Why a school in Gusau?
Nigeria...a land of complexity and diversity...is a land divided by politics, social structures, different ethnicities, religions and economics. A relatively young democracy, Nigeria declared its independence from Great Britain in 1960 and has struggled to create a sense of “being Nigerian” ever since. As tribes and religions strive to preserve their own identity, disagreements and sometimes communal violence arise with some regularity. So why a school in a northern city in Zamfara State, a town that was once a leper colony? Gusau’s past may hold a link to her future. Perhaps Gusau can be made whole by education. Gusau is currently under Sharia law, a Muslim code of behavior taught in the the Koran. Sharia law was re-introduced in 1999-2000 as a way to regain stability and an ordered societyin the northern regions. While minorities such as Christians and those who adhere to traditional religions are not subject to Sharia law, the society conducts itself according to the tenants set forth in the Koran. Although Muslims and Christians coexist, the minority must follow the lead of the majority.
Limited educational opportunities
Educational opportunities are limited at best, with a lack of adequate schools for the population. Students wishing to advance past the elementary level must pass an entrance exam to enter middle school and then high school. There are few state high schools and standards are relatively low. Furthermore, many families lack the financial resources to send their children to school. Parents provide uniforms, purchase books and supplies, provide transportation, and pay tuition. More commonly, children who can afford an education go to schools sponsored and run by religious institutions. Many Christian children attend schools on church grounds. Some Muslim children attend madrassas, Islamic schools run by imams. This structure almost ensures that these children are educated separately, with little opportunity to learn each other’s perspectives and cultures. Bishop John Danbinta has lived and worked among his Muslim neighbors with shared understanding and respect for quite some time. He has a first-hand view of how Christian and Muslim children in the Gusau region could benefit from attending school together, and most importantly, how such a learning model could materially contribute to long term communal harmony. That is the vision for Grace International School. We’ve had the opportunity to visit and experience Gusau and meet the people, making this project extraordinarily special. We were able to see our funds in action.
Listening to our partners in Gusau.
The lines of communication are kept open between the AEP Board and our partners in Nigeria. We believe it is important for us to listen and learn from them and their experience. We have had extensive discussions with our partners, the building committee and the committee for Grace International School (GIS). The members of these committees are well informed in their respective fields and have a clear vision of what they want GIS to achieve. Discussions were conducted with parents and teachers to hear their concerns and wishes. We were able to experience the enthusiasm and confidence of the people first hand. Their generosity and gratitude towards our team was humbling and greatly appreciated. We were enriched by both the simplicity and difficulty of life in an emerging third world country. And while traveling to visit may not be for everyone, AEP can certainly benefit from support here at home. This project is a large one and funding is crucial to ensure its completion.
April 28 Fundraising Banquet.
On April 28, we will hold a banquet to raise additional funding in order to continue this work. Please join us and learn more about this unique opportunity. Finally, we are looking forward to Bishop John’s presence at the banquet. He will only be able to join us if the U.S. Embassy approves his visa application. Even if Bishop can’t be with us in person, the dinner will be a great opportunity to celebrate the progress made on Grace International School to date, and to encourage your future support. Mark your calendars!
Visit to Akron, Ohio
On February 11, Don Ghostlaw, Peter Dewberry, and Barbara Hoff traveled to Akron, Ohio to visit St. Paul’s Church and to meet with their Missions Committee It was a happy reunion, as the board members reconnected with Nan Bartlett and Angela DiMezza, who traveled to Gusau with us in the summer of 2011. The three members of the AEP board were hosted by the DiMezzas for the weekend.
After the service on Sunday, Don Ghostlaw, President, introduced the project and thanked the parish for their most generous gift of $10,000 to help finance the purchase of the additional land. Their generosity extended to sponsorship of the two travelers who join us on the 2011 trip to Nigeria. We are looking forward to building a long term partnership with them in the future.
Working with all, regardless of religion and ethnicity.
Bishop John Danbinta, our partner, continues to work very hard to maintain the respect and solid working relationship with his Muslim neighbors. They are also excited about the prospect of the new school as construction continues. The school within Bishop John’s cathedral property is full to capacity, and now includes numerous Muslim children. The completion of the school classroom block 1 and the construction of an administration/science lab/media center building is critically important. In addition, a security wall needs to be constructed around the Graceland International School property.
This page compiles information from outside sources, as well as AEP's own blog updates.