Thursday, September 25, 2008

The 137th good thing about Lagos: celebrating the dedication of the new Ikaare Junior school!

Because of my volunteer responsibilities in the American Women's club, I get to participate in some things that allow me to celebrate the efforts of others. Yesterday was one of those occasions. Many people have worked to build a new Junior school for the Ikaare village community, and the AWC was a contributor to those efforts, so I was invited to come to the ceremonial opening and dedication as a representative of the club. What a day! It was a really special event. The construction of the school came about from a request by the matron of a primary school that had been built earlier, mostly with donations from the expatriate community and oil companies in an effort to benefit the community around the Ishahayi beach area where many companies and expats have beach houses. An NGO, the Ishahayi Beach School Foundation, had been formed to build, maintain and support that primary school. But when children graduated from that private school, their option for further education lay in a public school across the water in Ikaare that was in quite decrepit condition. The plea went out for the foundation to provide some assistance to the public schools in Ikaare so the graduates of the Ishahayi Beach primary school would have better opportunities. In June 2006, members of the foundation visited Ikaare and met with the principals of the Junior and Senior schools there. They later brought bookshelves, books and supplies for both the schools. When they returned in February 2007, there was evidence that the Junior school had made good use of the books and were good caretakers of the shelves and all they had been given. The Senior school had neglected their gifts, so it was decided that the Junior school would be the next beneficiary of the foundation's support. So, 1 1/2 years and a lot of volunteer hours later, the Junior school students have a beautiful new building to study in with new benches and desks. Thanks to a relatively fast internet connection, I have lots of pictures of the day to post here -- Hurray!
Our day began with a boat trip from Victoria Island to Ikaare. We went by the Lagos port with many modern ships --

along with many sunken ones and rusted hulks in the water.

We passed primitive villages along the water,

and fishermen working their nets.

We arrived at the dock in Ikaare

and met with a greeting party.

We were first taken to an audience with the Oba (king) of Ikaareland.

He worked the room and shook everybody's hand.

I took a picture of his throne after most of the guests had cleared out of the room.

We then began a procession from his place to the village, he had a yellow umbrella held over him.

We passed many very primitive shelters,

and also sturdy concrete homes.

Some children looked out shyly at us, as these did,

And others came out to pose and wave and shout "oyibo".

Every village needs a CD store.

And, of course, the resident goats. These were obviously newborn and were less than a foot tall. They were really cute.

Chickens are also given free rein to wander.

This girl posed proudly for us as she got water from the village well.

There were also graves next to the houses, like the other villages we recently visited.

And a man sewing on the front porch.

When we neared the school, the procession was joined by a local troupe singing and dancing.

As people were gathering they continued their performance.

I took notice of the senior school, which is not much to look at.

This is the back side of the senior school.

Right beside it is the new Junior School.

Soon the village people and students had gathered and the official program began.

There were welcomes and speeches and much gratitude expressed. One speaker mentioned how the whole village had prepared for this ceremony with a clean-up effort the likes of which he had never seen before. He said they were so grateful for their new school and so proud of it and wanted everything to look so nice for the dedication this day.
I thought it was interesting as I sat directly behind the Oba during the ceremony. If there was something he needed, he would look behind him and point sharply to one of his assistants and they would scurry over and find out what he needed. The gathered audience was most attentive during his speech. But there were also a number of government officials, and the highest education officials there were Nigerian women. The school official who was serving as a kind of MC, commented that when he was young there was much talk about the importance of educating women and now he had these women as his superiors. He joked they had achieved that goal and know they should work on men's education and advancement -- beginning with himself!

The government education official commented a couple of times that they were like Oliver Twist ("please sir, I want some more") and reminded the foundation of more needs in the Lagos community and hoped for more efforts in the future. One of the teachers at the Senior School mentioned that the Bible said we should not covet, so he was trying not to, but he was hoping he could move his office over to the Junior School.
There was more singing and dancing -- the singing was in the Yoruba language, but we were informed that they were expressing their thanks to us.

Some people laid paper money on the shoulders of these local dancers as they performed.

They ended their performance by bowing down in front of us and singing in English repeatedly "God bless you."

Then there was the presenting of gifts. I wish I had been faster with my camera and gotten pictures of the girls carrying these large gift baskets in on their heads.

Then it was time for the official ribbon cutting and viewing of the ceremonial plaque.

Some children watched attentively.

And others were just interested in getting their picture taken.

Then more pictures with some board members from the Ishahayi Beach School Foundation inside a new classroom.

And outside with the Oba (notice his staff and flywhisk, symbols of his authority which he holds) and the school principals and government education officials.

Time for celebration -- the children gathered around coolers of drinks that the foundation members brought for them.

There was music and dancing. This older woman was really getting down with the music.

And she was joined by this oyibo.

The locals were amused by both of them.

Time for pictures of other local residents.

And then a procession back to the boat dock.

And farewells on the dock from the residents of Ikaare.

I hope they continue to value the school and the education they can receive within its walls!

1 comment:

Valerie said...

I arrived here by a link on the LDSMoms group. I love the idea of your blog, finding the positive in your challenging adventure. What a wonderful example! I also love your photos. I hope I have more time soon to continue looking at them.