Summary Report of the 15th Annual National Conference of Igala Association USA, 2014
Theme: “Youth Empowerment Through Quality Education. “
Hampton Inn and Suites, College Park, Maryland, USA: The 15th Annual conference of the Igala Association USA was held in College Park from August 29 through August 31, 2014.The conference was well attended by Igala sons and daughters from all over the United States, Canada and Nigeria. Among the guests this year from Nigeria was Her Excellency the First Lady of Kogi Sate, Hajia Halima Wada, Her Royal Majesty the Queen, Mrs Juliana Idakwo Ameh-Oboni II, Dr. Hajia Rekiya Momoh-Abaji, Chairperson Kogi State Scholarship Board and Special adviser to His Royal Majesty Attah Igala who delivered the keynote address, and Chief Sylvester Onoja, Chairman Kogi State Teaching Service Commission who was the Special guest speaker. Other guests from Nigeria included, Dr. Victor Adoji, Mrs. Augustina J. J Idachaba, Mr. Pius Akubo (SAN), Mrs. Esther Akubo, Mrs Rekiya J. Yakubu, Hajia Salamatu B. Umar-Eluma, Mrs. John Oyidi and the children, and Dr. Ogu Enemaku, Communications Officer for Polio at UNICEF in Abuja and his, wife Mrs. Rachel Enemaku.
The Conference commenced on Friday evening with meeting and greeting by the participants. The Host Chapter President, Mr Abu Acheneje welcomed participants to the conference and the program started with an opening prayer by Rev. Father Abraham Adejoh. The National President introduced our Special Guests, Her Excellency the First Lady of Kogi State, Hajia Halima Wada, and HRM the Queen, Mrs. Juliana Idakwo Ameh-Oboni II, other dignitaries and members of the chapter present at the venue. There was Awards and Honors session where achi scarves and trophies were presented to past Board of Trustees and Executive Committee members for their service to the association. The host chapter provided sumptuous dinner with varieties of food for participants who ate and took time to socialize and greet each other.
The Saturday program moderated by Dr. Sam Alfa started with opening prayers said by both Reverend Father Abraham Adejoh and Dr. Muffy Oluwo at 10:28 am. Participants sang the National Anthem of Nigeria and the United States of America followed by recitation of pledges. The National President, Mrs. Osagie gave a brief welcome address and took time to introduce participants from Nigeria and USA and Canada in attendance. In her address, she said this year the association decided to focus on education as a vision hence the theme “Youth Empowerment through Quality Education” was chosen in line with the passion that our Royal father Attah Igala has for education and has graciously delegated HRM the Queen to represent him at the conference. She cited some advantages of education like promoting gender equality, reduction in child mortality, nation building and contribution to improved maternal health among others. She urged participants to support the association in a collaborative effort to invest in the youth so that they develop skills, passion and visions that will help shape the fate of Igala land and our country. The address was followed by an exciting moment of traditional folklore and “akpo” by Dr. Enemaku and Rev.Fr Abraham Adejoh.
This year’s conference was dedicated to the memory of late Professor Francis Idachaba, an icon, a mentor, father and amiable friend of the association. A minute silence was observed in his honor before the conference commenced.
Address by HRM- Queen Juliana Micheal Idakwo Ameh-Oboni II. She delivered a speech on the efforts of His Royal Highness to improve the lives of his subjects, like a woman and her children who have been moved to the palace and are being taken care of by His Royal Highness Atta Igala. He is calling on Igalas in the diaspora to come home and invest in areas of education and small scale industries to engage the unemployed youths in meaningful development.
Address by Her Excellency the First Lady of Kogi State, Hajia Halima Wada. Giant strides in various areas of development are being made in the state. According to Her Excellency, “Lokoja has been chosen for re-designing by United Nations.” She stated that her initiative Kogi Women Empowerment Network (KOWEN), has been working so hard to improve the lives of women and children in Kogi State since its commencement. For example loans are given to the women to engage them in small scale business to make them to be self-reliant. There was also donation of wheel chairs and funds to people with disabilities in the state and many beneficiaries appreciated the kind gesture of the first lady.
Keynote Address was presented by Dr. Rekiya Momoh-Abaji
She emphasized that Education holds the key to sustaining development in the land and it should not be taken lightly.
Recommendations or suggested interventions that can help improve our education and youth empowerment include:
Donation of libraries and quality reading materials, provision of “a meal” during the duration of the school day, assistance in training and re-training of teachers home and abroad, provision of technology and textbooks, direct supply of textbooks and school uniforms, ICT facilitation in any way for both teachers and students, interventions from Old student associations.
