KADUNA STATE, NIGERIA – Unseasonable cold and rutted roads did not prevent people from attending the commissioning of the Ikuzeh Livingkindness Centre for Learning on January 27, 2016. The Centre for Learning came about through the collaboration of the local community, Hope for the Village Child Foundation and the Livingkindness Foundation. Dominican Sister of Peace Rita Schwarzenberger, OP, is a longtime missionary in Nigeria and currently manages Hope for the Village Child.
Jan Phillips visited rural communities in Kaduna State in 2010 and saw the great need for better education. Upon her return to her home in San Diego, CA, she established the Livingkindness Foundation. Since that time she has worked tirelessly to assist Hope for the Village Child Foundation (HVCF) establish the Centre for Learning.
Why such a Centre? HVCF has assisted communities to build their own schools. However, these schools become public because the government provides the teachers, something neither the community nor HVCF can afford to do. This means that HVCF and the community have no control over the teachers or the quality of teaching.
After much deliberation it was decided to open an educational center to serve children in 15 small rural communities. Because of their isolation, these children have no exposure to the wider world. That puts them at a great disadvantage with their contemporaries from more advanced urban schools.
The land for the center was donated by the family of the local traditional ruler. The building has a learning area as well as living space for two staff. The Centre features computers powered by a solar energy system.
The commissioning was attended by the local leader, many district heads and chiefs, the Centre’s management committee members, staff of HVCF and adults and children of the area. Speeches, ribbon-cutting and unveiling of a plaque honoring Jan Phillips were followed by a computer demonstration given by a young student. Traditional music, dancing and refreshments completed the day.
The immediate challenge will be to find educational material that can be downloaded onto the computers for student use. English is not the first or even second language for the students so the material must be simple. (However, the students will be able to increase their English ability through instruction at the Centre.) Pictures are a vital element in awakening and keeping interest. HVCF hopes to be able to find resources in areas such as science and geography to broaden the children’s interest.
Planning continues for the use of the land around the Centre. The next phase will address the youth, most of whom are subsistence farmers. With the hope of making farming a more sustainable income-generating activity, twenty young men and women have been accepted into an agricultural training program. They will learn computer skills and then be taught how to research improved agricultural methods. The youth will also carry out practical aspects of both crop production and animal husbandry on the Centre’s land. After completion of the 9-12 month course, they should be able to introduce new methodology into their farming and earn income to raise their standard of living.
For all of the above, we owe an immense gratitude to Jan Phillips, and ask God to continue to bless her abundantly.
In addition to the work with the new Centre, Hope for the Village Child also advances education, healthcare, and women’s development in myriad ways. They build classrooms, mobile clinics, and clean water wells; train teachers and health workers, and help women learn to sew, knit, and make soap for income; establish programs for immunizations, health education, antenatal care, and corrective surgery for children with rickets, and more.