Retired Granby teacher, Elaine Chagnon, recently completed her tenth trip to Nigeria, working on behalf of Africa Education Partnership (AEP), a non-profit organization established in 2011. Its goal is to build and renovate schools and provide support and training to teachers so that a quality education is made available for all students, regardless of tribe or religion. Its mission is to promote reconciliation through education.
The first project, Graceland International School, is a two-building school complex in Gusau, Zamfara State, Nigeria, and has been running since 2014. AEP, in conjunction with its Nigerian partners, completed a third building, which was dedicated in October 2018. This structure houses a computer lab, library, teacher work room and administrative offices. The second floor has a large hall, used for the administration of the West Africa Education Council exams, similar to SAT exams. The school is accredited with the local government and is a regional test site for these exams.
With Grace International School up and running, the AEP was seeking a new project. During the second leg of the October 2018 trip, Chagnon and her husband Bob made a fact-finding trip to Kafanchan, Kaduna State, to assess the needs at five different school sites in that district. They were drawn to that area by a friendship with Bishop Markus Dogo, who was a champion for education but short of the resources needed to maintain five school locations. Two of the sites housed pre-school-grade 12 facilities, complete with dormitories, located within city limits. The other three locations were in rural villages and provide education through grade 6. Chagnon toured each of the sites with the education committee members to assess needs.
Conditions were especially harsh at the rural schools. Being several hours out of town, it was difficult travel and the limited resources were never enough. As a teacher, Chagnon was moved to tears at the conditions under which teachers and students were working. At one site in particular, Kogum River, the buildings were literally falling down around the students. There was no access to water, toilets, or electricity. Desks were old and splintered; teachers worked without any teaching aides or games for the children. Yet students and teachers arrived each day to learn together. Chagnon vowed to improve conditions there and upon her report, the AEP board voted to send the funding for renovations of the first of two buildings at the Kogum River site. In addition, a presentation to the Avon-Canton Rotary Club secured funding for an over-sized borehole that would serve not only the school, but the surrounding Kogum River village of about 1,000 residents. The only access to water at the time was the river, polluted by animals and chemicals from a mining operation. The work in this area started in January 2019.
When Chagnon returned this May to assess the progress and work with teachers she was stunned at the transformation. The first school building at Kogum River was totally redone, with locking window frames and doors, tiled floors, new roof and ceilings, and freshly painted walls and exterior. There was enough money for new, heavy-duty desks for the entire building, all at a cost of around $9,000. She was also able to meet with teachers and share ideas and resources in the newly renovated building.
A dedication ceremony for the renovated school building and the borehole was facilitated by AEP partner Bishop Markus Dogo and Chagnon was given the honor of cutting the ribbons for both. She was also able to turn on the tap at the borehole, releasing a stream of clean water. The borehole has two 5,000-liter tanks and a generator to run the pump.
Renovations have just begun on the second building at the Kogum River site, with anticipated completion during the first week in September. With available funding, the next project will be to dig wells at the other two school sites. AEP will work to raise money to provide toilets at each of the rural sites, a cost of about $6,000 each. To make a donation or for more information, visit africaep.org or contact Elaine Chagnon at 860-930-8703 or email@example.com
A presentation of the work being done in the Kafanchan district of Nigeria by Africa Education Partnership (AEP), a 501(C)3 organization, will be presented on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 7 to 9 p.m., in the Gathering Room at Salmon Brook Park House. Guest speakers will be Bishop and Mrs. Markus Dogo, introduced by Elaine Chagnon. All are invited to attend this free event. For more information please visit africaep.org or contact Elaine Chagnon at 860-930-8703 or firstname.lastname@example.org