Pas en Avant: Community Integration through Dance-Based Pedagogy in the Lake Chad Region

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Performance & Cultural Industries


How can teaching and learning be delivered in communities where schools have been destroyed by war? This is precisely the problem in the case of the Lake Chad conflict, affecting millions of children and women in particular, across various countries (including Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad). Not only is the degradation and regression of Lake Chad generating economic, social and political instability in and between these countries; furthermore, insecurity has been aggravated by the emergence of terrorist militancy in the region. Children in the Lake Chad region have been deprived of their right to education in order to be used as forced labour, as soldiers, or as sex slaves. It is not only formal education that will provide a solution for the local refugee population, particularly since there is no secondary school in the single UNCHR camp found in the lake region of Chad. Non-formal education can be implemented bottom-up, so that communities can enjoy their human right to social and cultural education, through autochthonous forms of knowledge production and sharing. The proposed training and evaluation to be conducted in the chosen beneficiary communities will ensure long-term continuity of NSN's work. Implementation of dance-based pedagogy in the region will greatly support community building and social stabilisation. This project will be delivered by an expert international team of social artists and community workers based in Chad, with support from network members in the UK and in neighbouring Nigeria.

Because our leading partner and friend Taigue Ahmed has family in the lake Chad, we have been granted access by the Ministry of Interior to this currently militarised zone. During meetings held in N'Djamena in May, we consulted UNCHR Chad (Nde Ndifonka) on the issue of logistics, facilitation and security. We have been assured that since the 2016 visit by the High Commissioner to Baga Sola, the UNCHR camp is completely safe for international media and researchers, and that very effective security measures will be in place for us.

In order to inform the preparation of this bid, we held a weeklong exchange with refugees from Maro and Belom camps (located in the border with the Central African Republic). This event was held as part of the previous AHRC network that feeds this proposal. This preliminary meeting has illuminated us on, and given us a sobering insight into, the extraordinary power of dance to transform lives in the region. Twenty-five refugees made an eighteen-hour bus journey in the scorching heat (up to 47 C), to be part of a weeklong series of dance workshops led by Ahmed and his team of social artists. When asked why make such extraordinary effort, the refugees replied: "dance gives us strength and energy as a group"' "otherwise we are alone". One woman said that through dance, the refugee community can collectively express their message: "There is hope for integration". That woman, aged twenty, was attending with her four year-old. Many participants have suffered facial and body mutilation and trauma. To see them laugh, relax, focus and learn, is significant. To conduct contact work, massage, trust exercises, attention and posturing work, reminds us of the power of dance to break barriers and achieve real impact in the physical and mental lives of people living in conflict. Crucially, this work is being transmitted to the children present, especially given the support provided by members of Association Tchado-Stars, who apply NSN pedagogy to support homeless children.

NSN's "pedagogy for life" is a unique model for social and cultural learning. It achieves humane sensitisation, peace, community building, and resilience. Moreover, with support from Tchado-Stars, NSN supports the integration of young learners within formal education, given strong links with local schools in N'Djamena. This project will ensure long term sustainability and replicability of NSN pedagogy in Chad and beyond.

Planned Impact

Impact generation has been mapped to Ndam Se Na's five key challenges:

1) Community building
2) Violence Prevention
3) Trauma Therapy
4) Interethnic dialogue
5) Local cultural valorisation

We propose four sets of impact-generating activities to address these challenges. Thus, this project will enable us to conduct:

- Community workshops to be led by Taigue Ahmed and his team, plus external support from invited international artists Fabrice don de Dieu (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Sunday Akpan Israel (Nigeria).
- Community forums, to be led by Roméo Koïbé Madjilem (University of N'Djamena) and Uche Okpara (University of Leeds).
- Training program for four new unnamed Ndam Se Na trainees, led by Taigue and his team.
- Public dissemination and end-of-project event to be held at the Institut Francais, in N'Djamena.

The above-mentioned activities will lead to the generation of community impact, addressing the challenge-led research conducted by local stakeholders. More specifically, the workshops will contribute to community-building in the target locations via the creation of open spaces for interaction between refugees and non-refugees (Challenge 1). The three proposed workshops will also have an impact on the mental and physical well-being of participants-- an estimated 500+ (Challenge 2). Meanwhile, the forums (or group discussions) will contribute to improvement of social stability and peace-building through the promotion of dialogue and mutual listening (Challenge 4). The training programme for four new social artists is designed to have an impact in terms of local cultural valorisation and autochthonous knowledge (Challenge 5), which is key to the promotion of dignity and resilience among local communities.

In addition, the proposed training scheme will ensure "capacity building" through a proposed shadowing initiative. Trainees will be asked to select a shadow trainee from within the local communities to ensure continuity and autonomy. The dow trainee will be a child, and will be mentored not only by Ahmed and his team members. The shadow trainee will also receive specialised guidance from members of Tchado-Stars, who since 2011 have customised the NSN dance pedagogy in order to apply it to social work conducted among homeless and school-deprived young learners (aged 5-17).

This project will also generate academic and public impact through high-quality dissemination events. In order to maximise audience outreach, we will organise a talk in a major London venue, to be organised in conjunction with Team Advisory Member Tom Green, and within the context of Platforma's Refugee Week program (2019). Platforma, who was a project partner in our previous AHRC network, manages Refugee Week activities for South Bank Centre, V&A, and British Museum (see Letter of Support for details).

Finally, we will deliver an end of project and public event organised by Ndam Se Na to be held at Institut Francais, who hosted us for our previous AHRC project meeting (see This end-of-project event will involve performance work and Q-and-A sessions that will showcase the summative creative work of trainees, refugees, host communities, and partner artists.


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