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– A Case of Chess in Slums Program in Nigeria

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Innovative Education Workshop


Nigeria's education sector faces a plethora of challenges, including inadequate funding, insufficient infrastructure, and a shortage of qualified teachers. Even with the NGN1.79 trillion ($3.9 bn) 2023 education budget, which is the highest in the current administration, it only represents 8.8% of the total budget and falls far short of the 15-20% recommended by UNESCO. For context, institutions like the University of Oxford have an annual budget of $3.7 bn. According to UNESCO, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children globally, with approximately 10.5 million children not receiving an education. Girls are disproportionately affected, with higher rates of exclusion from education compared to boys. Only 47% of girls in Nigeria attend primary school, compared to 57% of boys. The quality of education is also a concern, as evidenced by the shocking attacks on educational institutions such as the kidnap of the Chibok girls in April 2014. 276 teenage girls aged were kidnapped, and after nine years, some of them are still held captive.

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Share of out of school children in Africa by region.


The lack of education negatively impacts society and can breed insecurity and poverty that can be weaponized. Given the severity of the situation, it is pertinent to adopt innovation to drive the much-needed education. Our case study is The Chess in Slums initiative, a program aimed at promoting education through chess in underprivileged communities in Nigeria, with a focus on slums in Lagos and now expanding to other cities. Lagos has high population density, leading to the emergence of slums like Makoko, Ajegunle, Bariga, and Orile. These areas lack basic amenities such as electricity, roads, drinking water, and education, causing many children to spend their time in the streets without honing their God-given talents.

Chess in Slums, founded by Tunde Onakoya, recognizes the potential of chess to teach children life skills and improve their academic performance. The program provides access to chess training, educational materials, and mentorship to children living in slums across the country. The program has been successful in improving education outcomes for participating children, with over 80% of children in the program improving their academic performance, and some receiving scholarships to further their education. The program has also been successful in promoting gender equality, with approximately 45% of the children enrolled in the program being girls. Due to its successes, it has received international acclaim, with global stars like Patrice Evra identifying with and supporting the organization.

Overall, the Chess in Slums initiative is making a positive impact on education in Nigeria by providing children in underprivileged communities with access to education and life skills through the game of chess. This program is a unique approach to education that takes children off the streets and teaches them how to play chess, with the aim of developing their critical thinking skills and fostering personal growth. Such personal growth could translate to building Africa's talent and human resources.

The workshop will feature discussions on the impact of this program, including success stories and challenges faced. It is suitable for academics, policymakers, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders, and it will explore ways in which the "Chess in Slums" approach can be replicated in other contexts and scaled up for greater impact.

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