Works and Days

The Birth of a New Life: Davis Project for Peace, Emmanuel Enemchukwu

Emmanuel Enemchukwu, junior economics major, was a recipient of the Davis Project for Peace award. The following post contains his experiences implementing his project in Nigeria at the Federal Government Academy. 

About half a year now separates me from the time I spent at the Federal Government Academy (FGA) Suleja Nigeria. At FGA Suleja, I executed the Davis project for peace with my colleague, Zhe Li. FGA Suleja, Nigeria, was my alma mater, and its contribution to my moral and intellectual development leaves me forever indebted to it. As such, it was with great zeal that I embarked on the project hoping to contribute the most possible in the small but relevant opportunity that I had been afforded.

The Federal Government Academy Suleja is located in one of the most southern regions of Northern Nigeria. Suleja with its beautiful hills is a town in harmony with itself and its surroundings, but this harmony seems fragile in the face of the current ethno-social turmoil perpetrated by Boko-Haram in North-Eastern Nigeria, a region of close proximity. Once in a while, the scourge of the much-reviled Boko-Haram breaks out of its enclosure in North Eastern Nigeria and into the area of Suleja. But beyond this fear of conflict, we saw peace and prosperity in a school that boasts of some of Nigeria’s smartest young minds.  We define peace, with regards to the secondary school students, as the existence of social innovation and an infrastructural platform for students to optimize their academic growth potentials in a violence-free environment.

emmanAfter an energizing period of negotiations, we created congruence for the project by coming to terms with ourselves, the resources at our disposal, our sponsors, and our host community on the best way to proceed. Our mission was to support the intellectual pursuit of the school by pioneering a Peer-Tutoring Initiative and by supporting the nascent digital platform of the school with a Digital Language Laboratory. We were able to deliver on our mission to the school by negotiating with the resources we had and the prevalent environmental conditions in the school. For example, it was difficult to carry out an evening peer-to-peer tutoring program, not to mention running a digital laboratory with electricity going from being inconsistent to out rightly being disconnected. But each time we remained steadfast to our mission, and devised a way around our problems by providing rechargeable lanterns and a generator set. 

We take pride in our process of communication, including building an understanding with the school community, and consider it one of our best practices of the project. This process included talking with FGA staff and students as well as conducting a qualitative survey. Interacting with the students was always a delight for me and even at my lowest point, my motivation to power on came from them. They expressed great enthusiasm for learning and an unequivocal interest in our projects, not as recipient of some magnificence benevolence, but as equal stakeholders in the course.

Talking to my project partner, Zhe Li, I have realized that this project has changed us both. Nigeria, like any other country is built on smaller communities, and peace in the whole is contingent on peace in the parts. We realized that peace becomes more tenable in specific locations, like the school we worked at. However, there is a sensitive balance between the hope and the expectation of the individuals in the communities and the preconceptions of development workers. In the project, we struggled to find the equilibrium between the school's demand and our own resolution. As a result of this experience, we not only gained understanding of the complications of the situations conventionally, and irresponsibly, labeled "poverty" or "corruption,” but also the satisfaction found in the field of development.

I cannot help but be nostalgic about my experience in the school. It wasn’t all cherries as the school consistently demanded more of us physically and mentally, but seeing the community appreciate and embrace our effort made our labor rewarding. I treasure the opportunity the project gave me to envision, design, and implement a solution that I believe will make a difference, and through the project, I have been given a taste of entrepreneurship and it has left me craving for more.  This for me is a birth new life for me.


Tags: davis project for peace, summer, education, nigeria, international travel