Five Cowries Arts Education Initiative launches e-learning platform

Art education is receiving a boost from a private organisation engaging students, teachers and its community.

AFTER providing alternative learning materials for students last year when schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, artist and children’s literature writer, Polly Alakija’s Five Cowries Arts Education Initiative has now gone further.

It has launched an e-learning platform based on Nigeria’s education curriculum to supplement the printed worksheets it released then. The muralist’s organisation had unveiled the ‘My Story of Water’ worksheets during the shutdown to boost creativity.

The ‘My Story of Water’ worksheets and others, including ‘My Story of Food’, ‘My Story of Energy’, and ‘My Story of Balance’, align with Sustainable Development goals to reach wider audiences and, birth creativity in students and teachers.

Building on that success, the Initiative has now launched fivecowries.online. It is a digital platform that allows all users to access learning materials online, including the digital versions of the worksheets released last year.

Apart from assisting the pupils and upskilling the teachers, the user-friendly platform will also enhance Nigeria’s education through the arts.

A statement from the initiative explaining its mission said it is for students of all ages to log on and immerse themselves in learning activities catered to their needs.

It disclosed that its institutional partners include the International Relief Fund of the German Federal Foreign Office, Goethe Institut, Alliance Francaise Nigeria, and UNICEF.

“These strategic partners have been crucial in supporting this project as they have all contributed their relevant knowledge and expertise in ensuring that the platform is as inclusive as possible.” Additional assistance comes from the Alliance Francaise partnering with Five Cowries to translate English activities into several national and international languages.

Commenting on this, Director, Alliance Française Lagos, Charles Courdent said “the Five Cowries Project has been the right response to the very strange times we are living because of the pandemic. As the first cultural network in the world, Alliance Française is very proud to partner with that enthusiastic adventure: not only by translating the contents into French, which is a broadly spoken language throughout the continent, but also to promote national languages such as Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa that Alliance Française de Lagos is happy to teach. This project will be shared through the French network with many other countries, in Africa and even beyond!”

Also speaking, UNICEF’s representative, Peter Hawkins, said, “The experiences of the last year have shown that young people and children needed to develop new learning ways. The Five Cowries Arts Education Initiative has been working with educators in communities and homes to support the child’s learning experience by developing the soft creative skills needed for them to become effective young members of their community.”

Another of the partners, Friederike Möschel of the Goethe Institut, noted that getting involved with art and culture “opens your mind and makes you curious. It inspires your creativity and lets you see the world around you in a new way. Every child should get the possibility to experience this, no matter where he/she lives, and the Five Cowries Arts Education Initiatives provides the means for it.”

Speaking further on its approach, Five Cowries Arts Education Initiative said community teaching plays a vital role in its overarching strategy. “1 million teachers and Teach for Nigeria serve as a delivery partner with the learning worksheets and empower teachers across the country. Often, teachers are ignored when we speak about improving learning outcomes, and Five Cowries Arts Education Initiative has been committed to ensuring that these outcomes are extended to teachers.

“Alongside a commitment to upskilling staff, the Five Cowries Arts Education Initiative team in Lagos is made up of teachers and artists who if not for the disruptions caused by the pandemic would be running training workshops in communities. They have contributed to making sure that this new digital platform has a ‘Made in Nigeria’ feel,” it aded.

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