CGE has adapted the safe space methodology to rural schoolgirls’ need for strengthened core academic competencies and mentored support. The safe spaces—a safe physical space, friends, and a trained mentor—complement the girls' formal schooling and offer
opportunities to build trusting relationships and acquire critical life skills not currently offered in primary and secondary education. However, the most vulnerable girls are often those who have never even enrolled in school. Their parents—the poorest and most marginalized in the
community—face an intimidating array of barriers to educating their daughters. CGE has now reached 60,000 girls with two years of programming. Their Second Chance program helps out-ofschool girls (ages 10-14) gain the basic academic skills needed to enroll in a government school.
However, by that age the acquisition of basic academic skills such as literacy and numeracy is far more difficult. Building on the success of the safe spaces program, CGE developed the Ci Gaba preschool program (translated as going forward, advancing, or progressing), which starts with girls at age 3 and supports them as they progress through early childhood developmental milestones and prepares them for enrollment in primary school. The objectives are to (i) enhance school readiness (cognitive, fine motor and social-emotional skills), (ii) accelerate acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills, and (iii) facilitate primary school enrollment.
Teachers are selected from CGE’s former safe space program participants who have now advanced to the Federal Teachers’ College. An expert teacher at The Berkeley School (formally Berkeley Montessori) has led several 3-week workshops for the program staff and for professors at the Federal College of Education; the professors have now taken over the training of the mentors. In the Montessori approach, students are encouraged to direct their own learning at their own pace. In Ci Gaba, girls learn from working with Montessori educational
materials made locally at low cost in Nigeria from wood and other natural materials. Every material in a Montessori classroom supports an aspect of child development; CGE is finding the concreteness of the method to be ideal for the girls enrolled. State governments in northern Nigeria are slowly beginning to expand government preschools. The Montessori approach, as adapted by CGE, could prove to be ideal for this setting. For example, since the children work alone during work periods, teachers in government schools would have more time to spend one-on-one with them, even with the large student-teacher ratios found in government schools.