Redemption Camp has 5,000 houses, roads, rubbish collection, police, supermarkets, banks, a fun fair, a post office even a 25 megawatt power plant. In Nigeria, the line between church and city is rapidly vanishing
Ha-lleluuuu-jah, booms the distinctive voice of Pastor Enoch Adeboye, also known as the general overseer.
The sound comes out through thousands of loudspeakers planted in every corner of Redemption Camp. Market shoppers pause their haggling, and worshippers some of whom have been sleeping on mats in this giant auditorium for days stop brushing their teeth to join in the reply.
Hallelujah is the theme for this years Holy Ghost convention at one of Nigerias biggest megachurches, and all week the word echoes among the millions of people attending.
As evening falls on Friday, Adeboye, a church celebrity, is soon to take the stage at his vast new auditorium to give the conventions last, three-hour sermon. Helicopters land next to the 3 sq km edifice, delivering Nigerias rich and powerful to what promises to be the night of the year.
Thousands of worshippers surge up the hill towards the gleaming warehouse. Shiny SUVs, shabby Toyota Corollas and packed yellow buses choke the expressway all the way from Lagos, 30 miles away.
In a few months Ill be starting at university. If only more girls around the world had this opportunity
Three days ago, I returned from my second visit to Nigeria.
Nigeria is the richest country in Africa, but it has the highest number of out-of-school girls in the world. When I first visited the country in 2014, the government spent 9% of its budget on education. This year its only 6%. (The international benchmark for spending on education is 20% of the overall budget.)
When planning where I would travel on my Girl Power Trip this summer, I knew I needed to return to Nigeria and advocate again for the millions of girls fighting to go to school.
In some states, particularly in northern Nigeria, extremism terrorises communities and makes education impossible for many children, particularly girls.
During my trip, I travelled to Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram. In a camp for people displaced by terrorism, I met girls like 15-year-old Fatima, who have faced so much violence and fear in their young lives but are still determined to go to school.
Boko Haram abducted me and wanted to marry me, Fatima told me. I later managed to escape. I was not in school until I came to the camp here.
Almost left for dead when he was injured by a discarded bomb, Jonathan Gambo faces a long road to recovery. The teenagers fate mirrors that of Nigeria itself
On the day he lost his arm, Jonathan Gambo had been sent to gather firewood in the Nigerian village of Uba, where his parents worked as farmers.
His elder brother had been curious to unearth a chunk of metal and unwittingly passed him the bomb before instructing him to throw it away.
The device blasted off Jonathans hand and right arm up to the elbow. The bone in his leg was protruding and he was bleeding from multiple flesh wounds.
It backfired and cut my hand immediately; I felt dizzy and everything became a blur, and then I fell down, remembers Jonathan.
His body was so blackened by the charcoal dust from the explosion that police who attended the scene declared him dead.
But the barely conscious 12-year-old overheard them talking and was able to force open his eyes. He even managed a smile to show he was still alive.
A policeman tied my hand with a scarf and took me to the hospital, he recalls.
Some soldiers followed us and explained everything to the doctors. The other hand that was cut off by the bomb was buried.
It is a story repeated in conflicts the world over one of the innocent people accidentally maimed or killed by casually discarded ordnance. In this case, the culprit was a bomb left behind after a Boko Haram raid.
In north-east Nigeria, where progress to defeat the Islamist militant group is finally becoming apparent, it is a reminder that, even after the violence dissipates, the recovery process will be long and hard.
Two years on from the accident Jonathan, now 14, is back at school but it has not been an easy journey. Following the incident his family relocated from their village to the town of Yola. The move, which meant the youngster could undergo a series of major operations, came at a cost to the familys farming livelihood.
Before this incident I was very happy with my mum, we even had a farm and my mum bought a cow, Jonathan says. My elder sister got married and went to her husbands house. There are a lot of things I could do before that I cant do now, like farming.
His mother, Killu, describes how she struggled at first to secure adequate medical treatment for her son.
What happened to Jonathan was tragic, she says. He had stitches all over his body, the bone on his leg was out. I was thinking he wont make it alive. The facility in Mararaba Mubi [near Uba] is very poor. There was no bedspread on the bed, just a polythene bag.
