Nigerian public servants are experiencing the consequences of corruption in education through the eyes of a Lagos schoolgirl, thanks to a new application of virtual reality (VR). ‘Sherifat’s School’ is a new virtual reality experience that drops the audience into the life of a girl called Sherifat. Sherifat aspires to grow up be a top lawyer but her dreams are dealt a severe blow by corrupt officials and the decisions they take on the renovation of her school. This leaves her in a poor learning environment and at risk of dropping out. Those experiencing it will also see what could have happened if government officials had chosen to act with integrity. It highlights the difference it would have made for Sherifat and her friends.
The VR experience builds on a growing body of evidence that shows how VR can increase empathy in participants. We are testing it to see if it can help positively shape attitudes and behaviours towards corrupt activities within the education sector and lead to better outcomes.
Created by Step Up for Social Development and Empowerment in Nigeria (Step Up Nigeria) in partnership with VR 360 stories and supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the VR experience began roll-out on 10 March, 2021 in Lagos with key government officials in the education sector.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates there are 10.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria. Poor facilities at schools are often a contributory factor, especially for girls. Nigeria ranks 161 out of 189 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI), below Kenya, Ghana, Botswana and Rwanda. Only 77% of students complete basic education.
Nigeria’s ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index has slid to 149th from 136th. Placing it among the bottom 20% of countries.
Onyinye Ough set-up Step up for Social Development and Empowerment in Nigeria (Step Up Nigeria) in 2018 to improve citizen engagement in tackling corruption and in the delivery of public goods and services in Nigeria. They partnered on this project with VR 360 Stories, Nigeria’s pioneer Virtual Reality / 360-degree video production company.
This builds on emerging evidence on how virtual reality can increase empathy. This includes a Stanford University Study on homelessness from 2018. It also builds on broader work done by the Virtual Human Interaction Lab.
This work was supported and funded by the MacArthur Foundation. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges. This includes advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria.