Leveraging Community Volunteers to Tackle High Pupil-Teacher-Ratio in Nigerian Classrooms

In Nigeria, the issue of overcrowded classrooms has far-reaching consequences for both teachers and learners. The challenges of managing larger classrooms hinder effective teaching and learning. In this blog, Aisha Umar Adamu, the Kaduna State team lead, sheds light on how community volunteers are stepping up to assist teachers in tackling the high pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) in Nigerian classrooms.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) defines classroom overcrowding as a situation where the number of enrolled pupils surpasses a school’s intended capacity. In 2018, data from the Basic Education Commission revealed alarming pupil-teacher ratios in Nigeria, with certain geopolitical zones reporting ratios exceeding 80 pupils per teacher. This contrasts with UNESCO’s recommended ratio of 35 pupils to one teacher. The consequences of such overcrowding are significant – teachers focus mostly on high-performing students. Another challenge of a high pupil-teacher ratio is that teachers are put under undue pressure and consequently feel stressed, which can invariably affect the quality of teaching. Likewise, in a typical Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) classroom, where learners are split into small groups of five to seven to conduct activities, it becomes tedious for teachers to effectively manage all groups in a classroom with a high population. 

Leveraging Community Volunteers to Support Learners’ Catch-Up 

Salome facilitating a TaRL training for community volunteers

Salome Anang Joseph, a dedicated school-based mentor, is defying the limitations posed by high pupil-teacher ratios. Her commitment to effective teaching and learning through the TaRL approach motivated her to collaborate with community volunteers to act as TaRL facilitators.

This initiative involving trained community volunteers is led by the Ikara Local Government Education Authority (LGEA) under the leadership of the Education Secretary. This initiative took root after the Kaduna State Government officials, including the Ikara Local Government chairman visited India to witness the TaRL approach in action. Inspired by the volunteer-driven efforts in India, Ikara LGEA embraced the idea of leveraging the support of volunteers to address the educational challenges they faced. Officials of the Kaduna State Government have also expressed their interest in engaging volunteers to support TaRL implementation to the rest of the State. 

Salome’s school became the first in the State to engage volunteers to support TaRL implementation. Recognizing the need for additional manpower, Salome, as a school-based mentor and master trainer, identified and trained seven volunteers from the community. 

Impact of Working with Community Volunteers

Through her experience working with community volunteers to support learners catch up, Salome believes they often have a genuine desire to make a positive impact in their local community and contribute to the well-being of young learners. “The volunteers are highly dedicated and enthusiastic in their roles as classroom assistants or mentors,” she said.

Additionally, community volunteers can lead to effective mentorship and learning relationships, where volunteers provide personalized attention and guidance to students who may need extra support. This one-on-one or small group interaction greatly enhances the learning process and helps struggling learners catch up with their peers.

Moreover, the presence of volunteers has positively impacted student attendance and punctuality. Students now come to school alongside the volunteers, fostering a learning culture, as community volunteers’ impact extends beyond school hours. Learning continues at home, thanks to the volunteers’ continued engagement. This holistic approach has the potential to drive lasting change.

Salome concludes by stressing the significance of acknowledging and appreciating volunteers for their dedication, time, and contributions. She strongly advocates for school-based mentors to embrace the potential of community volunteers. This addresses the challenge of high pupil-teacher ratios and contributes to the fight against illiteracy. Community volunteers emerge as a potent force for change in the quest for improved education and learning outcomes. 


1 thought on “Leveraging Community Volunteers to Tackle High Pupil-Teacher-Ratio in Nigerian Classrooms”

  1. It would be interesting to know what motivates volunteers to fill this gap. Knowing this could, in part, help us understand whether volunteers can be a scalable and sustainable solution that can be applied in schools with high PTRs.

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