A good education, like rain, is scarce in rural Niger. Nomadic students face extreme poverty and hardship and live long distances from opportunity. Of the 4% who make it to secondary school, only 2% are high school graduates. The Agadez Learning Center (ALC) is changing that - providing access to secondary education for girls and boys (ages 13-17) who would not otherwise have the chance to attend. Located in the city of Agadez, the ALC is a safe and nurturing home away from home, a place to live and study with tuition, meals, healthcare and tutoring - a truly unique opportunity for Niger's youth to break free of the cycle of poverty.
School is a monumental commitment for desert kids and their families. Going to class means they less able to help their parents forge a living. Despite the sacrifices, they know that each additional year in school brings them closer to a better life. More options. Skills to share with their community. Better health. Greater independence. The possibility to be one of the lucky few to go on to high school, or even college.
Counseling, peer-to-peer and professional tutoring helps students acclimate from village to city life and develop leadership skills while succeeding in school. The norm finds rural students falling far behind their urban peers in academic performance. The success rate of ALC students in 2014 was twice that of their peers from the city, demonstrating that with the right support, rural students - despite many challenges - can outperform their urban counterparts.
"My parents are poor and cannot help with my education. When we compare our lives with our friends who aren’t at the center, it is easy to see that we have so many more opportunities than other girls. We hope that our other friends can also benefit from RAIN's support." - ALC Student Mouda
The "3 R's" and more.
Academic success is just the beginning for ALC students. The array of activities includes:
Students delegate leaders for each dorm room to assign chores and communal responsibilities, such as leading meetings, keeping drinking water vessels filled, bathroom duty, and dorm and concession sweeping. Students who do well academically or make great improvements throughout the year are rewarded with dinners with staff, group outings, and film screenings from the staff's collection. Other students receive counseling to assist them through difficult adjustments at school. This individual attention is unique in the lives of these students, designed to foster a sense of security and encourage group bonding to better navigate adolescent development issues.
Time out for fun and socializing. Recreational activities help the students form bonds and relax from their demanding academic schedule. Soccer is preferred by boys, and this year we will initiate a co-ed volleyball program. Wodaabe and Tuareg girls alike enjoy craft time to socialize together, include embroidery, crocheting, carving calabashes, and palm frond weaving.
Presently, the ALC houses 25 Tuareg and Wodaabe girls and boys from the Air Massif and Azawak areas. The majority of new students will come from remote elementary schools that partner in our mentoring program in the Aïr Mountains, such as Gougaram, Tadek, Tchinfiniten, Soulefet, and Tchintelouste. For the first time, these communities will witness a new generation going further in their education than ever before. As the center expands to accomodate more students, we expect to set a precedent in Niger and inspire similar educational centers for nomadic children.
Secondary school is where young people learn the critical skills needed to stretch their horizons, become community leaders, and shape their own futures. Your support provides this opportunity that most nomadic children of Niger do not have.
RAIN for the Sahel and Sahara is a nonprofit 501(c)3 working to make a lasting difference in Africa.