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A cooperative agreement involving Wesley University (Ondo City, Nigeria), the Nigerian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD), and Gallaudet University was signed on November 5, 2018, at the National Deaf Life Museum at Gallaudet University.
The historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing, part of a week-long visit by representatives from Wesley University (WU) and NNAD to learn about Gallaudet’s learning environment and methods, and branches of academic disciplines offering education and employment opportunities to deaf Nigerians, was supported by Dr. Carol J. Erting, provost, and Dr. Khadijat Rashid, ’90, School of Education, Business, and Human Services dean.
Prior to the signing, the Nigerian group met with staff from the Center for Bilingual Teaching and Learning, Clerc Center, and Gallaudet Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute, Dr. Elavie Ndura, vice president, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; and President Roberta J. Cordano. The group was also given a whirlwind tour of Washington D.C., including a stop at the new Starbucks on H Street staffed with American Sign Language-fluent employees.
Arranged by Gallaudet’s Office of the President and the Office of the Research Support and International Affairs, the visit and signing continues the legacy of the late Dr. Isaac Agboola, ’81 & G-’83, former dean, to connect Gallaudet to the Nigerian deaf community.
“The seeds of this partnership were planted in connections made by my predecessor and dear friend, Dr. Agboola,” said Rashid. “The fact that this signing includes the Nigerian local deaf community as an equal partner with the cooperating universities provides fertile ground for rich interaction and long term sustainability. The collaborative agreement is rooted in Gallaudet’s long tradition of sign language-centered education and Wesley’s commitment to education for Nigerian deaf youth. Together, we can truly make a positive impact on deaf education in Nigeria and for the African deaf community more broadly.”
“Examples of our community’s engagement in the world are bountiful,” said Erting. “Such global-minded activities in learning, teaching, and collaborating, whether in other nations or on campus, have been part of Gallaudet’s identity since our founding in 1864. Now, your enthusiasm and actions will inspire and guide this effort to bolster our commitment to become a truly global university.”
During the ceremony, Cordano emphasized how the partnership strengthens Gallaudet, as well as advanced deaf education in Nigeria and other countries in Africa. “This collaboration is a shining example of how we can build and strengthen our deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind communities wherever we are,” said Cordano. “Signing the MOU is just the beginning. This has been, and is designed to be, a learning partnership, and I commend everyone involved in this historic collaboration—the teams of people from Nigerian National Association of the Deaf, from Wesley University, and from Gallaudet—for their spirit of learning and open-mindedness.
“That spirit and continued energy will allow us to move forward and achieve the ambitious goals of such an innovative and dynamic partnership.”
NNAD is a representative body of deaf people across Nigeria committed to a society free from discrimination against deaf people through advocacy, empowerment, and education. The organization leads the country’s efforts to involve deaf people in all planning and programming matters affecting the deaf community, recognizing sign language as the linguistic identity of the deaf community and the first language of deaf children, and effectively mobilizing the deaf community towards contributing to national development.Visiting representatives from NNAD were Dagbo Suleiman, president; Bukola Fakunle, National Social Welfare secretary; Anthonia Isiguzo, past president; and Abdulmumuni Sulayman, assistant to the president.
Wesley University is a private university whose Board of Trustees chair, Sir Demola Aladekomo, is Agboola’s cousin. Funded by the Methodist Church of Nigeria, the university is committed to being a center of excellence in knowledge creation by offering a balanced education for self-reliance and self-actualization through the development of entrepreneurial skills, and producing graduates that are self-reliant and responsible citizens who are perceptive of the needs of society.
Along with Aladekomo, visiting representatives from Wesley were Sunday Ukachukwu, dean, principal officer, and vice chancellor; Chimaobi Madubuike, pro-chancellor and Governing Council chair; Chioma Obasi, registrar; and Sir Peter Olorunfemi, Board of Trustees consultant.
“Gallaudet is a leader in subduing barriers, limitations, and difficulties, and building hope through empowerment through education,” said Ukachukwu. “With this partnership we now bring the same to Nigeria as we work together to serve humanity.”
Suleiman agreed with Ukachukwu, asking for a moment to reflect on the University’s history and thanking Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, Andrew Foster, and Agboola. He also mentioned Gallaudet alumni and Nigerian pioneers, Gabriel Adepoju, ’69, G-’71, & PhD ’91, Ezekiel Sambo, ’70, and Peter Mba, E-’67, who upon graduation, founded schools for the deaf in Nigeria.
“Their work as individuals lay the foundation for our collective work together to advance the needs of deaf people,” said Suleiman. “This MOU is not just about the signatures, it is about the relationship and the commitment to work together. That tripartite MOU shows that we understand that deaf, blind, disabled people must be included in the planning and implementation process. It does not leave it to hearing people to decide what the deaf community needs. Instead it breaks down those barriers and models ‘nothing about us, without us.’ NNAD is proud to work alongside Gallaudet and Wesley for the greater good of the Deaf Community in Nigeria and world wide.”
“There are 200 million Nigerians, potentially as many as 15 million of whom are deaf. How do we empower them?” asked Demola. “I leave you with two words: empowerment and education. This is how we change the world.”
Photos by Zhee Chatmon.
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