Nigeria 2017 · Participatory Budgeting

Boys and Girls for Democracy: Week 1

My heart is full as I reflect on my first week in Ibadan. The city is so welcoming and vibrant. Nigeria really is a land of perseverance and determination. I wish we heard more about the good news here, because there is so much to tell. Starting with the amazing work being led by MAYEIN and Edem Ossai. As previously mentioned, Edem and I won a reciprocal exchange award for me to travel to Ibadan to lend my expertise as she undertakes Participatory Budgeting (PB).

This week we met with the three schools launching Participatory Budgeting processes by sharing budget decisions with the students and school administration. Called “Boys and Girls for Democracy,” the students will meet as a club for 10 weeks over the next two months. The students will collect ideas for how to improve their school from their peers, turn the ideas into proposals that the entire school votes on, and then implement the winning project with actual school funds.

I love that kids are kids everywhere. They are full of dreams, curious about the world and excited to learn. The students picked up PB quickly and dove head first into the challenge of budgeting. Below, I’m going to detail the first lesson we did at each school and the technical details of the project. I also have videos from each school if that is more your thing:

Graceville College

The Vale College

Seed of Life College

Edem and I started each session with a quick, mini PB process to let the students pick their theme song for their club.  We will play the song next Tuesday when we have all three schools together. At the first school, students chose an Ed Sheeren song. I love that high schoolers around the world seem to like Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeren. Though Edem thinks they chose American music so I would know the songs. I think she was right because the other two schools went with song I had not heard before.

Then, we surveyed the students existing attitudes, skills, and practices that researchers think PB effects. There is not much academic research on PB in schools. You can see the survey instrument here.  I will write another post with the initial results. Edem will survey again at the end of the program and collect interviews with the principals and teachers to get their feedback. We hope to share the research at the next Participatory Budgeting conference.

The final activity was teaching the students about personal budgets. The applied math component of PB is particularly relevant to high school students. Edem and I adapted a couple different budgeting lesson plans to illustrate to students how to save money. After reviewing vocabulary—budget, expenses, and income—we gave each group a budgeting worksheet and scenario. I also asked the students what they do to earn money. At first, they said that their parents pay for everything, but then they warmed up to me and shared that they do everything from tutoring to making bracelets. They spend their money on clothes, basketball gear, sweets and other typical teenage things. The students then worked through their group’s scenario. You can view the Budget activity and Budget Worksheet.

We ended the first session by asking each student to write down one question they have about PB or Budgeting and to write down one lesson they learned from the day’s activity. Here a few of my favorite questions and takeaways from Graceville College.

This trip would not be possible without the mentorship and resources provided by the Participatory Budgeting Project, particularly Ashley Brennan. You can download the PB in Schools guide here: 

Additionally, the IREX Foundation is funding my travel and research through the Mandela Washington Fellows Reciprocal Exchange grant.

The views represented here are my own.


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