AEP Board member Elaine Chagnon made her eighth trip to Nigeria from July 7-21. Accompanied by her husband, Bob, she was able to spend a week in Gusau, with daily visits to Graceland International. It was an excellent opportunity to gain valuable information through face-to-face meetings with teachers, students, administration, and school board members.
Day 1 was spent surveying the grounds and physical plant. Construction on the boundary security wall was in the final stages – the last two rows of blocks were being added. The final step would be to fill in sections of the wall with concrete for extra stability and then cap it off. The two openings for the gates were framed, one at the front and a second at the rear near the hospital site. The field inside the wall had been planted with rice, to be harvested in late fall, in an effort to raise a cash crop for an additional source of revenue.
A solar company has established itself in Gusau, and a request was made for pricing. Solar panels, installed on the roof of the computer lab at the very least, would greatly improve productivity for all.
Travel from Kaduna to Gusau
We are picked up in Kaduna mid-morning by our friend George and the our driver Adam. Husband Bob and I settle in to the school van along with our armed guards and head north. It is a four hour drive to Gusau, depending on traffic and road conditions.
The roads are generally in fair condition and we dodge the roadblocks set out by residents of small villages to slow down traffic so people and livestock can safely pass. The roadblocks consist of logs or large rocks set out each morning and pulled in at dusk, as there is no lighting on the roads. We continue on and pass through the southwest corner of Katsina State where the roads deteriorate rapidly. The roads have potholes large enough to swallow small cars!
We continue on to Zamfara State and up to Gusau where we see camels used to carry goods and plow fields. We are dropped off at our hotel- it is good to get out and stretch! We get to freshen up and then go to dinner with George, Bishop John, and his wife Helen- so good to see our dear friends!
Day 2 was spent in conversation with administrators, teachers, and students. Elaine and Bob presented the administration with six suitcases full of supplies including textbooks, microscopes, sports equipment, and general classroom supplies and teacher guide books. These were unpacked, inventoried and stacked in the principal’s temporary office. We also donated money to have bookshelves built to accommodate the additional books...they should be ready in about a week. Discussion regarding classroom supplies was held and teachers and students were included.
Days 3 and 4 were spent preparing for and delivering teacher workshops. The elementary teachers were provided with instruction and activities on Day 3 and secondary teachers received training on Day 4. We reviewed lesson planning, moved on to respect agreements in classrooms, and ended with room strategies.
A list of priorities was compiled and given to the Bishop and building committee. Included on the list was the completion of the computer lab as a top priority. Costs estimates were provided – please refer to the menu of giving options provided in this newsletter. In addition, reference books and shelving for the library were requested. Teachers expressed the need for classroom bookshelves and visual aides for the walls. They also requested ceiling fans to alleviate the afternoon heat. While the buildings are wired, there are no fans, which raises the need for a sustainable source of power.
One of the activities teachers liked best was the opportunity to collaborate with each other– they reported that this is not part of their current practice. After sharing with administration, the principal said that he would try to add collaboration time to the schedule. A template for reporting critical information to AEP per trimester was also established.
Actually being at the school and having the ability to separate the teachers by grade level proved much more efficient and productive. Teachers have improved their practice over previous years and it was gratifying to be a part of the higher level of dialogue and questioning that they brought to the sessions.
At the close of the day, the board of education chair-woman addressed the group, along with Bishop John. What a day!