2020 Children’s Day Special:
Annually, May 27th is observed as children’s day in Nigeria. With various activities including rallies and match past by school children held in different parts of the country. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, children will either be celebrated virtually, in small clusters or have no celebration at all.
To commemorate this day, Todayng.com met with the founder of Beyond the Classroom Foundation, Mrs. Raquel Daniel for a brief chat.
Her nonprofit recently unveiled a Coronavirus Awareness Booklet for children ages 6-10 in English, all three major Nigerian languages and French with the Pidgin version underway.
Todayng.com: Tell us about yourself and what children’s day means to you?
Raquel: My name is Raquel Daniel, also called the clarity coach for nonprofits. I’m an educator and impact strategist passionate about improving education in Nigeria. I work directly with children in marginalized communities in Nigeria focusing on education and sexual & reproductive health for adolescent girls through Beyond the Classroom Foundation. I am a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum with the Lagos hub, a Royal Commonwealth Associate Fellow, a Climate Reality Leader, a two time Mentor of the Queens Young Leaders Program and alumni Fellow of the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative of the US Embassy Lagos, TechCamp Leadership program South Africa and the LEAP Africa Social Innovators Program (SIP).
To me, children’s day is a day to intentionally stop and reflect on and celebrate our children. It is a day to let them be themselves and also let them know how special they are. As a development worker, it is a day to remember that there are millions of children out of school and something needs to be done about it. It is also a day that reminds me of the importance of my work at Beyond the Classroom Foundation. Today is a day of remembering, celebrating and honoring every child.
Todayng.com: Tell us more about the work Beyond the Classroom Foundation does with children
Raquel: Beyond the Classroom Foundation is nonprofit focused on education and sexual & reproductive health education for adolescent girls. In the last 8 years, we have provided free school supplies to over 7,000 pupils, organized free after school programs in two primary schools for two school years, planned Christmas and graduation parties in two schools. Through a partnership with Microsoft Nigeria, we organized the “One Million Fingers Coding” program which provided free basic digital literacy skills for children across 5 schools in Lagos, Oyo and Ondo States.
Beyond the Classroom has also provided free sanitary pads and educated over 10,000 adolescent girls in different communities in Abuja, Lagos, Ogun, and Oyo States on sexual and reproductive health. We recently through a partnership with Stanbic IBTC renovated a primary school in Lagos and another partnership with Smile Express factory, we raised over N2 million naira and enrolled 107 children back to school at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp in Abuja.
Todayng.com: Why is access to education for children important to you?
Raquel: I am very passionate about providing access to education for children because getting an education is a big achievement for me. As the first in my family to ever go beyond Secondary School, I have seen how this has transformed the way members of my family now view the need to get an education. Even more, getting an education completely changed the trajectory of my life. I moved from the girl who ran away from home due to fear of being married after her Dad died, a girl who lived on the street for almost two years, a girl who went for days without food, one who cleaned a brothel for a living, had no sanitary pads and escaped rape about 5 times, to a girl with a degree from the University. So starting and running a nonprofit that is focused on education and reproductively health is largely influenced by what I have been through growing up. This is why the work I do is so important to me.
Todayng.com: How is your organization adding value to the education of the children you work with during this pandemic?
Raquel: As you are aware, schools are currently closed in many parts of the world including Nigeria due to the Coronavirus. This is to contain the spread of the virus and keep the children safe. What we noticed was that, as public awareness and conversations around the novel virus increased, children in rural communities were completely left out from both online learning dues to lack of computers and internet with the majority of them unaware of the situation. For those who are older and a bit aware, they mentioned being anxious and worried.
Because we work with children in low and marginalized communities, we designed the “Education in a Pandemic” project and partnered with Busy Mind Schools to provide free set of 4 Workbooks worth N1.3 Million to 200 children in the Karonmajigi IDPcamp in Abuja.
Through another partnership with The Safety Chic, we distributed free Safety Booklet to 100 children. We also designed a Coronavirus Awareness Booklet for children ages 6-10 in English, translated to Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and French Language, with Pidgin currently in the works.
As adults, we play a significant role in helping children make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest, accurate and to minimize their fear or anxiety. It is our responsibility to ensure that they are well equipped with the necessary information they need to protect themselves and stay safe.
Todayng.com: What is your message to the Government, educators and civil society groups working in the education space?
Raquel: My message to the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a prayer, to invest more in children by providing alternative means for the marginalized children to have access to education while they’re home at this time. Even before COVID-19, millions of children in Nigeria were out of school so imagine the effect of having so many of them at home for such a prolonged period of time without school or any literacy education. Some might never go back to school. I applaud all civil society organizations (CSOs) working in the education space and educators for working tirelessly to ensure our children are learning. I want to encourage us all to innovate and collaborate for greater impact. We shouldn’t work in isolation. We need to invest in the future of Nigeria and by doing our work with these children, we are investing in the right place.
Todayng.com Thank you Raquel for your time!
Raquel: Thank you for having me