Presentation by the Special Guest Speaker- Chief S.M. Onojah
What happened to our old standard of education? According to Chief Onojah, our young men that went to school were not empowered.
Failure in parenting and the value system is the major cause of backwardness in education. He suggested that empowering our roots is the only way we can move on with development in our land. Let’s help others to help ourselves. We need to engage the youths by providing them with jobs and necessary tools to empower them. According to Chief Onoja, “that is what is going on in Kogi State.” He finally enjoined participants to go back to our values, and we must give back. “Go back to your schools, to your village and give back,” he concluded.
Tribute to Late Prof. Idachaba- Dr. Ocheje presented a brief tribute to our late brother, father and friend Prof. Francis Idachaba.
Presentation by Ms. Esther Achenyo Nordman
Igala Language – Reading Igala language has been a challenge. She is developing a curriculum in collaboration with other authors that will help children to read in Igala. The children need the books to be able to learn reading skills. The work requires efforts of all if it is to be effective. She said assistance from the Government is needed in order to introduce the curriculum into schools by the time it is completed.
Youth Empowerment Through Quality Education in Igala Land by our Educators, Mr. David Shaibu and others.
In the presentation, several challenges plaguing our school systems were outlined like underfunding, poor infrastructures, inadequate classrooms and teaching aids, dearth of quality teachers/poor or polluted learning environment. He suggested some remedies to these problems in our system with an action plan: School environment impacts on student’s learning by providing adequate furniture, textbooks, workshop to aid educators, provide resource centers, appeal to state governors, mayors, county executives for used furniture, textbooks, computers and overhead projectors etc.
Presentation by Igala Youth- Our youth led by Dr. Mrs. Esther Oyediran gave a short presentation on what they intend to do to help children back home in Nigeria. These include:
Collecting textbooks from schools at the end of the year and send the books home
Write a letter to Michell Obama to help or assist children back in Nigeria
Collect backpacks that can be sent back home and embark on enlightenment campaign about ebola virus
Initiate raffle and get items that they do not need, sell the items to bring in money
Ensure safe environment through security
Each year they bring something that could be put together for the children
Raffle tickets to fund education and help people back home.
Presentation by Sunday Bala Oma- Youth Empowerment Through Quality Education: A veritable Tool for Transformation. This presentation by an absentee guest speaker was read by Mr. Sunday Umoru. In it, the author recommended youth empowerment through qualitative education by organizing seminars and workshops, stimulating healthy competition among schools, empowering teachers by providing basic amenities for teaching and partnership among stakeholders. He said there are other challenges like environmental influence, political factor and funding.
Dr. Paul Ocheje moderated this session. Five groups were formed after the presentations to brainstorm on the theme.
Group 1- What would we recommend that the State and Local Government do to strengthen and improve the learning environment? Led by Dr. Mrs. Esther Oyediran
-Nutrition is important by providing meals for the kids while in school available with funding
-Monitoring and accountability required on the part of teachers and administrators
-Learning environment are great obstacles and need to be addressed
-Learning outcome through monitoring and evaluation-Teachers need instructional support to get the skills needed for the job. As part of the solution, the group suggested and encouraged employing skilled and qualified teachers, ensuring that teacher evaluation is in place through structured learning, lesson plans, and that infrastructures and instructional materials are provided for conducive learning environment.
Group 2- Problems of exam malpractices led by Mr. Jonathan Adejoh
-Teacher’s qualification is questionable
-Motivation in teaching profession, is the teacher really motivated?
-Pay teachers well and on time to make them accountable
-Develop curriculum for schools.
-Sexual favor, handouts, etc
- Administrators lead by examples in training and ethical standards
-Employ qualified teachers and motivate them through rewards and provide the necessary tools they need to be effective in the discharge of their duties.
- Instill discipline in students
- Maintain good environment; provide breakfast, desks, chairs, textbooks, chalk and blackboards to schools.
- Handing schools back to the private sector like the mission schools of old
Group 3- Declining educational performance in Igala Land in JAMB etc, Eradicating corruption in the School system, how? Led by Dr. Mary Shaibu
-Pay taxes with accountability that can help in funding the schools
-Respect the law of the land
-Value system re-orientation; there should be consequences for all criminal activities like selling of handouts etc.
