On November 29th I organized a meeting at the Ministry of Youth with representatives of five of the leading national youth volunteer organizations in Lagos.
At the Ministry of Youth and Sports we met for a foundational meeting, during which I introduced my research and heard from respective representatives of the Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, Boy’s Brigade, and the Sheriff’s Guard. Roughly two heads of each organization attended, and provided an outline of their organization’s work and mission, their program development and activities, and reflections on programming they have utilized in nature or the environment.
The meeting provided a meaningful step for my own research in surveying the scene of youth work in Nigeria that engages with the natural environment. I was impressed by the dedication of the representatives who are all volunteers, and many, long-standing members of their organizations. Some of the points that they underscored included the necessity of vocational training to be paired with environmental experiences, as well as the importance of including education in their programming on environmental awareness. Environmental awareness, as the head of the Boy Scouts pointed out, should include mention of the pressure being on on the environment by all citizens and what steps we can take to alleviate some it. In the Boy Scout’s work they utilize a massive green reserve space which they use as a training facility and camping location – putting to use the 1,200 tents they have in their possession from Japan!
The Girl Guides represents an impressive body of women dedicated to empowering younger women and teaching them the value of hard skills and female strength embodied in achieving goals and stages of life skills development. The Sheriff’s Guard’s focus on a sense of belonging for youth fosters a culture of community engagment for their youth as well as skills training on how to effectively organize and mobilize one’s self for positive personal development.
The Red Cross representative outlined his organization’s commitment to cleaning up prisons and addressing their poor infrastructure. I was glad for the noteworthy connection, providing a linkage between youth work and providing positive outlets for youth so that they do not end up in such poor facilities devoid of educational empowerment. I used the point to elucidate the direction of my own research to show the effectiveness of using environmental and experiential education as a means for an alternative to incarceration – mainly in preventing young men from engaging in negative behavior that causes them to be incarcerated and for young women, to stay on positive paths of empowered direction and independent mobility.
During the final segment of the meeting, a discussion of challenges and questions, the Boy’s Brigade’s Head Officer brought up the key challenge of teaching youth lawful behavior, in a climate of lawlessness. How do you impose a sense of orderly conduct for youth, when police officers ban okada (motorcycles), implement strict guidelines, and then ride okada themselves? His point highlighted the need for communication across various sectors of civil society and law enforcement to devise an approach of solidarity in demonstrating to youth productive courses of actions, while lauding them with positive affirmation. Boy’s Brigade’s officer also highlighted their interest in cross-cultural and international exchange programs, and the potential to visit outdoor sites in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The meeting of organizational heads of youth volunteer programs was meaningful and provided rich discussion, as well as a structured platform for informed movement and data collection around the topic of engaging Lagosian youth in nature. Each representative completed a survey I developed to gather information related to their programming and environmental attitudes, and will distribute personal questionnaires to 10 of their youth related to similar concepts around environmental, city and justice attitudes, to return to me for processing.