School a Beacon of Hope in Nigeria

At a university in Yola, graduates offer a glimpse of a promising future in a strife-torn region.

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The university has also launched other projects, including free secondary education and information technology instruction, as well as programs that teach teenagers how to farm -- in order to stress the importance of preserving the environment -- and teach local people how to recycle waste into useful economy bricks for building walls. They are literally building a new Nigeria. A new initiative involves a peace council aimed at fostering peace and harmony in the strife-torn region.

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Margee Ensign, a diminutive, highly energetic American from California who is the president of AUN, sent me a few statements from this year's graduating class so that I could get some sense of the caliber of her students.

Malabo Williams wrote:

At AUN, I learned to believe in myself and the power of the idea. The endless readings and discussions with professors and students in class have ensured me that I can make my own story.

Chidi Francis Ahanonu wrote:

I remember my first day here, I was a shy person who could not open up to people and let my voice be heard. I could not stand in front of the crowd and give a speech or a presentation. However, as I progressed, I learned how to efficiently and effectively get my message across in my presentation, in my services to the community, and in every leadership capacity I find myself.

What Manifah K. Arabi wrote was the final kicker for me because it reminded me of myself at an early age when I dreamed of becoming a journalist in a segregated world where that possibility was far from being a reality. "I came to realize," he wrote, "that we only have a chance to achieve our dreams if we are confident and truly believe in them. AUN taught me to be innovative and courageous, never to be afraid of what others think about our dreams."

That did it for me, despite the fact that even longtime Nigerian friends whom I consulted about the trip always ended our conversation with, "Well, just be careful."

A Warm Reception