Monday, November 29, 2010

Captions for the last downloaded pictures

Professor Linda and Abdul-Rasheed Na'Allah, former WIU African-American Studies Department Chairperson and my host at Kwara State University where he is Vice-Chancellor (or the President), at the International Visitors Dinner at his home in the compound where I lodged during my stay.

Professor Phil (omena) Okeke-Ihejirika, The University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada (Development and Migration Studies - Women's Studies Program), on sabbatical at KWASU assisting with faculty development in the area of research and grant writing - who was my roommate in the lodge on the grounds of the former governor's residence.  Great gal and very smart!  This shot taken to email to her two daughters back home in Canada with their dad; mom missing them a lot!

The Tantilizer fast food restaurant, WITH a small play area ala McDonald's (!); native foods along with KFC-type fried chicken and some kind of meat burger!  Not a recommended spot for my return visit!

Yep, not all of Nigeria is flat; scene on the drive through the limestone state on our way to Abuja.

Rams in a village area awaiting purchase for slaughter and sharing in celebration of the Muslim holiday November 16-17.

Yep, red soil!

One of the MANY religious buses always on the road, this one jockeying with my driver Gani and me in the university car for space on the road during that 2.5 hour traffic jam outside of Abuja November 12. awesome experience...

It is the 18th day since I rode the 9.5 hours from Ilorin to Abuja to fly home to the US - 2.5 hours of which were spent in an inch-by-inch Nigerian traffic jam!  Those days have been spent decompressing from the experience at Kwara State University and the environs of Ilorin, along with all the work during the visit.  Also, I have had a bit of a health challenge - returned with a severe contact dermatitis of unknown origin that has caused considerable discomfort due to full-body itching from the neck down and hives on my hands and feet.  Prednisone is a miracle drug, for sure, though I am still not out of the woods!  Hopefully the March trip does not end the same way!

I was able to witness lots of extremes in the western Nigerian state of Kwara where I spent the majority of my time.  Extreme proverty juxtaposed with conspicuous wealth; uneducated Nigerians and refugees and highly informed and involved citizens; trash-strewn streets and brilliant night skies; little landscaping or flowers contrasted with brilliantly colored and patterened native clothing; poor management systems along with a growing number of industrious entrepreneurs; desperate needs for public education and abundant private schools; and daily concerns for water and electricity along with warm and friendly people who were ever kind and respectful to this oyibo (oh we bow'), white person.

I was able to leave Abdul-Rasheed Na'Allah, the Vice-Chancellor of KWASU, and his education faculty with several recommendations for the foundations that need to be in place before they can begin to train teachers of students with high incidence disabilities, i.e. learning disabilities and emotional/behavioral disorders.  I also suggested a training program, the first of its kind in Nigeria, for such teachers who would serve in inclusive educational settings, not in the institutions and day schools for children with low incidence disabilities that are the norm now.  To that end, I also made recommendations to the current First Lady of Kwara State who has a personal interest in special needs children, the Commissioner of Education, and other educators as to how to move toward deinstitutionalization and normalization.  We established working relationships with the College of Education at Oyo, the current primary teacher training institution for special needs children, and with esspin, a branch of UKaid, an organization working on professional development for all Nigerian teachers. 

For the second visit I will be making presentations to private school staffs on high incidence disabilities, as well as working with esspin on training modules for current general education teachers.  I will most probably be doing specific planning for a KWASU Child Development Clinic, if funding has been found or looks imminent. I will do some consulting in Abuja, the capital, as well as complete one or more evaluations of students suspected of having reading disorders.  I might even be on t.v. again in that the Women's Issues program got rave reviews, as did my public presentation to 500+!  (Both done in plus-88-degree  F. conditions!)

I will look forward to seeing several of the international lecturers that will be in residence during that return trip.  That was one of the highlights of this first trip, meeting people from Canada, Norway, Italy, Lativa, the UK, and the US who were teaching or otherwise working at KWASU, learning about their areas of expertise and their cultures.  I will also look forward to working again with some fine Nigerian educators that I had the privilege of meeting during this first visit.

Monday, November 8, 2010

...Nigerian wedding experience...

I was able to attend a Nigerian wedding this past Saturday, a grand affair held by an affluent family in a very large reception hall for 400-500 people!  Friends of the bride and groom and their families are invited to the wedding celebration, and those friends also invite their own friends.  The bride chooses colors for the wedding, in this case silver and turquoise, and the guests dress in those colors, even in certain fabrics that are chosen for dresses, if one chooses to have one made for the occasion, but certainly head wraps for women and hats for men, and body wraps for women.  It is, indeed, colorful.

