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How social enterprises are revolutionising education in Nigeria and beyond

In the face of adversity and inequality, social enterprises in education are beacons of hope, illuminating a path towards a brighter future for all. Through their tireless efforts and unwavering commitment, organisations like Chess in Slums Africa and Slum to School are rewriting the narrative of education in Nigeria and inspiring similar initiatives across the continent.
Photo of children receiving education in a slum and children playing chess in a slum
Collage: Edugist
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In a small, impoverished neighbourhood in Lagos, Nigeria, a group of children gathers eagerly under the shade of a makeshift tent.

As the scorching sun beats down on the dusty streets, their eyes light up with excitement as they prepare to embark on a journey of learning unlike any other. This scene is not uncommon in many underserved communities across Nigeria, where access to quality education remains a distant dream for millions of children.

However, amidst the challenges and hardships, a glimmer of hope shines through in the form of social enterprises dedicated to transforming education for the less privileged. Through innovative approaches and unwavering dedication, these organisations are breaking barriers, bridging gaps, and empowering individuals to realise their full potential. Two such exemplary initiatives in Nigeria are Chess in Slums and Slum to School.

Chess in Slums Africa

In the bustling slums of Lagos, Chess in Slums is making waves by leveraging the power of chess to empower disadvantaged youth. Founded by Tunde Onakoya, this grassroots initiative provides free chess lessons to children living in slum communities, offering them a unique opportunity to develop critical thinking skills, resilience, and confidence.

Episode 219- Tunde Onakoya (Founder of Chess in Slums) — The Perpetual Chess Podcast

Photo credit: The Perpetual Chess Podcast

Through strategic partnerships with local schools and community centres, Chess in Slums has reached over 5,000 children across Lagos, with plans for further expansion in the coming years. The impact of this initiative goes beyond the chessboard, as participants experience improved academic performance, enhanced social skills, and increased self-esteem.

Slum to School

Another trailblazer in the field of education is Slum to School, founded by Otto Orondaam in 2012. This innovative organisation is committed to providing access to quality education for children living in slums and remote communities across Nigeria. By building schools, providing scholarships, and implementing community-based programmes, Slum to School has transformed the lives of thousands of children and families.

To date, Slum to School has constructed over 20 schools, enrolled over 100,000 children in school, and trained over 3,000 volunteers to support its mission. Through its holistic approach to education, the organisation addresses not only academic needs but also health, nutrition, and psychosocial support, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to thrive.

The Makoko Dream School is a school on water for children in urban slum"

Photo credit: Theirworld

In Nigeria, basic education is enshrined as a fundamental right, with the government mandated to provide free and compulsory schooling for all children. However, despite this constitutional provision, millions of children in underserved communities still lack access to quality education. To bridge this gap and ensure that no child is left behind, there is a pressing need for collaboration between the government and social enterprises.

While the government plays a central role in education provision, social enterprises bring unique strengths and capabilities to the table. These organisations are often deeply rooted in local communities, with a keen understanding of the specific challenges and needs faced by underserved populations.

They are nimble, innovative, and able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, making them well-suited to complement and enhance government efforts in expanding educational access.

One of the key advantages of collaboration between government and social enterprises is the ability to leverage resources and expertise effectively. While the government may have the financial and logistical capacity to scale education initiatives, social enterprises bring valuable insights, networks, and grassroots connections that can enhance programme design, implementation, and impact.

Furthermore, social enterprises are often pioneers in experimenting with innovative approaches to education delivery. From mobile learning platforms to community-based schools, these organisations are at the forefront of developing creative solutions to address the unique needs of underserved communities. By partnering with government agencies, social enterprises can help to pilot and scale these innovative models, driving systemic change and improving educational outcomes for all children.

Another compelling reason for government-social enterprise collaboration is the potential for cost-effectiveness and efficiency. Social enterprises are typically lean and agile, with a focus on maximising impact with limited resources. In partnering with these organisations, governments can tap into this efficiency, stretching limited education budgets further and reaching more children in need.

Ultimately, collaboration between government and social enterprises holds the promise of unlocking new possibilities and creating transformative change in Nigeria’s education sector. In working together, these stakeholders can harness their respective strengths and resources to ensure that every child has access to quality education, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Read also: Alkebulan awakening and Africa’s Year of Education

Social Enterprises Across Africa

The impact of social enterprises in education is not limited to Nigeria alone. Across the African continent, similar initiatives are making significant strides in addressing the education gap and empowering marginalised communities.

For instance, Teach For Ghana recruits and trains outstanding graduates to teach in underserved schools, with a focus on leadership development and systemic change.

Bridge International Academies leverages technology and data-driven approaches to deliver high-quality, affordable education to low-income families in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and India.

Camfed (Campaign for Female Education) works to break the cycle of poverty and gender inequality by providing scholarships, mentorship, and support to girls in rural communities across sub-Saharan Africa.

The Case for More Social Enterprise in Education

Despite the progress made by social enterprises, significant challenges persist in the education sector across Africa. Access to quality education remains a pressing issue, with millions of children out of school and lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills. Additionally, disparities in educational opportunities persist along gender, socioeconomic, and geographical lines.

Social enterprises play a critical role in addressing these challenges by innovating, collaborating, and advocating for systemic change. By focusing on community engagement, sustainability, and scalability, these organisations have the potential to catalyse transformational change in education systems across Africa.

In the face of adversity and inequality, social enterprises in education are beacons of hope, illuminating a path towards a brighter future for all. Through their tireless efforts and unwavering commitment, organisations like Chess in Slums Africa and Slum to School are rewriting the narrative of education in Nigeria and inspiring similar initiatives across the continent.

As we look to the future, we must continue to support and invest in social enterprises that are driving positive change in education. By harnessing the power of innovation, collaboration, and advocacy, we can build a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous society for generations to come.

Together, let us embrace the transformative potential of social enterprise and ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed.

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