The Destiny Trust Foundation, an organisation that takes the wellbeing, education and empowerment of homeless children, and other classes of young people in disadvantaged circumstances as its priority, has taken its mission of giving the disadvantaged Nigerian child another chance one notch up, by building a bridge learning centre, which was formally opened on October 1.
The centre, located at Bogije, in Ibeju Lekki, Lagos, is designed to provide tailored solution for the education of over-aged out-of-school children who have been excluded from the conventional school system.
WHAT THE LEARNING CENTRE OFFERS
“The Bridge Learning Centre is a response to the problems we have observed in the past nine years of working with out-of-school children. There’s a huge population of children, aged 10 to 18 years, who never started school, or who dropped out of school of school for various reason,” Abimbola Ojenike, co-founder and coordinator of the foundation, told FIJ.
Ojenike explained that these over-aged children are some of the most educationally disadvantaged children, because they can hardly be accommodated in the conventional schools.
“They are often either considered too old to start from the nursery classes, or lacking the grade level competence for the higher classes. If ever admitted in the regular schools, they may not complete basic education till their twenties or late teens,” said Ojenike.
According to the co-founder, these sets of children not only feel out of place during such situations, but also find it psychologically demotivating to be in the same learning environment with pupils who are far younger.
THE REALITY ON BASIC EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
“The reality is, if you multiply Nigeria’s over 62,406 conventional primary schools by two, we would still not have a school for some of the children captured in the estimated 10.5 million out-of-school children,” Ojenike stated.
He also made it clear that if all learning centres are structured like the regular schools, there will be none that addresses the peculiar challenge with overaged children, who form a large percentage of the total number of out-of-school children in the country.
“Through the Bridge Learning Centre, we want to provide an alternative education pathway for children that are excluded from conventional schools. A 14-year-old that missed out on the whole or part of basic education can be assisted to catch up in an accelerated learning programme within 3 years, and can then be integrated into the regular schools at a more advanced class,” the coordinator explained.
Ojenike listed the challenges faced by the foundation to include finding existing educational resources, books and teaching aids that are specifically suited to accelerated education, and that at the same time, align with the national curriculum.
“There is also little awareness and inadequate hands-on experience of accelerated education teaching style among teachers and education managers,” added Ojenike.
He described funding as the foundation’s third major challenge, with the foundation still seeking grants or institutional partners to support the setting up of the centre.
“We got a rejection at the last stage of a grant process that was intended to finance our technology needs, books and classroom furniture, but we went ahead all the same with our desire to create a dignifying learning environment for the children and make technology part of everyday classroom,” Ojenike said.
THE LEARNING STRUCTURE
The Bridge Learning Centre is designed for 100 children per time. However, the foundation also run flexible schedules such that, remedial classes are also organised for children, who are already in school but do not have the grade level competence for their classes.
“By running two streams, we can attend to up to 200 children per time,” the coordinator explained.
REQUEST FOR SUPPORT
“We require support to keep the work going and expand the opportunity to many more children. We need funding for more books, continuing professional development of our teachers, more teachers to promote personalized learning, equipment for vocational skills acquisition, alternative power supply and outdoor recreational facilities,” said Ojenike.
According to the co-founder, the foundation also want to be able to provide school meals to children who are food insecure.
“We need partners to collaborate with us to meet these needs. Individuals can also adopt a child for sponsorship through the programme,” solicited the coordinator.
Although the centre is tuition free to the children, the cost to the foundation per child is N50,000 for every quarter of the year.
Ojenike also stressed that if the foundation could get a sponsor for every child, it would also find itself in a position to pay a fair and competitive remuneration to its teachers, keep the centre running and maintain its facilities.
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