There are customary entrance dances for the groom's family and the bride's family, as well as for the bride and groom.  I got to do the traditional dancing, though not too well, for the groom's family's entrance. There were tons of food and non-alcoholic drink.  There was lots of dancing by all after the bride and groom first dance.  They do something called "spraying" of parents and the bride and groom.  Spraying is like our Dollar Dance, but more like showering the dancers with naira, the currency here.  You are to take part in the dancing around, say the groom's parents or the bride and groom, and stick bills on sweaty shoulders or foreheads.  Little children are on the floor underneath to retrieve the bills for whomever is dancing and getting sprayed.  One is to spray in an amount commensurate with their own wealth!  The money is then used by the bride and groom as they see fit, or by the parents to defray the costs of the wedding, in the case of the one I attended, quite lavish!

I have my faculty/staff/public presentation ready for Wednesday noon.  It will be on high incidence disabilities, which will be the focus of the new training program at Kwara State University.  My Graduate Assistant Jenna, my secretary Alison, and my children will be proud of me that I did the PowerPoint all by myself - really easy!  Even put some "bells and whistles" in it, along with lots of photos!  The presentation will be taped and given to the First Lady of Kwara State in that she is out of the country and cannot attend.  She is very interested in services for special needs children and has access to monies herself and contacts within this state for some of the recommendations that I have made, i.e. a Child Development Clinic...

Friday, November 5, 2010

...just twelve days and finally hot water...

Last night we had hot water in our bathrooms for the first time in 12 days!  Hooray! 

This has been a most productive week!  Saw special education faculty at the Oyo College of Education two hours south of Ilorin where they primarily train teachers to work with HI, VI, and IDD children.  They gave Jonathan and me a royal welcome, with books that they have published for use in Nigeria, as well as a tour of their facility, which they are proud of and do good works in.  But, the facility and materials are out of the 1950s when compared to the West.  They know it and want to move ahead, but I am told there are limited resource for all of education in Nigeria since the oil money apparently doesn't go there!

Yesterday we meet some people at the Kwara State Ministry of Education who will be very instrumental for the programs that KWASU wants to do.  The Commissioner was very impressed with an evaluation center and teacher training in that a friend of his just confided that he has a son who is struggling to learn to read, though bright.  Aha!  A learning disabled child in the midst of the friend circle of a person here who can get something done about LD children and other high incidence disabilities.

We also discussed LD and BD with the Special Needs Unit Chairperson, who had never heard of those disabilities and wants to learn.  And, then we hooked up with UKAid, an organization working with the Ministry of Education on raising the skill levels of all teachers.  They want to include the research-based methodologies for LD and BD in their future in-service trainings for educators, so Jonathan is "on a roll" now!

I am including some pictures this afternoon before I return to the bungalow to do some laundry and work on my letter of introduction to the First Lady.  Apparently I may be able to meet with her before I fly back to the States next Friday., arriving Moline Saturday noon.  Despite the difficulties living here, I will return in March per plans, and it won't take too long to "get into the Nigerian ways".

The photos are: Grade 5 Malete public school class; the outside of the Malete school; a Self-contianed classroom of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) students at a Christian primary school in Ilorin; a class of Hearing Impaired children and their HI teachers and principal in a Muslin primary school in Ilorin; my roommate Phil(omina) from the University of Alberta in Canada in one of her gorgeous Nigerian dresses, a sample of the type and colors that she wears every day; a street scene here in Ilorin; and a shot of the lake a few blocks behind the compound with a mineret in the background.  (Now my task is to get them loaded in the right order!)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

...forgot the "football" bus...

One of the pictures just posted is of the Butola Babes soccer bus.  As you probably know "football" is BIG in Africa!  Just happened to walk by apparently the bus driver's house on my way here today.

These pictures so far don't really show the extreme contrasts that I see here.  This hotel has a lovely swimming pool and athletic center, as well as this computer center, a restaurant with good food, and the bar-n-grill that I have mentioned before.  It would be comparable to many in the US.  Then just down the street is Yoruba Market Street where the baby's picture was taken, which is one little hut after another with people making a sustence living selling all kinds of things (food and stuff from China, the primary exportor to Nigeria), where meat is open to the air with flies all over it, babies crawling around in filth, plastic bags (called nylons) all over the place, people following this white woman around saying "Ma" (term of respect) and showing me what they want me to buy.

,,,eight days in...

