Thursday, March 29, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
So, did you get those initials straight of those 9 major parties? Me neither! Maybe you can understand my confusion. Even just a month before the elections, there is a lot of uncertainty, with many people questioning if they will really happen. Many people think that Obasanjo will find some excuse to stay in power. Today the current vice-president was scheduled to be in court contesting his disqualification from the election due to his indictment by the committee investigating corruption, but I haven't heard of any decision yet. If he is allowed to run, they may have to postpone the election because he wouldn't have his name printed on the ballot. There seem to be a lot of Nigerians who are apathetic about the elections because they don't see anyone working for the common good in politics and they don't have any hope that someone different will change what the government will do for them. It makes me sad that this country with such good people and so many resources has such a broken system and no one able to step in to help fix it.
Representatives of Nigeria’s eight leading opposition parties- ANPP, AC, APGA, NDP, DPP, PPA, DFPF and ADC- met with Senate president Ken Nnamani to urge him to take over power if President Olusegun Obasanjo fails to leave office on 29th May. This is because there has been considerable speculation that Obasanjo will try to stay on possibly by invoking martial law.
The National Democratic Party (NDP) went to court on Monday 19th March in an attempt to have Nigeria’s general elections postponed. It claims that the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) ill-preparedness would give the ruling PDP unfair advantage in the April polls.
According to the party, the voters’ registration was not concluded 28 days before the elections as stipulated by the nation’s constitution. Sixty million voters are said to have been registered to vote out of a population of 140 million.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
As I reported in my last post, we had an outing to Apapa, which is the port area of Lagos. I wanted to post some pictures of our trip. It was laundry day along the road leading into Apapa -- the highway guardrails were lined with clothing drying in the exhaust.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
First I helped with interviews for a couple of the returning students who were unable to make their assigned interview date a month ago. The female was very impressive and we had no reservations about recommending her continuing her scholarship. One of the questions that was on our list to ask was: "What will you do if you are not awarded this scholarship?" She just shook her head and almost seemed about to cry. She said she didn't know what she would do -- she wouldn't be able to continue in school. We assured her not to worry. The boy we interviewed next was a little less impressive. His first year in school he had passed all his classes except one. The woman over the program assured us that it was not unusual for students here to fail classes -- less unusual than in the U.S., anyway. This past year on the scholarship he had failed 5 out of 11 classes. One question we asked was "How do you spend your leisure time? What are your extracurricular interests?" He said he was involved in hip hop dancing and he spent every night practicing with his dance group. We wondered how serious he was about school and put a question mark next to his recommendation.
Next we started interviewing the new applicants -- there were 16 there, who had been writing an essay as part of their application. They were to write on how they chose their field of study and what they would like to do with their education. Some of the essays were quite bad -- not on the topic or organized well or even with any coherent thoughts. There were some that were organized in paragraphs and written neatly. They seemed about the level of writing we'd expect from a good Junior High student in the U.S. The volunteers divided up and worked in pairs to do the interviews. We asked the applicants questions about their family life and how they had paid for their first year of college. We looked at test scores and grades, though we were assured that financial need and grades were not the determining factors in who would get the scholarships. We were to look for honesty and a desire to learn and work hard at school. Each student would need a sponsor, a member of the Women's Club, who would mentor them while they were a scholarship student. The sponsors not only hand out the money, but they check up on the students and make sure they are staying in school and they are managing things okay. About half of the applicants had a sponsor ready to support them -- they were children of a club member's maid or driver or tailor -- and they had been informed about the scholarship program and given help with the application. The club doesn't want to advertise the program to the general public because the funds are limited and they said when they get random students applying, they often get applications that are fraudulent and it's difficult to verify if the student is really in school. They've had better luck and prefer to award scholarships to students where there is a connection with the sponsor and the student's family.
One interesting thing I learned about universities in Nigeria is that there is a wide range of tuition costs. One student we interviewed was in a private school. His tuition had gone up tremendously this past year -- it was N280,000 ($2200) and had gone up to N360,000 ($2800) a year. Another student in a state school had tuition of N5300 a year ($41). The law student in our ward said that her law school tuition was under $100 a year. One problem with state schools is that there are often strikes and disturbances that shut down the schools. This delays their studies and can add a year to a program. One applicant's school had been closed down for a couple of weeks due to "student disturbances." School terms start at different times depending on the field of study -- there's not a regular schedule for the bulk of students as there is in an American university. Students pretty much go into college knowing what their major is and most programs are 4-5 years, which can be extended due to strikes or other shut-downs. The mother of the student whose son was in private school was a seamstress making the sacrifices necessary to send her son there because she thought it was a better environment and he wouldn't be subject to the strikes and delays that occur in government schools.
The students my partner and I interviewed were all quite nice, soft-spoken, probably a bit scared and nervous in this interview situation. But we were quite impressed with them personally. One was a French student who wanted to work in the tourism industry and help Nigeria open up possibilities for tourism. One was in accounting and wanted to work in a bank. One was in mass media and wanted to be a TV broadcaster. One was in computer engineering. Most of them didn't have grades yet from their first year of school.
My British interview partner said that there had been a big drop in quality in Nigerian colleges. She said that in the past students would come from Nigerian universities to top colleges in Britain and were able to compete and succeed there. She said it's very difficult now to get a good college education here.
