The Voice: Summer 2003

The Voice

Professor Cella Bosma takes her classroom to Nigeria

Cella Bosma did more than teach while in Nigeria, she learned about riding camels too.

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, she’s 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 Nigeria—only 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 hadn’t thought about how their Christianity affects their teaching. The style of teaching they’ve 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 other’s ideas. The idea of constructive criticism was foreign to them, she says. They were hesitant at first, unused to “interfering” in each other’s 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 don’t 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 themselves.

“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.”