A Successful Conference

by Dr. Michael Bitz /
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Oct 18, 2013 / 0 comments

The conference went very well. Titled “Global Literacy Learning Spaces, Strategies, and Opportunities in the Information Age,” the conference brought together educators from across Nigeria to discuss and share ideas about best practices in teaching and learning. The conference began with some Bob Marley music thumping through the hall, followed by an excellent student band playing Nigerian popular music. Now that’s the way to start a conference! Then I was called to the “high table” on stage to join the distinguished guests: university officials and leaders of the Reading Association of Nigeria. The opening speech was delivered by a prestigious Nigerian educator named Promise Nwachukwu Okpala, who is the Registrar and CEO of the country’s National Examination Commission. This national body administers exams to determine whether students are meeting academic standards. It was interesting to hear his recommendations for Nigeria’s educational problems. He presented some alarming statistics: over ten million Nigerian children do not go to school. The country also has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world. I was also struck by the fact that Nigeria has a cohesive examination system, as opposed to the US’s fledgling national PARCC exams which won’t go into effect for several years and will likely not be adopted by all states.


Educational conference in Nigeria


Then it was my turn. I began the presentation by thanking everyone dearly, but I especially wanted to recognize Obi for all the work that he did in planning the conference and making my trip a reality. As he had named me an honorary “naija,” I named him an honorary member of the NY Yankees and presented him with a custom pinstripe jersey with his name on the back. The number under his name was 12 for the number of years I have been doing the Comic Book Project.  It was a good moment that broke the ice and made everyone feel comfortable. I then talked about the Comic Book Project with a special emphasis on the work that the Nigerian school teachers had done over the past three days. The talk went quite well; many people thanked and congratulated me afterwards. I think the presentation got a number of people excited about the project, which hopefully will lead to an expansion in Nigeria.


Dr. Michael Bitz at the Nigerian Conference: Global Literacy Learning Spaces, Strategies, and Opportunities in the Information Age


Later in the day I heard paper presentations from a number of Nigerian scholars. The topics ranged from the impact of SMS (texting) on spelling skills to the role that a library can play in supporting the community.  There are numerous excellent researchers in Nigeria who are working on issues that have implications for literacy and learning worldwide. Interestingly, audience members and a panel of judges gave immediate feedback on how each scholar’s work could be improved. I was particularly amazed at the attendance and success of this conference, given that all the participants, organizers, and conveners have been on strike for three months and are doing all this work without pay. Apparently the government has not held up its side of signed agreements, leading to a national strike of university faculty and staff. I wish all my new friends the best of luck in the pursuit of a decent wage and fair employment practices.




It looks like tomorrow is my last day in Nsukka. I will visit primary schools and a prison in the morning and then back to the conference for more sessions in the afternoon. Then off to Owerri!


Meal in Nigeria





To follow along on the journey, please see: The Comic Book Project in Nigeria




Dr. Michael Bitz is the founder of the Comic Book Project (www.comicbookproject.org), where he helps young people write, design, and publish original comic books as a pathway to literacy and creativity. He is currently in Nigeria at the invitation of the Reading Association of Nigeria and the Ford Foundation's Institute of International Education, and will be working with teachers and students in Nsukka and Owerri to help build creative pathways to literacy through the Comic Book Project.
All photos courtesy and copyright Dr. Michael Bitz