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!)