The teachers were part of a trip organised by the British Council and the Youth Sport Trust. Through these partnerships, schools are provided with the opportunity to work together to enhance the PE and sport on offer within their schools and to support young people in learning about and from each other.
I travelled with 13 of the teachers to Sokoto – a town in the arid and tribal Northern region and home to the Sultan of Nigerian Muslims. Every school we visited gave us a welcome warmer than the beating sun and were keen to show us their PE and sport – and lively traditional dance moves. They also discussed each school’s priorities for development and how they plan to work together in partnership to address these, using PE and sport as the vehicle.
Involving girls in PE is a major challenge for many Nigerian schools, especially in regions such as Sokoto, where girls are not traditionally encouraged to take part in sport.
While British teachers aren’t often faced with the excuse common there, like it’s too hot to do sport, increasing girls’ participation in PE is a challenge that many could relate to.
School partnerships through International Inspiration are providing schools with new and international opportunities to share ideas on how to use sport to work together to overcome such challenges. For example, Saltash Community School and Government Secondary School Karu are planning to address this issue involving an innovative use of a chicken farm project – which they hope will assist sport and leadership development in Nigeria.
It was a privilege to meet students who are so proud of their background, culture and sporting prowess, as well as enthusiastic and dynamic teachers – from both Nigeria and the UK.
And it wasn’t just me who was inspired by the visit. Ramatu Hassan, a PE teacher from Govt. Day Secondary School, Wamakko, Sokoto, said: 'I hope this programme will raise awareness and interest in sports, to activate our students and help them to face any challenge. With our partner school friends this week we have seen how sport is so important to be healthy..we are all looking forward to working together on a new experience!'
It was incredible to see how International Inspiration has the power to change people’s perceptions of the whole London 2012 Games, as Neil Foster, the Assistant Principal at Ellesmere College in the UK said: 'Being inspired by my experience in Sokoto was absolutely awesome. I wasn’t in favour of the Olympics coming to London, but this legacy programme has made it all worthwhile for me.
'I'm now converted to London 2012 and it being the best Olympics ever. The way they’ve taken over the challenge to leave a legacy and the fact that it’s actually happening is really exciting. This is about tapping into untapped talent, and about unity – both in Nigeria and in our school.'
During a final debrief day the schools drafted joint activity plans for their partnerships which will be completed when the Nigerian teachers return to the UK in June. By the third year of their school partnerships, not just the schools but also their local communities will be reaping the benefits of the International Inspiration PE and sport projects.
We hope that this will help to inspire other schools across Nigeria and the UK, ensuring the legacy enriches the lives of millions of young people and their communities long after the Games have finished.