Stepping Stones Nigeria today issued a communique commending the Federal Ministry of Education’s commitment to transform literacy levels in Nigeria through the use of the fast-track reading and writing method – Jolly Phonics.

The method, which is already being used by government primary school teachers in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, together with most private schools across the country, has been widely hailed by teachers, pupils and parents as a panacea for Nigeria’s ongoing challenge with illiteracy.

A two day workshop on the Jolly Phonics method was held last week in Abuja to show the evidence that the use of the method by primary teachers can lead to dramatic increases in the reading and writing abilities of children. Stepping Stones Nigeria was invited to present at the workshop on its efforts to transform literacy teaching in Nigeria using Jolly Phonics. The event, which was hosted by the Universal Basic Education Commission on behalf of the Honourable Minister of State for Education Mr Nyesom Wike, was well attended by Commissioners for Education, State Universal Basic Education Board Chairmen, Directors of Education and other distinguished guests.

The Founder and Director of Jolly Learning, Mr Christopher Jolly, also used the event as an opportunity to outline the details of his philanthropic offer of free Jolly Phonics materials, which includes free work books for all primary one and two children and free training for teachers and head teachers in government schools.

Jolly Phonics was first brought to the public school sector in Nigeria in 2005 by the founders of Stepping Stones Nigeria, Gary and Naomi Foxcroft, and a team of academics from the Institute of Education at the University of Uyo. Since then, word of the effectiveness of the method has spread and over 7,000 teachers have received free training on the method with the support of Jolly Learning Ltd. Stepping Stones Nigeria has played a central role in almost all of these efforts and the recent workshop was called following a synthetic phonics learning event in the UK which was organised by Stepping Stones Nigeria and attended by the former Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission.


Speaking after the recent workshop in Abuja, Stepping Stones Nigeria’s Education Programme Manager, Louise Gittins, said: “Like most people who see Jolly Phonics in action, we believe that it has the potential to revolutionise the teaching of reading and writing in Nigeria. Ultimately, until children are able to read and write they will have little chance of accessing their wider rights. We therefore look forward to working closely with all stakeholders in Nigeria to train many more government primary school teachers in this method”.

To read more on this workshop click here.

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The Day of the African Child is celebrated around the world on 16th June. This year the theme of the Day is the rights of children with disabilities. Given that mental and physical disabilities are often considered to be evidence of witchcraft in children, we have highlighted this issue in our press release:

The Child Rights Non-Governmental-Organisations – Stepping Stones Nigeria[1] and Stepping Stones Nigeria Child Empowerment Foundation[2] – have called upon the Nigerian government to take action to demystify the common ailments that are associated with witchcraft and prevent the labelling of children with disabilities as ‘witches’. In a statement released in Lagos and signed by Stepping Stones Nigeria’s Advocacy Officer, Dr Emilie Secker, the groups said there was an urgent need for the Nigerian Federal and State governments to raise awareness about the nature of physical and mental disabilities and to combat the belief that these are evidence of witchcraft in children.

Utibe Ikot, Acting Director of Stepping Stones Nigeria Child Empowerment Foundation said “Around the world, thousands of people are celebrating the Day of the African Child on 16th June. This year, the theme of the Day is the rights of children with disabilities. I am very sad to report that we have seen many cases where a child with a disability, for example autism, epilepsy, or Down’s syndrome is automatically considered to be a witch due to their condition. The behaviour traits that children with disabilities may have, such as stubbornness and poor school performance, or simply looking different to other children, mean that people looking for an explanation often label them as witches. Instead of the child getting the support and care they so richly deserve, they are often hidden from view, prevented from attending school, or in the worst cases beaten, tortured and abandoned to survive on the streets. It is vital that the belief that physical or mental disability is a sign of witchcraft is challenged now so that no more children suffer these abuses”.

Dr Secker further explained that “in many countries around the world there is a huge lack of understanding of disability and as a result disabled children do not get the understanding and support that they need. It is vital that the Nigerian government acts now to educate the public about the nature of disability and to make sure that people understand it properly. The government should set up public awareness campaigns across the country and should also train police and social welfare teams to look out for cases of abuse involving disabled children who have been accused of witchcraft. As a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Nigeria has a legal and moral responsibility to uphold the rights of children with disabilities and to protect them from harm”.


[1] For more information see www.steppingstonesnigeria.org

[2] For more information see www.ssncef.org

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SSMS Old Computer Centre

Before: An empty computer room

For a long time  the 300+ students and staff at our partner school, Stepping Stones Model Nursery and Primary School  (SSMS) shared a  single desktop computer and a laptop.  Both computers were running out-of-date software and the school had to contend with frequent power outages.   The head teacher of SSMS, Mrs Grace Udua, was concerned that students were missing out on an opportunity to acquire the skills required for active participation in today’s ICT focused society.     In response to this SSN and SSMS embarked on an exciting new project, Computers for All, with a view to installing a solar powered ICT suite in the school.

