By Abdulrasheed Akere
Despite schooling in a northwest state, Zamfara, Ibrahim Umar, a 300-level student of Education Biology at Federal University Gusau has never been to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria until he was selected for the Droso4Nigeria workshop in 2023. The 3-day intensive training brought him together with other 20 students from seven universities from the northwest and northeast geo-political zones of Nigeria.
The workshop which spanned from November 06 to November 08 allowed Ibrahim to learn the use of Drosophila as an effective teaching and learning aid among students from Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto (UDUS), Ummaru Musa Yar’adua University, Katsina State, University of Maiduguri, Borno State, Federal University Dutse, Jigawa State, Gombe State University, and the host’s varsity, ABU Zaria.
Droso4Nigeria is a non-profit educational organization situated in ABU Zaria and was established in 2018 to promote the use of Drosophila in schools and research. The organization used a volunteering system to organize biology teachers-in-training workshops for teachers, researchers, and students through its outreach.
A co-founder of Droso4Nigeria, Dr Rashidatu Abdulazeez, doubling as the director of outreach narrated that the organization originated from the persistent challenges observed in secondary school biology examinations. In 2014, one of the co-founders conducted an assessment during her Postgraduate Diploma in Education, revealing reasons for consistent failures in biology. Teachers cited a lack of resources for practical classes and insufficient teaching periods, while students mentioned complex topics, terminology overload, the bulkiness of biology, and its abstract nature.
“Motivated by these issues, the founders of Droso4Nigeria sought to address them by utilizing Drosophila as an effective teaching, learning, and practical aid for secondary schools. Another co-founder, after training in Uganda in 2014 on the use of Drosophila, recognized the fruit fly’s potential as a model to tackle challenges faced by biomedical researchers, including a lack of research funds, limited timeframes for significant research outcomes, and the expensive cost of mice models,” said Dr Rashidatu.
Since its inception, Droso4Nigeria has trained 302 students and 128 teachers through 8 outreach programs which included training, quiz competitions, and secondary schools outreach. Its just concluded workshop was centered on a theme: Enhancing biology education in Nigeria: Use of Drosophila as an effective teaching and learning aid.
During the workshop, Ibrahim learned a bevy of concepts through hands-on, mind-on, and remote-ready approaches to teaching and learning. “We were taught how to enhance learning through activity-based teaching approaches, how to prepare and leverage PowerPoint presentations to optimize biology teaching time and enhance students’ learning capacity.”
He said, “After the training, I can now utilize visual clues and simulation to teach biology. I realized that learning biology is boring, while a competent teacher can make it interesting with the aid of visuals, charts, images, and animations.”
Just like Ibrahim, another participant of the latest cohort of the Droso4Nigeria workshop, Idris Alimat Sadiat, a student of Education Biology at Ahmadu Bello University, or ABU Zaria once heard about Drosophila in bryophyte class but her lecturer did not say much about it until the workshop where she saw, observed and dissected drosophila by herself.
Alimat expressed, “The workshop has made me know how to collect Drosophila, prepare its bait, how it’s ideal for science, and how I can use it in the classroom to impact knowledge in my students. I have not been a teacher before but a student-teacher. As an outcome of the workshop, I have been inspired to become a teacher, even a lecturer with the passion to impact lives.”
Aside from educational knowledge, a participant from Federal University Dutse, Jigawa State, Muhammad Salisu gained distinguished skills in bio-entrepreneurship and domestic entrepreneurship. “Droso4Nigeria gave us knowledge, how to use it, and source of income. It was a rare life-changing experience where inspiration was aroused in like-minded students. I was bestowed an opportunity to network with different students of diverse backgrounds.”
Muhammad encouraged other students to always apply for such workshops to learn, unlearn, and relearn. He wished this kind of sponsored workshop would be made readily available for students at all levels of education.
Dr Rashidatu asserted, “This year’s Droso4Nigeria workshop distinguishes itself by directing its focus towards college students as the primary audience. A significant shift occurred with notable contributions from indigenous organizations like CAMRET-UDUS and BioRTC, emphasizing an augmented commitment from conscientious individuals in Nigeria aside from the hub’s co-founders. Furthermore, participants in this edition exhibit a heightened awareness of media, showcasing an unprecedented dedication that signals a promising shift in shaping the future of biology in Nigeria. Additionally, the workshop addressed the funding challenges through a focus on bio-entrepreneurship.”
The management of Droso4Nigeria encouraged, “Trainees should apply their acquired knowledge beyond teaching biology, embracing innovative approaches for a student-centered learning experience. We advocate for broader support of education and related activities by the good citizens of this great country. Investing in the future through enhanced education and an improved system is crucial. Let’s collectively ensure a brighter future by contributing as little as #1,500 for a hand lens, reducing reliance on government intervention.”
“Droso4Nigeria looks to its trainees to become outstanding ambassadors of the hub’s mission, making positive contributions to education in their respective localities and innovating ways to enhance the educational landscape in Nigeria.”
Limitation of The Mission
While speaking on the limitations of the organization, Dr Rashidatu said funding has been a persistent challenge that is hindering the mission of Droso4Nigeria.
She said, “We appeal to fellow Nigerians to sponsor Droso4Nigeria’s activities, conducted thrice a year for three distinct audiences. Your support is crucial in aiding our donations to secondary schools and contributing to the advancement of education in our communities. We can also be contacted to train teachers on innovative ways of teaching biology.”