50th Edition, Global Education

Principal Seasholes describes African life

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

An extraordinary collaboration between Harvard University and the Newton Public Schools helped create a new school in Nigeria.
Newton South took leadership and supplied collaborative teachers and administrators to make this dream-like project possible. The teachers and administrators spent significant time in the African nation to establish a firm foundation for the school.
They built curricula on western-democratic educatin, and trained and supported Nigerians to carry on the work themselves. This is the account of former South Principal Van Seasholes’s experiences in Nigeria.

By Van Seasholes,
Volume 3
December 18, 1963
This year we have about 130 first formers and about 30 sixth formers. The first form, as you know, is equivalent to our seventh grade, although the competition for places in grammar schools has meant that we have a number of students who are older, having not been admitted to schools previous to this year. And there are a number of students who had to discontinue their studies after primary school because of a lack of funds.
We have a real cross section of kids in every respect. Some are from surrounding farms, while others are from towns and big cities such as Ibadan and Lagos.
We have students with a wide range of ability and facility in using English. They are much like junior high students that I have taught before—eager to please, friendly, wiggly, all sizes and shapes and abilities, full of spark and fun, and at times exasperating.
The sixth form takes a course of studies roughly equivalent to our advanced placement or first and second year of university work. They concentrate in either the arts or science, although they are all require to take a general course in English.
December As School Year End
The school year will be through the latter part of December and the new year will begin in January. At that time we shall get approximately 210 first formers and 40 sixth formers. This will mean that we shall have the largest or one of the largest schools in the Western region—over 400 students.
Nance is busy teaching the faculty children at the International Elementary School. At the recent time, she has nine students, ranging in age from five to nine.
It takes the combined efforts of Nance and one of the mothers to keep this group of delightful, bright children going. I have volunteered my services as a gym teacher twice a week and have been busy learning or relearning drop the handkerchief, freeze, the hokey-pokey, and other school favorites. The school is using many of the books that Newton sent and are very grateful for them.
Our living conditions are more than satisfactory. In fact we feel that they are downright plush (really somewhat embarrassing when communicating with people who feel that we are baring the wilds of darkest Africa).
Nigerians Prove Competence
Our Nigerian colleagues are a very competent group of people. We hope that we have been able to establish good relations with all of them. We have gotten to know some of them quite well and see them socially fairly frequently.
I hope that we can investigate various ways to develop a relationship between South High School and our school here.
There are numerous things that might be done that would be beneficial to each of the schools. Some of my random thoughts follow:
1. Have a Newton South student come here to school next summer. Our second term runs until the middle of August and I see no reason why it wouldn’t work out very well to have a mature, interested student spend the summer here. The big cost would be the plane trip, which is about 900 dollars. Perhaps the AFS or some other student group could help to raise all or part of the fare.
2. Run a scholarship program for a worthy student. It costs a boarding student 60 pounds (168 dollars) to go to our school. This is an impossible burden on our students, so any kind of scholarship help is needed.
3. Get some communication going between students in the two schools. As a starter I would appreciate your having Mr. Nye send copies of Denebola and any information that would help s to get a newspaper started.
Dave Robison, our business manager (would any school but an American one have a business manager?) and I are trying to get a paper started. Although Dave has had some experience on school papers, I’ve had none. I think that the idea of communication between schools and individuals could be a valuable one.
It would have to be handled with real thought and care, for we’ve had one nasty incident in which an Albany high school paper was inaccurate and in bad taste and has caused some problems here.
There are probably a number of other things that could be done. Nance will be trying to establish contact with elementary schools in the area and will write to Angier about possibilities at this level. The above suggestions  are ones that I thought might be appropriate for South High.
Our greetings to everyone at South, We hope to be better correspondents in the future.
With best regards,

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