SSN bought six solar powered computers, batteries and solar panels from Aleutia, a UK based company that specialises in ultra low power PCs for use in the developing world.  To overcome the costs of purchasing and updating proprietary software, the machines arrived pre-installed with Edubuntu an open source operating system designed for schools as well as a wide range of open source software.

SSMS Computer Centre - After

After: A fully furnished ICT suite

Working with Aleutia’s Nigerian partner LL Media, a solar expert and an IT specialist in Akwa Ibom the solar panels were fitted and the computers installed in April 2012.  A photocopier, printer, laminator and binder were bought from local suppliers in Nigeria.  In the same month LL Media trained key staff on how to use the computers.

The project was completed in time for the start of the school term and all the students have had a chance to use the computers.  This is the first computer centre of its kind in the area and for many of the students the centre will be the only place where they are able to use a computer.

The addition of  ICT classes to the school’s curriculum will ensure all 300 children receive ICT training appropriate to their age The school’s ICT teacher has also developed a timetable for teachers to improve their computer skills after school.    Teachers and students have reported an improvement to overall learning environment as a result of the new teaching resources.  Most importantly the school’s board has devised a business and marketing strategy to ensure the centre’s long term sustainability.  The provision of adult ICT literacy classes is included in this plan ensuring that the wider community will also benefit from this project.

SSMS students learning about computers

SSMS Students in their new ICT room

The only challenge at the moment is  internet connectivity.   The school’s rural location has made it impossible to connect to the major networks and internet service providers.  We hope that in the near future one or more of these providers will extend its coverage.  In the meantime however, SSN, and the staff and students of SSMS are extremely grateful to all those who have made it possible.  In particular we wish to thank A Wa Po, The Besom, Virgin Unite, Aleutia, Jeremy Weate of LL Media and Ifacool Multimedia for the role they have played in transforming the lives of hundreds of children in rural Eket.

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To commemorate the Nigerian Children’s Day on 27th May, Stepping Stones Nigeria sent out the following press release:

As Nigeria celebrates Children’s Day on 27th May, a group of child rights NGOs has called upon the government to ensure that all Nigerian children enjoy their right of access to justice. Dr Emilie Secker, spokesperson for the Niger Delta Child Rights Watch Project,[1] said in a statement released today in Lagos that Nigerian state governments needed to take the lead in making sure that child rights laws are properly implemented throughout Nigeria. She went on to say that in order to ensure the legal protection of child rights two main initiatives are required. Firstly, all states in Nigeria must enact the 2003 Child Rights Act, and secondly, all states should establish family courts so that children are fully supported to seek justice for any abuse of their rights.

Dr Secker further commented that: “Sadly, the case data from our Niger Delta Child Rights Watch Project has also shown that many police and child welfare officers in the various Ministries of Women Affairs are not properly equipped to give appropriate support to children who have suffered horrors like rape, abandonment and violence. We therefore call upon the Nigerian government to ensure that the both the police and other relevant government officers are given sufficient training and resources so that they understand the principles of the Child Rights Act and are able to apply these effectively to investigating and charging cases of child abuse in practice. At the moment very few cases of abuse ever reach court and those who abuse children rarely face justice for their crimes. This needs to change if Nigeria is going to show the world that it is committed to the principles of justice, human rights and the rule of law”.

Barrister James Ibor, of the Calabar-based NGO Basic Rights Counsel Initiative, further explained: “We have already seen how genuine government commitment and action can have a hugely positive impact on child rights protection.  Here in Cross River State, where the Child Rights Act is in place and the family courts were established in 2011, we recently achieved a groundbreaking prosecution for child rights abuse. This has not only provided justice for the child but also sent a clear message that abusing the rights of any child is against Nigerian law. I truly believe that all children in Nigeria deserve this protection and that other states need to follow the lead of the Cross River State government in this regard”.

—–ENDS——–


[1] The Niger Delta Child Rights Watch project involves the NGOs: Stepping Stones Nigeria, Basic Rights Counsel Initiative, Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, Stepping Stones Nigeria Child Empowerment Foundation and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales. For more information see http://www.steppingstonesnigeria.org/ndcrw.html

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God also loves us and will bless [us], we’re no thieves – quote from a street child in Calabar

Our staff and volunteers braved the temperamental Lancashire weather and set up a stall in the centre of Lancaster town on Wednesday 11th April.   Being market day, Wednesday was the perfect day to speak to many people about the International Day for Street Children (IDSC).

