The Workshops Continue

by Dr. Michael Bitz / Oct 16, 2013 /
Dr. Michael Bitz's picture

The workshops continued today with Nigerian school teachers, who learned the manuscript process of the Comic Book Project. They planned stories for a three-page comic book, with a focus on character and plot development. It was very interesting to see the kinds of stories that the teachers crafted. Some stories were about poisonous snakes in the African bush. Others were about obedient and religious children versus stubborn and defiant ones. All in all, the stories reflected life in Nigeria, just as they do in New York, Australia, or anywhere else where we do the Comic Book Project. That is the beauty of creativity, literature, and learning. 

 

Nigeria

 

In speaking with the teachers and workshop organizers, I was struck by the similarity of educational problems between Nigeria and the US. Perhaps it’s the British colonial roots that we share, but we both struggle mightily to engage students in learning. We both are trying to figure out how to leverage students’ interests for authentic and rigorous learning. We are both fighting top-down approaches to school leadership, where many teachers are given scripted curricula with little room for differentiation or participatory learning. We also have the same barriers to technology in the classroom. The Nigerian teachers mourned their lack of technological access in school, recognizing that many students have cellphones which could be used for a variety of learning purposes. They were surprised to hear the same about the US. I told the teachers about trucks parked outside NYC schools to collect student cellphones for a dollar each day.

 

Classroom in Nigeria

 

On an up note, I had the opportunity to meet Obi’s family today, who have been living in the same house in Nsukka since 1971. We hiked up a long hill dotted with shacks and one-room cement structures. The people I passed said, “Oyibo, welcome!” Oyibo means “white man”—not a typical sight on the hill. Obi’s parents and wife were incredibly warm and welcoming. His father was an art photographer who had taught at the university; his mother was a school teacher. We ate bananas, peanuts, and oranges together. It was a very special experience.

 

Walking in Nigeria

 

Obi's Family, Nigeria

 

Dr. Michael Bitz with friends in Nigeria

 

Tomorrow we complete the workshops with the teachers. I look forward to seeing the comic books that result from these days together, and even more so the comics that are produced by their students.

 

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