-Pay teachers well if we are to expect high performance
-Provide other incentives
-Build a model school
Group 4- How can the wanton act or indiscipline in schools be reversed? Led by Mr. David Shaibu
-Positive reinforcement for the kids
-Fair punishment for the kid’s bad behavior to match the offence
-Parent involvement in the life of the kids will help
-Orient moral values to our kids.
Group 5-How do we ensure materials sent home is properly utilized? Led by Dr. Bello Adejoh
-First identify the needs of the people
-Identify trusted hands in the community, this allows for checks and balances.
-Involve diverse groups like religious organizations-churches, mosques
-Provide incentives for the people.
Dr. Paul Ocheje summarized the recommendations which are to be drawn up as Action Plan. The conference adjourned at 5:50 p.m.
Gala Night started at about 9: 20 p.m with the introduction of two Masters of Ceremony, Ms. Teresa Edoja and Mr. Ahiaba Martin. There was introduction of guests and brief remarks by the National President, Mrs. Osagie. The welcome committee paid special homage to HRM, Queen Juliana Ameh-Oboni II and Her Excellency the First Lady of Kogi State, Hajia Halima Wada. Dr. Paul Ocheje who acted as Chief Launcher first summarized the goals of the fundraiser. Our sponsor, Arik Air, represented by Mr. Thomas was introduced before the fund raiser commenced. The raffle draw was done and the main winner of two return tickets to Nigeria was Mr. Marcus Jones a co-worker of Mrs. Atule Oguche whom she had sold some tickets to. The second winner of iPhone 5 was Mrs. Esther Pius Akubo and the third winner of i-pod was Esther Achenyo Norman. The Host Chapter Women Group thrilled participants to traditional dance to the admiration of all in their bright yellow uniform to the sound of a whistle and Igala songs. A spectacular ogba dance was performed by the Chapter President, Mr. Abu Acheneje and Mr. Martin Ahiaba.
Another highlight of the evening was Miss Inikpi Beauty Pageantry featuring for the second time at the conference. Four contestants dressed in traditional attires took turns to greet in Igala and answered questions from the judges to determine the winner of the contest. Miss Ojoma Oyibo was crowned as Miss Inikpi USA for 2014. Miss Lydia Ugbeda came second; Miss Rabi Osagie came third while Miss Halima Abdulkadir came fourth.
The evening ended with members taking to the floor to dance till 2 a.m. The youth enjoyed several sessions of choreographed dance moves.
Sunday August 31. The Sunday Annual General meeting kicked off at about 11 am. Attempt was made to ratify the recommendations of the Constitution Drafting Committee but when it became obvious that most members present had not even read the draft that was emailed to them several times before, it was resolved that they should go back and take a closer look at the recommendations and at a later date rectification can be done via teleconference.
Bus tour of Washington DC
Participants left Hampton Inns and Suites in two coach buses for sight-seeing of The White House, National Monument, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and the World War II Memorial Center in Washington DC. Members and guests, who thoroughly enjoyed the tour, took time to take snapshots of the monuments and also took group photographs with other members and the family. The team returned back to the venue of the conference at 4:55pm.
Progress Report by the President
Some of the highlights include: Scholarship amount has been increased from $25,000 to $50,000 and the number of awardees from 4 to 6; Website is working, courtesy of our webmasters, Mr. Sunny Onojah and Mr. Sunny Umoru and Miss Inikpi Pageantry, an initiative for the youth, continues to gain more popularity and create excitement. Paid members participation has been on the rise, thanks to the effort of the Executives. This is meant to involve members as much as possible in decision making and to help them keep abreast of developments in the association.
Scholarship Committee -The Scholarship committee report was presented by one of its members, Mr. Martin Ahiaba. Out of the twelve candidates shortlisted for interview conducted by Prof. Sam Egwu in Lokoja on Saturday August 23 and Sunday 24, 2014 at Diato Hotel, six were recommended for award this year. They include Grace U. Ochigbo, Julian Adah Ojonugwa, Rashidat Yusuf Yunusa, Adoyi Victor Onuche, Odomodo David Dominic and Bridget Aladi Dominic. Next year’s conference will be hosted by Houston, Texas.
Sunday evening event concluded with a Game Night. Participants challenged each other in playing iche, ludo, Snake and Ladder games. HRM the Queen displayed her skill in playing iche by beating her challengers in rows. The session finally came to an end at 10 p.m.
Recorder: Ogbadu Opaluwa.
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