In a quest for a quiet peaceful country life, Kangyang Gana and her family decided to relocate to a beautiful and serene community away from Jos the capital city of Plateau State, some years ago.

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In a quest for a quiet peaceful country life, Kangyang Gana and her family decided to relocate to a beautiful and serene community away from Jos the capital city of Plateau State, some years ago.

Though not natives of the community, they found Jebbu Miango, a farming community surrounded by beautiful hills, and peace-loving, friendly, and hospitable people, and soon, it became their home. 

Unknown to them, they were about to open an entirely new and unplanned chapter in their lives. When they moved to Jebbu Miango, a small beautiful community in the Bassa Local Government Area in 2019, they had only planned to live a quiet life away from the hustle and bustle of a city.

Upon arrival and settling in the community, Kangyang discovered that the native children could only speak their local dialect, Irigwe. Jebbu, haven suffered several attacks by terrorist groups and Fulani herdsmen and most children were out of school and that became a course of concern for Kangyang.

“We just wanted to live in a rural community because we wanted the peace and quiet life but unfortunately that is the opposite today. We moved in and saw the need and we could not fold our hands so we decided to help,” Kangyang said.  

Because of her love for books and the need she saw in her new community, Kangyang started a small reading programme for the community children in her living room and soon it grew so big with about 1000 children coming around every Sunday to learn how to read.

Together with a group of young dedicated volunteers, these children began their learning process, and for some of them, that has been the closest they had ever been to a school.

What started in a living room blossomed into a Non-Governmental Organisation; Claire Aid Foundation. 

“Claire is a French word and it means illumination and that is our inspiration. We hope to be light in every community we enter. Our vision is to empower and inspire rural and vulnerable communities. 

“We started by just reaching out with just literacy programmes but in 2021 we suffered a major violent attack that displaced the entire community for several months. After the attack, we had to spread out to assist the families of children that come to us every week. 

“We started a relieve distribution and we have helped some people in re-roofing their homes again, we have help some to rebuild and start all over again,” she said. 

These challenges did not shift the primary focus of the foundation which is to provide literacy for the community it rather became a push for the foundation to do more to achieve its primary aim.

“In addition to our primary focus which is literacy, we have the library service. We are offering the first community library Jebbu Miango has and it is currently in use where children can come after school to access reading materials. 

“We also want to make available computers so that children would be able to access it. It would interest you to know that though they write JAMB, they have never sat in front of a computer prior to those exams so we want to be able to bridge that gap for them.

“Because of the environment we are in, we are also into mental health trauma. We have had volunteers trained on how to be counsellors for these children. We have coordinated two camps for the children because they witnessed the attack of July/August 2021 and they were terrible.” 

The foundation ensures the children are not left behind in any area so they organise annual Christmas fun fair for the children bringing the fun and love of the season. 

“Also, one of our major projects is the annual Christmas party for rural children and we have four episodes so far. We gather children and call on volunteers and we reach out to the children just for them to celebrate. These are part of the things the foundation does.

“Our inspiration is just to be the light wherever we are and to touch the lives of these children. I believe in the powers of books and I know that they may not have the opportunity to travel but they can travel when they pick up books. We are changing the narration of Jebbu Miango through literacy,” Kangyang said.

In September during the summer break, Claire Aid Foundation in collaboration with Arm the Child Foundation organised a summer holiday school for selected children in the community. 

The idea behind the summer school according to the foundations was to motivate learning among children. The children were taught Mathematics, English Language, Financial Literacy, Civic Education, and some soft skills alongside lunch every day.

“This particular summer school, we identified children in secondary school, we had 21 children who are going to Junior Secondary one (JSS1) and they formed the greater number of the children. The essence was to bridge the gap in learning.

“In Plateau State unfortunately for us, children of government schools had be out of school for several weeks because of a strike and what that does is that it kills motivation for learning so this summer school was one of our strategies to motivate learning among the children.

“We also had to feed them during the course of the four weeks. This is a rural community and times are hard generally in Nigeria so one way to keep them was to feed them too. If a child is hungry learning would be hard and so we had the opportunity of feeding them lunch so that they could concentrate and learn.

“One other thing we did was to help them learn a soft skill because they need money and they need to find something to do. They are young but many billionaires started young. So we taught basic baking skills, bead making, and basic tailoring skills,” Kangyang said. 

Before now, Arm the Child Foundation had been organising summer school for internally displaced children in the Federal Capital, Abuja for over five years through which 500 children have been empowered with access to education.

Author: Kangmwa Gofwen

Lagos Bureau Chief, Nigeria

gofwenjoy@gmail.com

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