Training in Niger
An intensive eight- to nine-week pre-service training program at the Peace Corps training center in Hamdallaye (about 18.5 miles, or 30 kilometers, northeast of Niamey) will prepare you and approximately 30 other Volunteers for your service in Niger. Although the amount you need to learn is vast, you should think of pre-service training as the initial step in a continuing process of learning that will last for your entire stay in Niger.
Pre-service training will include French, one of the national languages (depending on where you are assigned), cross-cultural adaptation, guidelines for personal health and hygiene, development issues, safety and security issues, community entry skills, nonformal education techniques, and a few technical skills related to your particular project. In addition to language classes, there will be hands-on activities, field trips, readings, seminars, and self-directed learning. You will live with a Nigerien family (who speak the local language you are learning) in the village of Hamdallaye for most of the training. You will spend some time in the field with experienced Volunteers to observe and learn development skills and coping strategies.
During training, you will need to reevaluate your commitment to Peace Corps service in Niger. Participating in training is not a guarantee of becoming a Volunteer. While we fully expect you to be successful, there are definite goals and competencies you must attain before you can be sworn in as a Volunteer.
Technical training will prepare you to work in Niger by building on the skills you already have and by helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. The Peace Corps staff, Nigerien experts, and current Volunteers will conduct the training program. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.
Technical training will include sessions on the general economic and political environment in Niger and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your technical sector’s goals and meet with the Nigerien agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them. The technical training element of pre-service training is largely introductory. You will learn more technical skills at an in-service training session that will be scheduled after you have been in your post for about three months.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are the key to personal and professional satisfaction during your service. These skills are critical to your job performance, they help you integrate into your community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. Therefore, language training is the heart of the training program, and you must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer. Experienced Nigerien language instructors teach formal language classes five days a week in small groups of four to five people.
Each Volunteer needs to become functional in a national language (Hausa, Zarma, or Tamashek). French is also important, especially for education and health Volunteers and for Volunteers who want to move into leadership positions and assignments with international and nongovernmental organizations. Keep in mind that many generations of Niger Volunteers have managed to become proficient in these languages and that you, too, are likely to do so. Self-study materials and ongoing tutoring will be available.
You are encouraged to review or begin to study French as soon as possible after accepting your invitation. Your local library or university language department should be able to suggest some resources. Peace Corps/ Niger in conjunction with Peace Corps/ Washington has developed a Zarma and Hausa learning tutorial that is available online at www.peacecorps.gov and can be accessed after you have accepted your invitation to serve. Your language training will incorporate a community-based approach. In addition to classroom time, you will be given assignments to work on outside of the classroom and with your host family. Interested trainees are offered two nights per week of optional language tutoring. The goal is to get you to a point of basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills further on your own. Prior to being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service.
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Nigerien host family. This is the best way to learn about Nigeriens’ daily lives, diet, customs, and attitudes. Host families also assist in language learning and in introducing trainees to community activities. The Peace Corps takes great care in selecting the families who will host you. They understand what you will be trying to accomplish and are willing to assist you. Keep in mind that your ways are as different to them as theirs are to you. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.
Cross-cultural and community development training will help you improve your communication skills and understand your role as a facilitator of development. You will be exposed to topics such as community mobilization, conflict resolution, gender and development, nonformal and adult education strategies, and political structures.
Niger’s dry and dusty environment makes it difficult to maintain proper personal hygiene and health. Thus, one has to make an extra effort to remain healthy. The medical resources available are not comparable to those in the West or even in some neighboring African countries. Health can also be affected by the limited availability of fruits and vegetables in certain seasons.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in Niger. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living compound, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also covered.
During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces your risks at home, at work, and during your travels. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service.
Additional Training During Volunteer Service
In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides Volunteers with continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During your service, there are usually four training events. The titles and objectives are as follows:
- In-service training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to upgrade their technical, language, and project development skills while sharing their experiences and reaffirming their commitment after having served for three months.
- Regional language training: Helps Volunteers improve their language skills by focusing on regional dialects and job-related vocabulary.
- Midservice conference (done in conjunction with technical sector in-service): Assists Volunteers in reviewing their first year, reassessing their personal and project objectives, and planning for their second year of service.
- Close of service conference: Prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews their respective projects and personal experiences. The number, length, and design of these training events are adapted to Niger-specific needs and conditions. The key to the training system is that training events are integrated and interrelated, from the pre-departure orientation through the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the Peace Corps staff and Volunteers.