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Teacher shares outlook after recent trip to Nigeria

World history teacher Audrey Weir-Graham, briefly wore the actual chains that were used in Nigeria during the slave trade to emotionally connect to her past
World history teacher Audrey Weir-Graham, briefly wore the actual chains that were used in Nigeria during the slave trade to emotionally connect to her past

Traveling around the world has always been a passion for world history teacher Audrey Weir-Graham. She even has a goal of visiting every continent except Antarctica.

So when her husband Dr. Ricardo Graham got invited to speak about spiritual reviving at a college in Nigeria over Thanksgiving break, they jumped at the opportunity to go.

Weir-Graham, along with visiting classrooms at the college, also visited a local high school. Walking into a classroom at the high school, she initially began to look for a teacher. To her surprise she did not find one. It turned out that the teacher had left on maternity leave and the school had yet to find a replacement. To an even greater surprise she found that students were all sitting in their seats and working quietly on their studies.

“The students were self motivated,” said Weir-Graham. “They wanted to be in school.”

The students were curious as to what education is like in the United States. In response to their questions she explained that if the teacher was missing in an American classroom, most students would have left or wouldn’t have even bothered to show up in the first place. If, however, some came to class, very few would have actually stayed in the room and worked on their own.

“They were appalled that American students were that way,” said Weir-Graham.

As she continued her trip, the assimilation of Western culture became even more present.

Women and girls chose to wear wigs and braids that resembled hairstyles in America.

“Folks in Africa wanted to look like Americans,” she said.
Not only did people in Nigeria want to wear American fashion and look like them, but many wanted a chance to be American.

While her husband was there he offered over five hours of his own time for private counseling with himself and his wife. Weir-Graham was able to recall a few students, but one young woman stood out in her memory.

“There was a lovely young lady that wanted us to adopt her,” she said. “Everybody was trying to get to America.”

Weir-Graham experienced encounters like this multiple times during her trip. When dealing with these situations she said that you just have to be careful and cautious.

They even set up an email account so that they could stay in touch with the students. Weir-Graham proudly reported that several students are staying in touch, including a young man who named himself Prosper, whom she met while ironing her clothes in her room on campus.

“I was ironing my clothes and a young man said, ‘Mum I would like to iron your clothes.’”

She asked if he was being paid to do this. He wasn’t. He just wanted to help her. While he ironed her clothes they talked about his life and how he was going to school at another college, but often came to their room to read where it was quiet and air conditioned when it was unoccupied.

When he finished she tried to give him 10 American dollars in return for his work, but he refused at first. After, he reconsidered because he was reminded that he is in school and needs the money so he reluctantly took it.

Later on in the trip her husband became ill due to heat stroke, after speaking all day in a velvet robe, the traditional Nigerian clothing.

“I was scared, because we were half way around the world,” said Weir-Graham.

As soon as Prosper found out about this he assured her that everything would be taken care of.

“He called us Mum and Dad and took care of everything,”said Weir-Graham thankfully.
One of her most memorable moments of the her trip was on Thanksgiving day when she walked the two miles on the Badagry slave route and connected with past ancestors.

“Their strength is the reason why I’m here today,” she said. “Their love for life inspires my love for life.”

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Teacher shares outlook after recent trip to Nigeria