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.