SSN stall

Our stall in Market Sq, Lancaster

As you can tell from the picture, the day got off to a rather wet start but that did not deter our team who stood outside for seven hours handing out newsletters and getting people to sign the IDSC pledge.   Thankfully by early afternoon the sun began to shine and people began to flock to our stall.   Some bought beaded items made by street children resident at the Society for Youth Development and Rehabilitation Initiative (SYDRI) in Calabar, Cross River State Nigeria.  Others bought copies of our children’s story book Eno’s Story.  We made £52 from everything we sold on Wednesday.   This is more than enough to buy school uniforms and books for two street children enabling them to attend school and continue learning.   The best part for us however was getting people to add their voice and stand up for the rights of street children.  Over 30 people signed the pledge and we have added these names to the growing list –the latest count shows over 2000+ from all over the world have signed the pledge.   The Consortium for Street Children (CSC) will be sharing this with the UN in June and we are grateful that so many people in Lancaster agreed to support such an important issue.

Calabar Street Children

Street children marching through Calabar

While we were struggling to take down our stall and fold away our gazebo (it always looks so much easier when someone else is doing it!) our partners in Nigeria were finalising plans for Thursday’s events.

In Calabar, the Basic Rights Counsel (BRC), released a press statement that captured the key message for the day; ‘being a street child is not an offence’.  They organised a street children march through the centre of Calabar* and it was clear from the start that the children were very keen to take part

I arrived at work at 7:45am to find up to 30 street children all sitting on the footsteps of BRC office ready to rally and march – Madeline, BRC Intern

The event was covered by the Voice of Nigeria Radio station and the Cross River Broadcasting Cooperation   (CRBC).   Our Akwa Ibom based partner, Stepping Stones Nigeria Child Empowerment Foundation (SSNCEF) also issued a press statement calling on state governments in the Niger Delta region to defend and up hold the rights of street children.    Over in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) took part in a televised debate that was aired on the Nigeria Television Authority channel.

We are very proud of the work our partners have done to ensure that street children are seen and heard.  We thank the Consortium for Street Children for bringing so many organisations together but most importantly we thank the street children in the Niger Delta.  In spite of the abuses they suffer and the harsh conditions they live in they remain committed to working with all of us to bring about a positive change to their lives.

—–

*More pictures from the march in Calabar

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The International Day for Street Children is celebrated on April 12.  The day provides a platform for millions of street children around the world – and their champions – so that their rights cannot be ignored.   The International Day for Street Children was launched in 2011 by the Consortium for Street Children (CSC).   The CSC is the leading international network dedicated to realising the rights of street children worldwide.

We and our partners in Nigeria have been working hard to organise a number of events to mark this day.  Over the next few days we will post more about we have all been up to.  In the meantime we ask that you take a few minutes to

Sign the pledge

Add your voice here to stand up for the rights of street children all over the world. These children face a daily struggle to survive, often facing violence and round-ups by the authorities. Being a street child is not a crime; we want governments and society to recognise this.  The CSC will share your support at a meeting with the United Nations in June, to ensure street children are not ignored.

Challenge your perceptions of street children

There are a number of common misconceptions about street children, from who street children are, to how many there are around the world, to why children take to the streets in the first place. Increase your knowledge by reading these mythbusters.

Listen to the views of street children around the world

‘In Their Own Voices’ showcases the views of street children in five countries across the globe. It was made in conjunction with the following organisations: Caretakers of the Environment Tanzania; Covenant House, USA; Focus Ireland; Save the Children India and Toybox, El Salvador and  is sponsored by Aviva as part of their Street to School programme. It was filmed and produced by AMV Productions.

The children speak out about what matters to them, their hopes and dreams.

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Imagine the feel of the Sahara desert underfoot, taking in mesmerising landscapes beyond your wildest expectations and dramatic sand dunes as far as the eye can see.

Trekking the Sahara Desert will provide you with an unbelievable experience which you will never forget. For those of you with a desire to take part in charity trekking challenge of a lifetime for a charity close to your heart then this is the trip for you.

The following gives you a brief taste of the challenge ahead but for more detailed information please do not hesitate to contact us on 0845 313 8391 or email fundraising@steppingstonesnigeria.org and we will be delighted to help you!

DAY 1:
Fly to Ouarzazate. Overnight in hotel accommodation.

DAY 2:
Onwards to Zagora, along the long Palmerie of the Draa with crumbling Kasbahs ditted among the palms.

DAY 3:
Pass the cliffs of the southern Dra in the direction of the first Dunes of Ait Oumir.

DAY 4:
The high dunes of l’erg Zaher, at night spend some time under the stars.

DAY 5:
Climb to the summit of the Zaher dune to see the sun rise, head north to cross the river bed of the Dra.

DAY 6:
Hamada du Dra on to Djebel Bani. Leaving L’oued El Attach (The river of thirst) camp at the dune of Bouguern.

DAY 7:
Back through sand dunes and the rocky Hamada desert to the last oasis camp before Mhamid.

