UD student helps provide children in Nigeria a schoolhouse of their own
2:50 p.m., Feb. 26, 2013--In the Nigerian village of Ukya’u, the children have a teacher and sit on benches in a church room, but there are no desks, no separate classes and no school building to call their own.
Chelsea Rozanski, a University of Delaware sophomore who is majoring in anthropology with a minor in African Studies, is working to change that situation.
Peace Corps plans
Rozanski is working with Serrena Carlucci, who studies music at California State University Sacramento, and the two Village Care International volunteers co-founded Mune Duniya, which is Hausa for “we are the world.”
A regional Chadic language, Hausa is spoken by about 43 million individuals in Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Benin and Cameroon.
A humanitarian organization dedicated to providing safe and accessible educational opportunities, Mune Duniya seeks to provide conducive learning atmospheres for children around the world by working with individuals and communities.
Through donations and volunteer work, the two students envision raising enough money to help villagers construct a school that will serve about 80 students in the community of 140 adults and children that is located northwest of the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
Rozanski spent the two previous summers volunteering in Tanzania and Kenya.
“Serrena and I traveled to Nigeria in the summer of 2011, through Village Care International, where we saw firsthand how education, above all else, can empower and enrich an individual,” Rozanski said. “The first village that we stayed in was Ukya’u, where we were inspired by the people, who were full of joy and spirit, even in the poorest of conditions.”
Meeting community’s needs
In meeting with the authority members of Ukya’u, the volunteers learned that the community wanted a school, but did not have the necessary resources, Rozanski said.
“This is when Serrena and I decided to come alongside the members of this village and to work toward their aspiration of building futures for their children,” Rozanski said. “It is our belief that we can all make a difference in this world and that together, we can accomplish anything.”
Villagers in the agricultural community live in homes mostly made of mud with thatched roofs. There is no electricity and a well supplies the water needs of the village.
“An authority board oversees the community’s needs,” Rozanski said. “A working plan for a school exists, and community members will have the opportunity to voice their needs and discuss what they believe to be the best way to approach these needs.”
A school for women to become certified teachers lies in Salka, 30 minutes away via motorcycle. The hope is that women from Ukya’u will attend this school and return to teach children in their community, Rozanski said.
Rozanski said that cultural relativism is an integral component of Mune Dunyia, and that the village authority board will determine the school’s curriculum and how classes will be divided.
“The central issue is affording the resources necessary to construct the school,” Rozaski said. “All the materials used will be local, and construction, performed by the villagers, Serrena and myself, will be voluntary.”
Establishing a bond
Practicing greetings in the native Hausa language and aided by Phillips Elisha, a Nigerian translator, the visitors were able to establish a bond with the people of Ukya’u and their neighbors.
“For many people, we were the first foreigners they had seen,” Rozanski said. “Word of our being there spread and people from other villages, some as far as a day’s walk away, came to meet us strange creatures.”
The visit was made memorable when the guests and their hosts gathered for a meal where they shared stories of family history and culture.
One of the delectable foods that the guests learned to prepare was jollof, a one-pot West African culinary favorite that builds on basic ingredients of rice, tomatoes and spices.
Teaching each other Hausa and English, the celebrants discussed the seasons and weather changes and shared details about their lives and their homes, Rozanski said.
“We sat together, prayed for the food before us, and nourished ourselves,” Rozanski said. “As we basked in the gift of food, stories and myths were told.”
Nigeria’s rich culture
Rozanski said that while Nigeria has many serious issues, including religious conflicts and tragic events surrounding diamond mining and the oil industry, the land is also endowed with a rich history and culture.
“Nigeria is home to great writers such as Achebe and Adiche, athletes, musicians, Nollywood actors, inventors and politicians,” Rozanski said. “Looking deeper, the people of Nigeria, especially of Ukya’u, are passionate, benevolent and beautiful inside and out.”
For Rozanski, working alongside the villagers in Ukya’u was a life changing, eye opening and enriching experience.
“By volunteering in a remote village on the other side of the world, I saw just how much my actions are capable of impacting others,” Rozanski said. “We can all truly make a difference in this beautiful world.”
For more information on Mune Duniya, visit the website.
Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos courtesy of Chelsea Rozanski