In Nigeria, An Organisation is Empowering Children Beyond The Classroom
Raquel Jacobs’ dream is to help as many children as possible get access quality education, especially beyond the four walls of the classroom.
An avid social worker, Raquel has volunteered in many marginalized rural communities in Lagos State, Nigeria.
She has been privileged to work with some incredible minds over the years too.
A fellow of the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative of the US consulate Lagos, Raquel has also volunteered at the recently concluded World Economic Forum (WEF) in Abuja and AIESEC – the world’s largest student run organisation.
She is currently volunteering for Uturn Africa Concepts to organize their annual Forum in Lagos, Ghana and Cameroon.
Speaking about her journey as a volunteer; Raquel said: “In my first year in the University, I felt the need to mentor and educate young girls about the things that I went through and still going through and I started the Girl Talk Initiative, which was a religious program for teenage girls. It has evolved and it’s now called the Club 31 Girl,” Raquel said.
Raquel ran that project while educating young girls on religious issues and doing other community projects. She did that for about a year until one day on my way to school, she saw a young boy walking to school with torn uniform and shoes.
Describing this incident, Raquel said “Seeing him that morning drew my attention to the public school system. I quietly followed him to his school and saw the appalling state of the public school and later found out that the school is not only in a bad state but has a lot of uninspired children and children who are demotivated to learn.”
This encounter births her NGO, “Beyond the Classroom Foundation” – a non-governmental organisation that focuses on educating and empowering children from needy homes through creative programmes that enable them reach their full potential and bring change in their generation.
Beyond the Classroom focuses on improving teaching and learning of less privileged pupils in public schools.
She runs the foundation through four programs – Inspire Learning, Inspire Teaching, Facilities Renovation and Mentoring.
One of the projects of the Inspire Learning Program is the Set4School Project. Through this project, BTC provides free school supplies to less privileged school children in public schools. It also supports their learning through extra-curricular activities and after school clubs.
Teachers are not left behind as they are also trained to be better educators and help improve the amenities in the school.
Beyond just giving school supplies, “Beyond The Classroom” also educate the children about the environment, good morals, values and patriotism.
“We teach them to respect one another and look out for each other. This is because the children are watching and are aware of the corruption in the country, they are leaning from us even when we don’t teach or say a word. We hope that this would go a long way to form a child’s character and thus reduce the decadence in the society.”
The journey has however not been easy.
According to her, managing the organisation with schoolwork was a major challenge.
However, through her membership as an AIESECer, she learnt to delegate and trust people to try, fail and learn on the job.
“I started delegating to volunteers who were available and needed a little push and before I knew it, a lot was off my plate and I had enough time to focus on building structures.”
When asked what was the most shocking thing she has discovered in her line of work? she answered: “For me it’s a phrase I hear almost all the time. It was shocking at first but I am used to hearing it and it’s “What’s in it for me?”. When young people are asked to volunteer, majority of them say this same thing and it baffles me. Volunteers don’t always have to be paid.”
In the future, Beyond The Classroom plan to scale up and reach out to other schools.
“In a few years, we want to be able to provide free supplies for the children as many children as possible, train as many teachers as possible, provide mentoring and scholarships to as many children as possible and renovate different public schools to give them the children a conducive learning environment,” she said.
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