The University of Iowa

Building Peace through Education in Nigeria

February 5th, 2014

The following story was originally published on the UI College of Education website.

Katrina Korb emphasizes the importance of education with student healthcare workers.
Katrina Korb, third from left, emphasizes the importance of education with student healthcare workers.

When Katrina Korb (PhD ’07) uses a PowerPoint presentation in her University of Jos classroom, she brings her own projector and a small generator. 

This is just one of the differences between teaching at a U.S. institution and teaching in Nigeria. 

“The Nigerian university system faces many challenges, some of which are based on the lack of infrastructure that Nigeria faces as a whole,” Korb says. “One key example is irregular electricity.” 

Another difference is the impact of violence as it seeps into her classroom. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with more than 168.8 million people. Jos, located in central Nigeria, has suffered from ethno-religious violence. Nearly 1,000 residents died during two major clashes in 2010. 

Korb is involved in local peace initiatives because she believes helping build peace in the region will improve education overall. 

“I’ve realized that education here cannot improve until a sustainable peace has been achieved,” she says. “When students fear violence, they often miss school, and when they are in attendance, they cannot focus because of fear.”

Her main outreach has been through the Young Ambassadors for Community Peace and Interfaith Foundation, which works to help bring young Nigerians of different faiths together for teambuilding and dialogue. She’s involved in a peace literacy class for early elementary children. 

She’s also conducting related academic research, including a study of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the country. 

Korb has worked as a lecturer in educational psychology at the University of Jos for the past six years. She recently stepped into a temporary leadership role at the university and is now serving as head of the Department of General and Applied Psychology. 

She says the education she received at the University of Iowa inspired her to take her skills where they were most needed.

“I was blessed to have the opportunity to receive an education that far exceeds the quality of education that most people around the world receive,” Korb says. “It is said that to whom much is given, much is expected. I feel a deep responsibility to share what I have been given with others, to use what I have been blessed with to help others to flourish.”

“I hope to teach my students to understand what they are learning and apply it to their own experiences,” Korb says. “Then I want them to use teaching methods in their own classrooms to help their students develop meaningful understanding.” Korb’s students will go on to teach at the university level and train future classroom teachers. She says most elementary and secondary instruction in Nigeria requires fact memorization rather than focusing on meaningful understanding and application. 

Korb says a major barrier in giving her students the same high-quality education she enjoyed at the University of Iowa is a lack of access to resources. 

“Many textbooks cost more than a one- or two-month salary for the typical Nigerian,” Korb says. “Libraries in Nigeria don’t have the funds to pay the expensive fees to access journal articles. It’s difficult for my students and colleagues to understand how to conduct good research when they are not able to read journal articles that are based on solid empirical methods.” 

Grace Selzing-Musa is pursuing her doctoral degree in child development at the University of Jos and says Korb is making a difference. 

“Through her world of experience, she is teaching us about scientific research and practical aspects of conducting research,” Selzing-Musa says. “My cohorts say they have a particular motivation to hear what she has to say, learn what she has to teach.” 

Selzing-Musa says in addition to helping her students gain access to resources, code data, and with other practical concerns, Korb is also a warm mentor.

“Even on free days like a holiday, Katrina is ready to open her apartment for you to come in for an appointment. She’s always there,” she says. “She is a leader with a heart to serve.”