Our mission is to build a global community of passionate educators, students – Warnick | The Guardian Nigeria News


Rachel Warnick, Director of Programs for Professors Without Borders (PROWIBO), is making an impact with visionary education. Warnick, who joined PROWIBO as a volunteer facilitator in 2018, designing and delivering courses in India, Thailand and Uganda, was appointed Program Director of PROWIBO in 2021 to take the organization to new programmatic frontiers. She was elevated to the board in 2020 to provide oversight and governance with a particular focus on education. In this interview with CHIJIOKE IREMEKA, she talks about PROWIBO’s educational project in Nigeria, among other things.

What is the idea behind PROWIBO, what do you do exactly?
Let me start by explaining Teachers Without Borders, the idea was conceived when one of our co-founders was teaching a summer school at London’s School of Economics. She saw the impact that a short intensive program like this could have, but she realized that the students who embarked on such an experience were very privileged.

To participate in something like this, one must have the financial means to pay for airfare, fees, accommodation, etc. The idea was therefore born from the decision to bring this kind of experience to a country for students who would not have access to it. Our mission is to build a global community of passionate educators and students.

What we do is bring relevant, holistic and engaging experiences to our partner organizations. Because we contribute to the development of the skills of future community leaders, we essentially operate on a consultative basis. So when I partner with institutions, I do a thorough consultation for them and have them identify the needs of their students and participants because they know those people best.

So, after the consultation, I leave, I take things and I look at the team that I have; we cast a wide net for potential volunteers. Thus, I select a team according to the needs of our partner organizations and all our programs are tailor-made.

For example, even though we teach social entrepreneurship in Uganda and we teach social entrepreneurship here at UNILAG, Nigeria, they are very different, as we respond to the local context. We have different animators and different motivations behind them. So everything is built specifically towards the partner and the students we work with in this case.

The UNILAG project was a huge success as the participants wanted more. How did you find out about training in Nigeria?
For several years now, Mr. Titus Ayodele has been working diligently to pave the way to bring us to Nigeria and we are delighted that our very first partnership here was with UNILAG. We were supposed to come in 2020, but we all know how it happened, the pandemic. I was personally going to be part of this team so I was terribly disappointed as I was looking forward to Nigeria. But I was delighted that we could do it again as soon as possible. It was also our first return to intensive teaching since the pandemic.

I feel like it was a wonderful boost; it was a wonderful way to open the next chapter after the pandemic. So, I cannot fathom too much how wonderful Titus has been and his counterpart here at the University of Lagos; he was the coordinator on this side. Everything went successfully and smoothly; it was a dream.

By referring to the name of Professors Without Borders, does this mean that all your resource persons are teachers?
We rely on the best academics, but we also rely on experts in their various fields. So someone may not have a PhD, but they may have 30 years of experience and may have reached the heights of their industry. We want to do something to give back to society. Although we started in the academic sense, we are looking for people who can add the most value.

Concerning the UNILAG training, how many students registered for the session?
In order to be very engaging and interactive, which is what all our courses are, we put a maximum of 25 people in a class with three teachers, which would allow us to reach 75 students here. I also worked with the faculty on a course this week, so it was still 24 students. In total, we reached up to 100 people.

Do you consider gender when selecting program participants? Do you have data for the formation of Lagos?
I have this data, but I have not processed it yet. In fact, all registered students were present. So that was awesome. We were very focused on gender equality, so we always ask that we have a really good balance and I’m always really happy to see that. We try to be gender sensitive and in fact ask our partners to select an equal mix if possible.

And we actually have projects that are all about women. For example, the African University in Uganda is an all-female university and two of the institutions we work with in India are also all-girls institutions.

How do you select the students and participants you work with?
We don’t do that; our partners do. Thus, they select according to their own criteria. Our mandate is that our attendees should not pay a fee to attend.

We learned that lecturers were among the participants, what was the scope of their own training?
What we have done is look at the challenges and opportunities that exist in 21st century education, not just in this society. We are evolving and this evolution has just been brought to an exponential speed with the pandemic. And so, educators…we face new challenges, more challenges than we’ve ever had before, and we need to find ways to meet them. So we had a series of very interactive and multi-directional sessions that week.

What is your assessment of the Lagos training program?
One of the most amazing things to see when you’re on a project for the first time is that students don’t know what to expect. So when they got to tee time they wanted to wait and see what was going to happen. The second morning, they were super energized; they were very excited, they were looking forward to things.

At that time, we had other students saying, “Can I come in, can I join?” and that’s because we understand that education should be fun and engaging, because that’s the best way to learn. You are logical, your brain is prepared to receive and store information. Learning is not enough just to sit and listen to someone telling you stories.

But our team, if you see them in action, they constantly have kids doing exercises during the project. For example, during the program, Bob led the students through the week, through different learning stages to the point where the students received a pitch for a new idea they developed during the course. week. This is how we operate and it really triggers something in the students, giving them the chance to try something new and break free. Once they’re out of the comfort of their normal routine, they feel a little freer to be daring.

If you had the opportunity to come back and do this again in Nigeria, would you take it?
Oh, absolutely! Well, actually, I can guarantee you we’ll be back, as we have a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UNILAG, which will be in place for the next three years. So, I am absolutely certain and in addition, we signed a new MOU with Ekiti State, and we had another one with Babcock University. We will soon organize a program with them.

How do you choose the places to visit and the institutions with which to associate?
In fact, wherever we have partnerships, it’s at the invitation of our local partners. We didn’t have to go after those opportunities because word of mouth is spreading and people are very excited.

So it happened through our networks and through connections of connections. They heard what we do and they said they wanted to partner with us and would like to offer this to their students. It happened and we have partners in Thailand, two in India, one in Uganda, two in Sierra Leone, and this year we have new partnerships coming. We have UNILAG, one in Malaysia, one in Mauritius and there are a few more in the works which I will be ready to publish very soon.

What is the requirement for those wishing to join your organization?
The first entry is that we welcome new applicants and interested parties to complete an online registration and get started with us online. This is something we created in response to the pandemic, because obviously travel was no longer possible. So we thought about ways to continue supporting our partners remotely.

One of the solutions was to create a sort of database that resembles a matchmaking service. We have volunteers who sign up and we have a website where you can go and have a look when looking for someone who specializes in science, medicine, law or a variety of different subjects. By clicking on it, you will see the profile of each of our volunteers.

And so, if you’re in a university or an institution in some part of the world, and you teach journalism to your students, you might be thinking, “I really like students to have a different perspective, so I’m going to try and find something from Africa or South America to share their perspective on the things I teach. You can go online and you find a book that you think is great, you have connected with that side. And if it was mine, for example, I would receive your request and then we would arrange a convenient date and time for both of us.

It could be a 40-minute online conference guided by your request and my expertise, at no cost. So we welcome all of our interested people to apply for the registration process there, and through that we welcome people into the PROWIBO family.

Once they have demonstrated their talents and skills, we can start identifying them for potential virtual and face-to-face projects they do, all of which are dependent on demand from our partners.

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