The incident affected Jonathan a lot because there is lots he cant do, but he is trying his best. He writes with his left hand, climbs tree with one hand, hes brilliant.
Given his life-changing injury, it seems incongruous to describe Jonathan as among the more fortunate children living in north-east Nigeria.
The injured face a future as beggars on the street in Adamawa state, where poverty and illiteracy levels are among the highest in the country.
Jonathan, who attends a private primary school run by the church, is lucky enough to be getting an education.
His day starts at 5am, when he lifts weights with his left arm before walking to school.
He is catching up on lost time and attends classes with peers two years his junior. Doggedly determined, he has not once been late or missed a class, and has learned to write using his left hand.
I want to become a lawyer, he says. My favourite subjects are mathematics and English. I want to complete my education and stay with my mother. I want to study, because education is good and anybody that studies will find it easy to get employment.
His story is representative of the region he calls home: there is light at the end of the tunnel, but still a long way to go.
Last year Boko Haram began fracturing into two splinter groups, with one faction moving away from the Islamists established figurehead Abubakar Shekau.
The group led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi broke off after Shekaus refusal to adhere to guidance from Islamic State, to which the militant group pledged allegiance in 2015.
The division has left the warring factions weakened and Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has boasted that recent progress has left the militant group technically defeated.
But the Nigerian army has a history of embellishing its victories over the terrorist organisation while underestimating its own losses.
Elizabeth Donnelly, deputy head of the Africa programme at Londons Chatham House, says it is not yet clear how the dynamics between the two factions will play out.
The Al-Barnawi faction at the moment is less deadly but that is because it is newer, she says. We dont yet know what that faction will evolve into.
In many respects Boko Haram is a known quantity in terms of tactics and the pressures it is under evidenced by the forced recruitment and deployment of women and girls as suicide bombers.
However, she adds: This is an embattled group that is trying to survive and because of that it certainly remains vicious.
Amid the uncertainty, one thing is clear: big questions remain about how to recover and make progress in a region that, in common with Jonathan and many others like him, will always carry the scars of conflict.
(CNN)Stella Uzochukwu, a former electronics engineer, is doing something profound. She is teaching girls how to code in defiance of Boko Haram, whose brutal crusade against western-style education — among other things — has robbed children of education in northern Nigeria.
School girls in the Odyssey Educational Foundation‘s after school STEM program are being encouraged to pursue careers in science and technology, and have built a robot to tackle the country’s waste problem.
For this year’s competition, students had to build and program robots that could pick up and drop off pieces of garbage on a play area. Unused plastic bags have also been turned into play marbles by the girls.
“There was a particular incident last year where we wanted to engage kids in coding during the school holidays”, explains Uzochukwu, “but none of the kids were allowed to come into school because of these attacks”.
“Their parents wanted to keep them at home so we had to cancel it”, she adds, “it was very sad because we wanted to teach them how to write apps”.
The mentality amongst parents in Nigeria is “they’d rather die with their children at home than send them to school to die on their own”.
Despite these challenges, Uzochukwu has persevered. Last year, the charity moved into a dedicated center so kids would not have to come into their school after hours, alleviating security concerns.
Although the school is co-ed, it has focused its efforts on teaching girls science and tech, deliberately arranging a ratio of three girls to one boy in its clubs: “Most of the boys are already doing maths and science and they love it, but we wanted to encourage it amongst girls as well.”
When traveling to India to complete a masters degree in telecoms management, Uzochukwu discovered school clubs in India gave extra STEM tuition to children.
She also noticed that in her masters class of ’42 there were just three women, including herself. Upon returning to Nigeria, she set up the charity.
Her seven strong staff go into communities and encourage parents to send their girls to school. Mothers are taught to make soap, creams and other ointments to supplement their income in order to pay for school fees.
The goal is to ensure kids can learn how to repair computers, laptops, and phones, “so when they get out of school they will not be roaming the streets”.
“Learning programming, coding and mathematics is what I think marks the difference between underdeveloped and developed nations.”