DAY 8:
Visit to the world heritage site of Ait Ben Haddou, the ancient Kasbah which has been a backdrop for many films.

DAY 9:
Return flight to London.

Deposit: £299        Sponsorship level: £2,200
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SSN’s co-founders – Gary and Naomi – plus Ellie – one of our trustees have already signed up to take part in this exciting event in order to help raise lots of money for our projects.

We would love for our supporters to join us as we run 10km along the Blackpool promenade. The Fun Run welcomes runners of all abilities and all ages and we’re very much of the belief that it’s the taking part that counts. Runners can also take part in fancy dress as it makes the day even more fun! For the serious runners out there that want a time to beat, last year’s winner crossed the line in an impressive 31.56 minutes!

Places are limited so go online and secure your place now: http://www.beaverbrooksfunrun.org.uk/#registrationpage

The entry fee is £11.00 for adults aged 16 and over and £8.50 for children aged 13—15. Running packs including your race number and all relevant information will be sent out from the beginning of March. SSN will also send you a fundraising pack complete with sponsorship forms and leaflets. Limited edition medal are available for all finishers.

Hope to see you there!

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We had some fantastic news come through at the end of last week – the first application to the Family Courts in Calabar, Cross River State has been made by our partner the Basic Rights Counsel Initiative! The Family Court is a special child-friendly court and was set up in Cross River State at the end of 2011. All Nigerian state governments are supposed to set up family courts once they have enacted the Child Rights Act (the law which protects children in Nigeria), but Cross River State is one of the first to actually do so.

This is a huge step forward, as having a child-friendly legal process will help to encourage and support many more children and their parents to come forward to seek justice when their rights have been abused.  Children have not felt comfortable in bringing cases before the regular adult courts, which is why having the family court is so important. We hope that this will mean many more prosecutions of offenders which will help to both deter others from abusing children, and will help to raise wider awareness that there are laws in force to protect children.

Basic Rights Counsel Initiative's James Ibor and Madeleine Bridgett with the Attorney General of Cross River State

This huge achievement would not have happened without all the hard work of our partner the Basic Rights Counsel Initiative, who have been lobbying the Cross River state government to set up the family courts ever since they passed the Child Rights Act into law in May 2009. Big WELL DONE to James, Ese and Madeleine for all of your hard work on this!

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We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who took part in Blog Day 2011. We are very grateful that you blogged or tweeted your support for the Prevent Abuse of Children Today (PACT) campaign and have helped spread the message to others. We have enjoyed reading all your posts and unique responses to:  ‘Every child has the right to happiness’.

Here are the links to the blog posts of everyone who kindly took part:

Akin Akintayo                                                               Carmel Thomas

Sylva Ifedigbo – Daily Times                                      Philippa Whiteside

Roman Vitelli                                                                Okey Egboluche

Graham Wynne                                                            Colin Macarthur

Perry Bulwer                                                                 Voiceoftheaccused

Baroness Mary T. Goudie                                              Jonathan Gamez

Here are some of our favourite bits from posts that were emailed to us from those who wanted to take part but did not have their own blog:

A short story from our friend Gabriel:

THE LITTLE EXILE

‘…the park was our playground; the stone walls our refuge.’

‘The man smiled and made Linda give me the box of chocolates. We surrounded Linda asking her questions as we munched the chocolates, I made sure everyone got a taste. When they had finished the long discussion with the matron, I was called upon to go get my belongings. I quickly rushed straight to my bunk with glee, dragged out my green and yellow streaked wrapper from the flat mattress and rushed back to meet them. It was since that day, I became Dingane Thwala; Linda’s adopted brother’

Monica Eze/ Grace Kalu of Life Foundation for Women and Children:

MY CHILDHOOD HAPPY MEMORY

‘…Looking from the high table area, I saw children from less privileged families that were running around various cultural groups and masquerades entertaining the audiences. Seeing how free they are sharing laughter and jokes; I asked my parents if I can join them. Without much ado and despite my expensive dress; they agreed and set me free to play with people I don’t even know about. And by interacting with them and getting to know their background, I realized the two worlds that exist in every society. And that is the life of affluence people and that of the poor people. In fact, the life poor and oppressed became more pronounced or self explanatory to me when my father died in 1990 and my mother were left to cater for me and my siblings all alone. And it was as a result of what we experienced that made me to vow not to see or watch any child suffer abuse, deprivation, alienation or suffer other degradations.

Every child deserves the best a society can offer. They deserve good education, protection from abuse, decent living, clean environment and healthy association.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons: things you must build upon in order to have a solid spiritual foundation. Your challenge is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.’

Written By: Grace Kalu of Life Foundation for Women and Children. 

If anyone else blogged for our Blog Day please email us at acintern@steppingstonesnigeria.org as we would love to include your link on this post.

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