The Voice: Summer 2003
Professor Cella Bosma takes her classroom to Nigeria
By: Sally Jongsma
Education Professor Cella Bosma is known for taking on more than one thing
at a time. An energetic teacher, church leader, and relatively recent grandparent, shes
usually busy. Spring break was no different. As part of her visit to
Nigeria to see her daughter Megan, son-in-law Michael, and granddaughter Amira, she took
two days to work with teachers in the northwest corner of Nigeriaonly a
couple hundred miles from the Sahara, she says, good-naturedly describing the 120-degree temperatures
she lived in.
I had hoped to do something with teachers at Hillcrest while I was
there, but they were on break, Bosma says. Hillcrest is the school where
Megan and Michael Ribbens serve as dorm parents.
Instead, through the Ribbens friends, missionaries Josh and Mandy Sjaarda, she agreed to
travel nine hours north to work with a group of teachers who teach
in an undeveloped area of the country. In fact, the community had no
schools at all until Christian Reformed missionaries set one up several years ago.
The teachers are Nigerian Christians from the south who have received their education
in state universities.
Bosma talked to the teachers about what it means to teach Christianly and
how seeing children as image bearers of God affects the way you teach.
Most hadnt thought about how their Christianity affects their teaching. The style of
teaching theyve learned is very directed and rote. Students demonstrated almost no problem
solving skills, she says. She believes that children who know who they are
and have a biblical love of self learn more effectively.
Bosma encouraged teachers to be conscious of the individual strengths and needs of
their students and to use methods besides talking and memorizing to teach.
Because of her short time there and her lack of familiarity with the
curriculum, Bosma used examples from Bible classes to show how the teachers might
approach teaching differently. She demonstrated how to use storytelling and drama to communicate
ideas to students.
They listened intently, occasionally asking what I meant if my examples were based
too much on American culture.
Bosma also encouraged the idea of sharing and responding to each others ideas.
The idea of constructive criticism was foreign to them, she says. They were
hesitant at first, unused to interfering in each others classes, but she feels
they were receptive.
Bosma expects to send the teachers she worked with additional resource materials, noting
that they will have to adapt them to their own cultural situation. But
she believes that helping them think about the way they teach could make
a big difference in the effectiveness of their teaching.
These children have never been in a formal setting before school, she says.
They play and help their moms. Abstractions are difficult. And parents are resistant
to schools and dont see them as important.
But the land that has provided them with their livelihood is overused, Bosma
was told. The next generation will need to find new ways to support
I encouraged teachers to find ways to help both students and parents see
the benefits of learning so they can solve their problems by learning new
ways of doing things.