Meet Shadrach Lubem Mtile, The Man Behind the “Northern Girls Code”

Shadrach Lubem Mtile is a 29 -year old Nigerian, who hails from Buruku Local Government of Benue State. He is currently the Program Coordinator at Mentor Africa Development Initiative in Yola, Adamawa State, a local Non-governmental organization that is focused on providing free access to quality education and learning resources to children who are out of school and who are in public schools. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Geography from Benue State University Makurdi, a Diploma in Software Development, and Currently undergoing a Masters Program at the Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola where he studies Peace and Conflict Resolution. Shadrach is also one of the founding members of Mentor Africa Initiative, a local non-governmental organization that focuses on providing out of school children and children in public schools with access to quality education, skills acquisition, and mentoring. He is a tireless advocate for gender equality and his work has been greatly influenced by his personal life experiences. Having been born and raised in Northern Nigeria as the only boy amidst many girls, he experienced first-hand discrimination against women which propelled his passion for the girl child.

He resides in Adamawa State, located in the Northeastern part of Nigeria which has been ravaged by the activities of Boko Haram in the recent past. This has afforded him opportunities to tackle the growing problem of education deficit and skill acquisition among youngsters in the community around him. There still remain lesser girls in schools in Nigeria, with 60% of the 10.5 million children out of school being girls. Shadrach has pioneered various projects intended to boost literacy among girls in Adamawa state especially.

He has worked with Almajiri children in Yola for about 3 years now. These are out of school children, living on the street, and who beg as a source of livelihood. Shadrach has, through Mentor Africa Initiative, provided over 316 girls and boys with access to quality education, while leveraging technology in the process through his “Education for All” project in Adamawa state. He has done this through providing these children with basic computer skills acquisition and also utilized an educational application that is Hausa-friendly and which teaches the children how to speak English. This project has successfully helped the recipients become more technologically inclined in this age of technology.

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Another of Shadrach’s projects is the “Chess Mistress” project which is his non-formal approach towards education specifically for internally displaced girls and boys at various IDP camps. His focus is however mostly on the girl child. This project began in February 2018 at the St. Theresa’s IDP Camp in Yola with about 50 children under its umbrella. The project is run by Shadrach and a team of other committed young people who volunteer alongside him. At the beginning of the project, inspirational movies such as the ‘Queen of Katwe’ are screened at the camps and then the team proceeds to teach the children at the camps to play Chess and Scrabble for a stipulated number of months. The aim of the project is to use this learning/teaching approach to promote literacy and critical thinking skills, and to boost self-confidence and healthy competition among the girls and the boys in these camps.

Yet another girl-focused project of his, tagged the ‘Northern Girls Code,’ was piloted in the year 2017 in Yola, Adamawa State as well. The project is an annual coding summer camp for girls. The sole purpose of this project is to teach the participants to code and to provide them with programming resources to enhance their skills. The end game is to encourage these learners to use technology to solve real-life problems in their community. In the maiden edition, the project hosted 35 girls between the ages of 16-24, some of which were out of school, secondary school graduates and university students as well. This year, the camp is currently hosting 39 participants ranging from 16-24 years and including some girls from the St. Theresa’s IDP Camp where he runs the “Chess Mistress” Project. Some of the participants had prior computer knowledge but some of them had to be taught from the scratch in order to participate better in the summer camp. The summer camp runs for a duration of six weeks and before the end of the camp, the ladies are to work together to develop an application which will solve an existing problem in their community. This year’s participants have chosen to develop an application for food delivery for a restaurant in Adamawa. It is evident that there are abundant benefits from this summer camp ranging from critical thinking, community service, creativity, computer literacy and opportunities for self-employment as well.

Shadrach intends to continue his work with the Almajiri children on a larger scale. He also intends to make the summer coding camp an annual project, expanding the reach to Northern girls outside Yola. He also plans to reach other IDP camps with the “Chess Mistress” project and to organize Chess and Scrabble tournaments between the IDP camps.

Chess Mistress Project for IDP’s

Ravaged by insurgency and religious crises in northeastern Nigeria, thousands of men, women, and children are forced to flee from their homes almost on a daily basis. These victims often have nowhere to set up camp and are forced to settle in IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) Camps, which are a few in number, cramped and in deplorable conditions, but are the “safest” place of abode for them. One of such camps is located in Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria.

St Theresa IDP Camp, Yola, houses about to two thousand men, women and children and caters to their basic needs of shelter, feeding, clothing, and healthcare. The church that hosts this camp has also done well to cater to the spiritual needs of the campers too. The children, as a result of volunteer work, are provided with an education; not one at its best, but one that could at least keep their minds engaged.

The great number of IDP’s in this camp and in many others and the little support that comes in to aid their large swelling numbers is such a great challenge. The children and young adults are the highest populations of such camps, as children are born on a regular basis in the camps and also as one family alone could have a handful of children.

Too often the children in these camps are idle and doing nothing productive and knowledge of this brought about this project tagged ‘Chess Mistress.’ The aim of the project is to use non-formal approaches of literacy/education to reach out and equip the children in these camps with skills such as literacy and critical thinking skills, and to boost self-confidence and healthy competition among the girls and boys in these camps. Together with a team of committed volunteers, this project has been executed thus far. It began with the screening of the inspirational movie Queen of Katwe, after which interested children began the process of being taught the intellectual games of Chess and Scrabble for a stipulated number of months.

The project began in April 2018 with about 50 children between the ages of 15 – 22 at St. Theresa IDP Camp, Yola and has been funded by personal funds and generous donations of Chess and Scrabble boards from volunteers and other concerned citizens. I am working with about 15 volunteers on this project who come in at different times to teach the children and practice with them as well to enhance their expertise. This phase of the project is set to run for another x months, after which a competition will be organized within the camp for the children who underwent training under this project.

The vision is to implement this program in as many IDP camps as possible over the next 18 months if there is adequate funding. The ultimate aim of this is to encourage these children to look beyond their current situation and believe that they are champions and can achieve whatever they set their minds to because of self-will, positivity, determination, and the right skills.

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Through Mentor Africa Initiative I have been able to provide almost 321 children access to quality education.

We collect and update a database of registered students from public schools, IDP camps and the homeless, often called the Almajiri.  As soon as we agree on a number to teach at that time, we send out buses to convey them to our facility where they have their classes three times weekly, and we provide light refreshment to keep them interested.

Here are Some projects:

Health – Health services Reinforcement

  • Health Seminars for children in public schools – worked on
  • Bast which is the Pregnancy Tracking Application for women in Sub Saharan Africa

Our education projects- Computer literacy (all ongoing):

Northern Girls Code (coding for girls, the goal is to train and engage female software developers) – currently working on, the first edition had about 36 girls, NGC 2 currently has 38 girls learning how to code.

Robotics for kids: Simple logic, puzzle, Legos and 3D printed piece and introduction to programming for kids.

Non Formal Education:

Chess Mistress: Chess, Scrabble and movie screening for Children in IDP camps in Yola (emphasis on girls) – worked on (So far 86 children engage through the program)

Youth engagement:

Sports: Badminton, Table tennis and basketball –

Peace Building: Dialogues and Seminars for the young adult in public schools

Mentoring and Counselling: Bridging the GAP Africa – mentoring secondary school students in public schools, so far 68 students through the program.- worked on

 

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