After all the students had been interviewed, the interviewers that could stay gathered around the little short tables and we pretty much decided who would get the scholarships. There was actually money in the fund for everybody to be awarded one, but there were several students that the interviewers determined were not eligible or recommended. The students with sponsors already were first priority, and they all got scholarships. There were several of us there who were willing to sponsor students and so there was discussion about who would sponsor students that didn't come in with sponsors. All the students I interviewed were awarded scholarships, and I was pleased with that, though the hip-hop dancer was given a conditional acceptance. His sponsor will be informed that he needs to bring up his grades or he will lose his scholarship. I've also been very pleased with the American Women's Club. They seem to be very focused on service and addressing and meeting needs within the Nigerian community. There are many women who spend a lot of time in the administration of programs such as this. And I think that's a good thing!
Anyway, sacrament meeting on Sunday mostly consisted of confirmations for the 13 people that were baptized the previous Sunday. One speaker had time for a few minutes of remarks, but that was it. The ward is really outgrowing our rented building. When the Stake President was visiting the previous Sunday, he said that he knew the ward needed a new building and the church has plans to build us one, but he is forced to ask for an "exception to policy" because our ward doesn't have the expected percentage of tithe payers to warrant a church built meetinghouse. He pleaded with the members to pay their tithing so the church would approve a new building for our ward. This is not at all to imply that the church needs the tithing donations to fund the building -- the little bit that members would contribute won't cover a small portion of the building. The church just wants to know that there are faithful members to support the ward if they are going to invest in a permanent building. I certainly hope they get one -- the present building is pretty bad!
There was some other ward business and, for the second week (so I know it isn't just a momentary slip in word usage), the Nigerian counselor doing the sustainings, asked the ward members to raise their hands to so "magnify" (instead of signify). It gives a little different twist on the meaning of sustaining someone in a church calling.
It was SO hot in our meetings! But, as I stayed late to teach piano lessons and rehearse some other music, and didn't get home till around 2 PM (leaving the apartment before 8:30 AM that morning), I decided it's probably a good thing that I sweat so much because then there's less need to use the restroom! I made it through another week without having to make use of the facilities!
On Saturday we had a women's/young women's joint meeting in the afternoon. It was pretty fun. We were on the back balcony in an attempt to get a breeze, as the power was out. We had a Young Woman speaker talking on "Who am I," then a fabulous Young Adult speaker -- a Nigerian who recently returned from a mission to Washington DC, who is now in law school here (pictured in the center in the photo on the right below) -- she spoke on "What I can become." And then an adult woman talked on eternal marriage. The Young Women sang a song for us. Then we had a question and answer session on how young women and mothers can strengthen their relationships. Then it had been planned that we would have a dancing activity, where they would play music and all the women would get up and dance together. That would have been fun to see! But because the CD player wouldn't work with the power off, they decided not to do that. Then we had refreshments of warm meat pies (quite yummy -- an English empanada -- and better for us than the sweets we would probably have had in the States) and sodas. It was a good time to get to know some of the women in the ward better. Here's a couple of pictures from that event -- in the picture on the left, the women on the right is our Relief Society president. She always really impresses me with her grace and calm demeanor.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Lisa had been suffering from brain cancer for a little over a year and a half. She had been home from the hospital for just over a year and right before we left for Lagos in January the results of an MRI scan showed a very small tumor. Doug, Lisa's husband/Brent's brother, as well as Brent's parents and sister who moved down to Houston and were taking care of Lisa and the boys and keeping the household running -- they all said that it wouldn't be a big deal. The doctors were going to do gamma knife radiation. They had caught it early and the tumor was small. No reason to stay around, they could handle it. I never really thought that when we said goodby that I wouldn't see Lisa again, at least in this life. But the tumor grew quickly and Lisa had all kinds of complications, acquiring pneumonia, necessitating ventilators and a tracheotomy. By the time they were able to perform surgery last Thursday, she was partially paralyzed and in the surgery they were unable to remove all the tumor, as it had grown into her brain stem -- or so I understand. Anyway, I don't believe she ever woke up. Yesterday they removed her from the ventilator and other equipment and they said she passed peacefully.
Brent had a business trip to Houston he was contemplating, though it wasn't essential. But because of this family situation, he decided he'd go ahead and make the trip and see if there is something there he can do to support his brother. Lisa had requested cremation and no funeral service. Unfortunately, Brent will just miss his parents and the boys as they leave directly for Arizona for a planned spring break trip to see their cousins. As they won't be around and there isn't a planned family gathering, I decided there was no real reason to go to Houston right now. But I'm glad that Brent is able to be there with his brother and sister and hopefully he will be of some support. In the meantime, I'm here and just as I was feeling lonely and far away, I got an instant message from my daughter and then we connected through the computer on our Skype phones and talked free for almost an hour. That made me feel not so alone. So, thanks, Linds! I'm going to have my own memorial service for Lisa and read through some of the old emails she sent that I still have on the computer and I'm going to think about the person she was and think about what I can do to hopefully be a good aunt to her 2 young sons. I'm going to remind myself of how quickly life can totally change and how we need to always remember that it is very fragile and we need to make the most of each day we have here.