Accessing education in North East Nigeria
Jesuit Missions is supporting Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) West Africa’s new education project in Borno, North East Nigeria. Nigeria accounts for 47% of West Africa’s population with approximately 184 million inhabitants, and one of the largest youth populations in the world. Borno is most commonly known for the presence of the terrorist group Boko Haram who have targeted the formal education system causing a severe deterioration in access to education in this area particularly for girls. JRS Nigeria are trying to change this. Katie Schlaudt is the Assistant Regional Director in this new area.
How long have you worked with JRS?
I only started my role in March, so it is still very new to me. I am based in Yaundi, Cameroon. Before that I spent 3 years in Chad and a year in Kenya doing community health work in the field with other NGO’s, so it has been a big jump to education.
Which countries does JRS West Africa currently operate in and where do the refugees mainly come from?
We currently work in Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad. In CAR, it is a continuous state of emergency with the religious conflict, so we have mainly internally displaced people. Cameroon receives refugees from Darfur, Sudan and Chad refugees from CAR. Many refugees have been in Chad for over 15 years, so the need is very different there, the focus is more in a development context.
Our main work falls under four categories; reconciliation which includes psychosocial cohesion, education, resilience which includes income generating activities and advocacy.
Can you tell us more about the new office which you are opening in Nigeria?
Later this year we are hoping to open a new office in Maiduguri in the North Eastern Nigerian state on Borno. Most people know this area for the religious sect Boko Haram. We conducted a needs assistant survey and found that there were very few educational NGO’s in this state. There is a huge need for formal and basic education. We hope to provide primary and secondary education and literacy and vocational training to young adults. We find that if we are able to provide education and training to women they will be able to see the benefits of learning and be able to pass on their appreciation for education to their children. Otherwise it can be difficult for them to send their children to school if they have not had an education themselves.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
JRS works in places where other NGO’s can’t or won’t go. Some areas can be very dangerous to work in, for example this week in CAR we had to evacuate all the staff. I admire the fact that we as an organisation are never scared to work in any areas.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
In CAR everything is working against us. We are constantly trying to implement activities despite everything. It can be hard to motivate the local staff in tough conditions such as when we had to evacuate last week.
What do you see for the future of JRS West Africa?
We see our new development in Nigeria as a way to make more people aware of the work that we are doing elsewhere. Nigeria has been in the news and media a lot in recent years due to Boko Haram and people seem to know a lot more about the troubles here but less of what is going on elsewhere for example in CAR. I hope that through our work in Nigeria we will be able to raise awareness of what is going on elsewhere.
Header photo credit: JRS CAR