“I saw so many children whose realities were even worse than what I had been through,” Seyi Oluyole, choreographer and activist, told Global Citizen in 2020. “I wanted to do more for kids out there, offer hope, and to provide a better life for them.” 

Oluyole, who's also the founder of Dream Catchers Academy, was talking about Nigeria’s huge education gap, which has seen millions of children across the country unable to access educational tools and services.

According to UNICEF, about 10 million children in Nigeria are out of school — the highest anywhere in the world. While the Northwestern states in Nigeria are most affected, other states also contribute to this education gap.

Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, has over 2 million out of school students despite having one of the highest literacy rates in Nigeria.

Many factors contribute to the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria including high poverty rates, insecurity and terrorism, and the COVID-19 pandemic — which has impacted learning for children around the world. Gender also plays a major role as girls are more likely to drop out of school early as a result of gender-based violence, child marriage, and discrimination. 

Education is important not just for the economic growth of a country but because it increases the chances of securing a better future for children. Unfortunately, a lot of Nigerian children don't have access to quality education (and the opportunities it brings) and as a result, are repeating the cycles of poverty.

Fortunately, there are many activists and organisations in Nigeria, just like Oluyole and Dream Catchers Academy, working hard to bring quality education to underserved communities and targeting the root causes of the issue.

To mark World Education Day, honoured on Jan. 24, Global Citizen is highlighting these five incredible Nigerian organisations that are working hard to give more children the education access they deserve.

1. Lagos Food Bank Initiative (LFBI)

Micheal Sunbola, a lawyer, founded LFBI in 2015 to reduce hunger and poverty by delivering “nutritious food, basic health services, and self-sustenance programmess to the most vulnerable in [Nigerian] society.”

One of LFBI’s programs, called the Education Enhancement Intervention for Food Insecure Students (EDUFOOD), is targeted at improving the nutritional status and health of students who are affected by food insecurity.

It also aims to increase school attendance, reduce dropout rates, and increase children’s ability to concentrate and comprehend in class.

In 2020, more than 35% of Nigerian children aged five and younger experienced stunting, which is commonly associated with undernourishment. Statistics like this is what the LFBI team is working to change.

The EDUFOOD programme also supports the children’s care-givers and families by helping them save money meant for the children’s school feeding, as well as making sure children have access to sufficient food and nutrient intake for physical growth, cognitive development, and general well-being.

2. Dream Catchers Academy

For many young girls in Nigeria, there aren’t many safe spaces to learn the arts — especially if they are from low-income communities. Dream Catchers Academy for Girls is a free boarding educational and performing arts academy for orphaned and underserved girls.

Founded by choreographer and scriptwriter Seyi Oluyole in 2014, the aim of the organisation is to use dance as a tool to get disadvantaged children and children from low-income families into school.

“Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, schools have been closed for a very long time and that’s definitely affected them,” Oluyole told Global Citizen in 2020. “Children are our future and so I think it’s very important for everyone to play their own parts, and to unite to make sure that every child is in school, irrespective of their background.”

At the Academy, girls are able to learn and practice various forms of art including dance, music, visual arts, and drama. There are also boarding facilities available where food, shelter, clothing, and general welfare are provided for free, giving the girls a safe space to learn and grow.

Oluyole and a group of children from Dream Catchers Academy performed to a worldwide audience at Global Goal: Unite for Our Future — The Concert, which mobilised a total of $6.9 billion pledged to provide equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines, as well as support for the world's poorest and most marginalised communities.

The girls of the academy have also received a shoutout on social media from Rihanna, while legendary supermodel Naomi Campbell has visited the academy in person.

3. Slum2School Africa

“Working with thousands of children from this community over the past six years, we have seen some of the brightest minds you could imagine,” Otto Orondaam, founder of nonprofit organisation Slum2School, said in 2018.

Orondaam launched Slum2School in 2012 to collaborate with individuals, governments, and companies to provide educational support to children in underprivileged communities.

So far, the organisation has provided scholarships for more than 3,000 children and helped more that 100,000 kids access school and medical supplies.

Slum2School also encourages the participation of citizens in its mission through its extensive volunteer network in schools and villages to provide education for children living in low-income areas.

4. Dolly Children Foundation

Due to Nigeria’s high poverty and unemployment rates, a lot of parents in Nigeria are unable to afford school materials for their children. Those living in rural and other low-income areas are especially affected.

Enter Dolly Children Foundation, a nonprofit organisation working to provide materials like textbooks, uniforms, and school supplies to children in need and supplement the financial load on their parents.

"Our approach to these interventions is a holistic one whereby children lagging behind in school would catch up in our reading clubs; and if they are not catching up in the reading clubs, they would catch up in our after-school and summer programmes. If they still need support, they would get it through our back to school initiatives," Adedolapo Osuntuyi, who launched the foundation in 2006, told She Leads Africa.

In addition to providing school supplies for children, the foundation also organises training and workshops for primary school teachers in public schools as well as weekly reading clubs to encourage reading among young children.

5. Afrilearn

In April 2019, Isaac Oladipupo and Gabriel Olatunji-Legend founded Afrilearn to help close the digital divide in Nigeria.

"It is the investment in knowledge that creates our actual future. People who are unable to benefit from the digital age will be denied the education and resources necessary to fulfill their potential, because nothing empowers [a person] like access to opportunity," Oladipupo told Global Citizen last year.

Afrilearn is an educational platform where teachers can deliver world class education to Africans everywhere. As a result of school closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 50 million children remained at home, according to UNICEF. Afrilearn and other platforms like it are ensuring that children don't miss out on education.

Afrilearn partners with governments, schools, and other organisations to bring digital learning to schools in Nigeria. They also help lighten the workload for teachers by providing them with resources to improve teaching, alongside games and animation to make learning fun for children.

Global Citizen Life

Defeat Poverty

5 Amazing Organisations Transforming Education in Nigeria

By Akindare Lewis  and  Tife Sanusi