and not only to avoid punishment. The teacher should behave as one who always has something to learn, because teaching is a two-way process. Listening to others, patience, and comprehension have a positive effect on the children and their learning abilities. Furthermore, adopting nonviolent measures in school relationships helps to also reduce the rate of violence in society. These educational principles are being implemented in the Fraternity School in Nigeria.”
Christiane concluded by saying: “Here, many people leave to look for a better life in Europe. Our job aims at helping people to build a liveable experience in their own countries. Thank you for whatever help you can give! You cannot imagine how much it is helping us to proceed with social works, spread a new culture, and contribute to the development of this country based on Christian love.”