It is Sunday afternoon and after washing some clothing and hanging it on the porch to dry, I have walked the 25 minutes up to the Kwara Hotel where there is a computer access shop - 300N for one hour on the Internet ($2US).  I needed to print some work as well as download the first pictures for this blog, which is faster here than at the bungalow.  Not sure the order that the pictures will appear, but here are their contents: our bungalow, a view from ours up to the Vice-Chancellor's, two of the guards at our gate, a baby at the place on the market street where we buy our bottled water at the lowest price, a street scene Friday on our way to purchase two bedside table lamps for Phil (Philamina) and me, tall corn growing behind a compound wall on my way up here this afternoon, and the sharing of my birthday cake with some of the workers at Kwara State.

The four school visits on Wednesday were eye-opening - dedicated staff working with few materials and in less than adequate facilities.  It is apparent that high incidence disabilities are virtually unknown, so KWASU has a long way to go in their commitment to train teachers for this population of children.  But, there are some immediate needs that Jonathan, the first special education faculty member, and I feel that they can begin with.

Yesterday was Election Day here in Ilorin, so no cabs or drivers could be on the streets between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., therefore Phil and I had to do our grocery shopping Friday afternoon.  It took three stops to find the canned tomatoes that we wanted and the cornmeal that we got was really cornstarch, so the fried fish for last night's guests (Nancy, Dell, and Miguel) was "interesting".  The bread pudding and apple pie turned out delicious, due to the contributions of Nancy (cinnamon, brown sugar, raisins, and the pans) and rolling the pie crust with a wine bottle!  Phil made two Nigerian dishes, one with rice and coconut oil and tomatoes, and one with beans and various vegetables.  Both were delicious, as were the fried plantains.  We have so much leftover that we won't have to cook for a couple of days - hooray!

Hopefully, the "cleaners" will come tomorrow and sweep, then mop our floors and clean the bathrooms.  Having to do the laundry by hand today is enough.  I need to remind Abdul-Rasheed when I see him tomorrow after his return from the US that he is wasting our intellectual capital when we have to not only cook, but clean and do laundry!

The television interview is in the morning; two more school visits on Tuesday and a lecture to a Psychology class; and Jonathan and I drive the two hours to his former university, The University of Ibadan.  Then the remaining two days of this week will find me holed up at the bungalow writing up "the plan".  I will be attending a wedding on Saturday and have already been told what to wear and what to bring.  The couple and their immediate family members invited their friends, and then the friends invite their friends!  The bride picks colors which guests are supposed to wear and in some instances individual guests choose fabrics and their guests order dresses in the fabric.  So, groups of people at the wedding are dressed alike.  Then during the dancing at the wedding, various people, the bride and groom, their parents, the friends of both families, are "sprayed" with different levels of money, the amount determined by how well you know them or how wealthy you are.  I have been advised to wear as much white and turquoise as I can and to bring a fistful of 5 and 10N bills!

Happy Halloween to all you Americans!  My Marissa LOVES Halloween, so I am sure that she has been in costume all weekend.  My Jack is in Boise visiting his granddaughters and their parents.  Oldest son H.F. is recuperating in Scottsdale from a back injury, and my second son Rob and his wife Cherra will deliver my first grandchild in May 2011.  I couldn't tell anyone until after her 12th week.  She begins Week 14 today!  I am, of course, tickled!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Five Days In...

I sit in a guarded bungalow on the property of the former governor of Kwara State where Abdul-Rasheed Na'Allah, the Vice-Chancellor of Kwara State University, resides in the former governor's home and Nancy Hannemann and two other guests reside in the first bungalow.  I share this lodging, with frequent breaks in electricity and no hot water in my bathroom, with two other foreign lecturers, both Nigerians by birth but now faculty members at the University of Alberta here on sabbaticals.  My driver will pick me up in the morning for the 45-minute drive out to Malete where KWASU is located, a brand new university situated in a small community as part of a community development initiative program in Nigeria.  We will stop on the way at a great bakery I found today to pick up treats for some of my new colleagues at KWASU since it will be my birthday!  I think that two of the faculty members who visited four schools in Ilorin with me today also ordered a birthday cake, though they were pretty secretive about it!  At the end of a planning day tomorrow and visits to two more schools, these in rural Malete, five of us here will go to a bar-n-grille behind the Kwara Hotel up the street and have drinks and a light supper in honor of my passing into another year.

