Gideon Asaah

Ashoka Fellow
Nigeria
Fellow Since 2015
This description of Gideon Asaah's work was prepared when Gideon Asaah was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2015 .

Introduction

Gideon is solving the problem of education, by using interactive play to awaken the latent potentials of African children, positioning them to problem solve and become entrepreneurs

The New Idea

He is providing children with the fundamental knowledge and resources they need to make positive changes in their lives so they can become more productive members of their society and the world at large. Through play he is increasing the self-esteem of Africa’s children and making them more competitive in an ever shrinking technology-crazed world. He engages the children in several activities ensuring positive development and fostering a sense of inclusion, unity and self-confidence which grows through learning to value each other and the world they live

The Problem

The system of education that exists currently in most parts of Africa was put in place by the colonial masters. Little or nothing has been done to modernize and/or revitalize the existing system. The school curriculum does not pave the way for development. It prepares children for examinations with no emphasis placed on how they can use the knowledge obtained to face challenges in the real world.
This system of education consigns a whole generation of children and youth to a future of poverty, insecurity and unemployment. It is starving firms of the skills that are the life-blood of enterprises and innovation thereby undermining prospects for sustained economic growth in the world’s poorest region

In Cameroon access to education is still a huge problem so it becomes imperative to solve the problem of education by using non formal educational activities to impact the lives of children. Also by building confidence and bringing out the full potential of children notably their cognitive, emotional and creative potentials, this problem is further solved.
Tackling the crisis in education will require that children get something meaningful from their time in the classroom. Emphasis has to be placed on children learning rather than just gaining access to education

The Strategy

Gideon uses a mixture of cooperative games, art, sports, performance and discussions to enable children to learn new skills and techniques to help them grow as individuals and as part of the society at large.
Gideon gets the children to play diverse games in his “play to learn” program which involves children between the ages of 4-12years. The children who come together from different schools in different communities in Cameroon, after school usually take part in several learning activities; they indulge in games that help them learn about their health and other relevant topics. They act out short dramas, and indulge in games where he allows them to self express. During this period, Gideon allows the children to pick out the games that they love to play, allowing the majority of children to lead; he lets them take the lead and just supervises to ensure they do not injure themselves. He designed the “Education by fun” program which helps children to brainstorm as a group and gives them the space to own their ideas. His goal is to teach them through them playing. While the children engage in their playful activities he selects ambassadors that take part in sharing information or leading the learning process, these children usually take up the placards and read out messages of interest that they want passed out to the children.

Gideon believes that involving the parents of children is just as important as getting the children to learn through play. He believes that parents ought to understand the essence of playful learning and as such he involves the parents of each child. He gets them to take part in helping other parents see the added value of children learning through play, thereby creating an environment where play is structured to become an integral part of a child’s learning process. This has spurred parents to encourage other children to take part in playful learning.

For young girls who are not allowed to attend school Gideon started a campaign and mobilized communities to get girls to go to school, he models the families where girls are going to school and gets the mothers of such girls to walk around the community on a set day to raise awareness of the importance of quality education, which involves creating an enabling environment that supports the education of girl children

The Person

Gideon grew up in a difficult environment, in a family of nine. His parents struggled to raise him and his siblings. While growing up Gideon was an intelligent child but he loved to play, after school he would spend about one hour everyday playing with his friends. Although his parents thought this was going to affect his studies but rather it helped him in so many other ways. While playing with his friends, Gideon discovered that he rather learnt so many skills that he didn’t learn at home. He learnt to problem solve with his friends, he learnt how to become involved in team work and also learnt how to deal with human beings from other backgrounds.

Gideon and his friends would come together and design games and then take turns at leading the group in creating the games they all wanted. While playing with his friends he realized that he gained a lot of experiences and skills. Playing with his friends helped him to be able to deal with people without being judgmental.

While in the secondary school, He became the publisher of mirror magazine which encouraged creative writing amongst his peers. At the end of the school session he would publish the names of the top 12 students in order to encourage other students to do better. He was also a member of the language club. By the time Gideon gained admission into the University he realized that the quality of education in Cameroon was not so good, while in school he started thinking of several ways that he could make the education system better. Gideon took a cue from his growing up and determined that he was going to better the educational system by helping children get quality education through infusing play and several other skills developmental programs that were not being taught in schools.

Upon graduation Gideon decided to volunteer in several organizations to gain experience of how to run an organization afterwards he put together volunteers and started Educate a child in Africa in order to help children learn through play the skills and capacity needed to function in today’s world.