An Empty Stomach, by Theresa Reed, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

Theresa Reed, Back2Back's education center teacher, reads with the students

A little over a year ago, students from the Vineyard  Community Church decided to “Sacrifice Christmas” by giving up gifts for themselves, and encouraging their parents and others to donate money to the development of Back2Back’s new education center for children in Jos, Nigeria.  Their sacrificial gift provided the new students at the Igmin Kibe Education Center with the incredible gift of an education. Back2Back worked with SSE and the community leaders from the Kisayhip Village to decide which children should be first to attend the tutoring that we will offer at the center.  The decision was made that they should focus on those in the most need, those children whose fathers have died and their mothers are now widows.  These ten students will receive after school tutoring and the focus will be on learning English.  In Nigeria, most of the public schools offer poor education and often times the schools are closed due to teacher strikes or the government not being able to afford to pay their   teachers.  Consequently, less than 50% of children are able to read a simple sentence at the age of eleven.

Theresa Reed, our Back2Back teacher, and Esther who just graduated as a teacher in Jos, have had great success.  For these initial students, they are taking the first steps towards breaking the cycle of poverty that have plagued their family for generations.  It is the hope of Back2Back, SSE and the village of Kisayhip that these students will become self sufficient and be able to provide for their future families.

Hannatu, one of the children benefiting from the new Education Center in Jos, Nigeria

Hannatu could not concentrate. It was only the second day of class, but I could tell that she was not acting like her usual self.  Her eyes seemed glazed over and she was un-responsive when we asked her a question. Finally, Esther, the Nigerian teacher who works with me at the Education Center, asked Hannatu in Rakuba, “What is the matter today?”Hannatu responded by saying that her stomach was paining her because she was so hungry.

It is basic psychology that humans cannot learn to their fullest potential if their basic needs are not being met. Hannatu was hungry and therefore, could not concentrate. I have no idea when the last time that she had eaten something substantial was or the last time that she actually had protein, but all I knew was that she was hungry. If she was hungry, the other students (who are from her same village) were most likely hungry as well.

Because of Hannatu’s honesty with us on the second day of class, we have now started providing a healthy snack for the students every day at the beginning of class. I cannot explain how much Hannatu’s (and the other students’)  face light up the first time we gave them a snack during class. They were so excited and are now even more motivated to come to class. They love snack time and are more responsive for class once it is over.

Hannatu is now a totally different student. Once shy and timid, she is now all smiles and quick to laugh. She brought an important need to our attention and I believe that by meeting that basic need, we have built trust and confidence in a once reserved student.