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Stories of hope : a community endeavor to promote college access with rural youths in Benue state of Nigeria Orkar, Miriam Mwada


This study is about understanding the experiences of some of the youths who participated in the NeboReach Youth Empowerment Project (NYEP) and their parents, and how their experiences inform the understanding of the researcher, of her own experiences with regards to educational access, and the interpretations of those experiences retrospectively. The NYEP was initiated by the researcher in 2005 in Katsina-Ala, a rural town in Benue State of Nigeria with the goal to promote access to tertiary education for out of school secondary school leavers who aspire to further their education. The motivation for initiating the project was enhanced by the fact that the researcher had experienced some difficulties with educational access as a girl-child in a Nigerian rural town of Kwajafa, in the 1960’s. Eighteen youths participated in the NYEP in a span of 10 years (2005-2014). After six years of operation, there was an evidence of a positive appraisal for the project, as the researcher continued to receive texts while in Vancouver from youths in Katsina-Ala who wanted to enrol in the project for the first time. This suggested that there was a need for the project to continue, and to expand. Hence feedback from NYEP youth participants and their parents, regarding the relevance of the project became crucial. The auto-ethnography method was used in this study, and data was collected through reflexive dyadic interviews with six youths and five parents. The community leader also participated in the study. Other sources of data were used—such as journal entries, informal conversations, photographs and videos. The researcher’s experience, with regards to accessing tertiary education was also considered as part of the data. Research participants’ informal conversations with the researcher were regarded as valuable sources of data as the formal interviews. The findings revealed that the greatest hurdles the NYEP youths faced, and are still facing in terms of accessing tertiary education are associated with poverty (both of financial resources and money generating ideas), corruption and rural living. All youths said that NYEP helped them—some to access tertiary education and others to establish their businesses—and for some, both.

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