Adjustment as been complicated by not only the heat but having to have bottled water with one at all times; the memory card in my camera failing and requiring multiple trips along bustled narrow streets to find a replacement; no Internet services as the university and a couple-day delay in getting my starcomms satellite thingey for the computer here at the bungalow; no DStv for BBC and CNN until last night; and disorientation as to directions when traveling in Ilorin due to the congested winding streets where there are frequent "go slows", i.e. traffic jams.

The university personnel have been most gracious and appear excited that I am here to assist with the design of not only a training program for teachers of students with disabilities, but also the planning of professional development needs of teachers and administrators in Kwara State, one of the 36 states in Nigeria.  Also, our task includes consideration of community service opportunities for the new department of special education, though Jonathan Olukotun, the faculty member I am working with, are considering different names for the new department, such as Inclusive Education for Special Needs Children.  It is a challenge to learn all the existing governmental structures and their functions that need to be considered in the program plan here, but I think we are on the right track.

I have been invited to be a guest on a morning television program this coming Monday, a Women's Issues program where I will be interviewed about students with high incidence disabilities, such as learning disabilities, behavior disorders, ADHD, etc.  Services for these kinds of learners are not well-known here and will be the focus of the KWASU program.  I am also to be invited to meet with the First Lady of Kwara State to discuss with her needs in the state for students with disabilities, or special needs, which is the term in the Nigerian and Kwara state legislations.  I will be giving one public lecture some time during my last week here, most probably on not only what are high incidence disabilities, but the mistakes that the US made over the years in our special education delivery system that we advise others not to make!

I have been accorded royal-like considerations!  The driver opens all doors for me and carries all my materials.  I am addressed as Ma, which is the highest level of respect for a woman in this culture, or Madam with a bow.  Wherever I go I am usually the only white person unless Nancy or Miguel, one of her bungalow guests, is with me.  The Nigerians stare and many come up and want to shake my hand; children usually want to touch me.

I have managed to cook one meal here at the bungalow last night, despite the lack of some ingredients - a pasta dish.  Phil, one of my roommates, made two Nigerian dishes tonight, one with catfish boiled with tomatoes, onions, and garlic, which was delicious.  The other stew was with dried fish, okra, and a green like kale, which she said I would not like, and she was right!  Saturday we will have everyone in the two bungalows over here for a dinner she and I will prepare, with me trying to make both an apple pie and bread pudding, in an antiquated gas oven which I will have to clean first due to its present condition.  Nancy is in charge of the wine, which is low priced and excellent.  Her son-in-law Dell, a Nigerian, temporarily living with her as he awaits permission to leave Nigeria for his bride in Canada, is in charge of replacing all the burned out light bulbs here in the bungalow and fixing the lock on the courtyard door since this morning Phil and I were locked in for awhile until we got the darn key to work!  Such are daily issues here...

The money here is the naira (nar'a), $1US = 150 N.  So I am continually paying in thousands of N (!) and having to carry wads of bills.  For instance, I bought a second towel yesterday for the bathroom that cost 1250 N (a bit more than $8) and the gouda cheese I bought at a little shop over by the hotel cost 1600 N (!).  No credit cards, Travelers Cheques, or ATM machines. 

My sister Lari outside of Seattle Skyped this evening, a first for me.  Since the satellite service is weak at times, the communication faded in and out, but it was at least free.  I spend about $2.50/day for cell phone service to the US with a phone I bought here from Miguel and for which you buy and insert a sim card in with your number and then buy "credit" for the phone.  There are no land lines at all in Nigeria and EVERYONE has a cell phone.  Thus there are no telephone directories, so schools and other agencies are hard to contact if you have not been given the cell phone number of someone who works there, more preferably an administrator.  Yesterday, because Jonathan did not know the cell phone numbers of three of the schools that we wanted to visit today, we had to drive to all of them, which took over three hours, to ask if it was O.K. to visit and what time was the best at each place.  Such a waste of time!

The Nigerian women wear the most beautiful clothing, even those with the least means - brightly colored and patterned long sheath skirts, elaborate tops with embroidery and ribbon, and the customary "wrapper" around the hair, material matching the dress wrapped in various ways around the hair.  I hope to go to a tailor on Saturday, after I get my clothes washed myself by hand (!), and have such a dress made for me.  Next Saturday I have been invited to a wedding where I have been requested to come e che' be (probably not the way it is spelled, but the way it is pronounced), which means that the bride has chosen either a wrapper for the head or an entire outfit that wedding guests "buy" from her to wear at the wedding.  I have yet to learn what mine is to be like or what it will cost me!

Well, it is almost midnight here in Ilorin, Nigeria, and I need to try to get to sleep tonight before 2 a.m. - jet lag is a pain!