It is no longer news that 10 candidates have been selected in The Wole Soyinka Foundation’s Study Abroad in Lebanon, (SAIL). They recently left for the Cedars Institute, Notre Dame University in Lebanon.
At the press briefing held in Lagos by the Board of the Foundation, the names of the candidates were disclosed. Led by the chair of the Foundation, the Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka, assisted by the project facilitator, Dr Habib Jafaar of Apple & Pears, the project is a cultural and educational exchange programme between Lebanon and Nigeria aimed at improving scholarship in Nigeria.
Two of the candidates, Rev. Sister Mary Aboekwe (of the Odumegwu Ojukwu University) and Adenle Ademola, a budding writer were present at the briefing. Others are Oladele Faji, Khalid Imam, Salamatu Sule, Kassima Okani, Wole Adedoyin, Blessing Christopher, Temi Soyinka and Christian Nyamali.
Dr. Jafaar said the programme was second of its kind.
“The SAIL programme has many different chapters; the Russian chapter, where the Russian students come. They have the Brazilian chapter, the Ukrainian chapter, the Indian chapter and the Nigerian chapter. And we are very happy that this is the second one. It is a very intensive 10-day course taught by at least six faculty professors very conversant in their fields and it is complemented by lectures at the UNESCO Heritage Centre sites,” Jafaar said.
Jafaar, who is a Nigeria-born Lebanese, declared that Soyinka Foundation is a credible organisation, the kind they sought for at the onset of the programme.
“We have very good report from the candidates and the host in Lebanon, and we are encouraged to expand the number from four last year to 10 this year. It may be more next year”.
Executive Director, Wole Soyinka Foundation, Mrs Folake Soyinka, appealed for support from individual and organisational philanthropists, especially corporate organisations to broaden the scope and reach of the project, and thus deepen its impact on the society.
She remarked that with improved financial supports, which she emphasised is better rendered “in kind that is through adoption and sponsorship of one or more candidates, the Foundation and its partners would be able to increase the number of participants. Also, the Foundation will be able to achieve other objectives of the programme which could include bringing students from Lebanon to Nigeria to realise the exchange dimension.
Mrs. Soyinka said that the 10 going this year are mostly young writers, sourced from past participants in the Ebedi Writers Residency founded in Iseyin Oyo State by writer-medical doctor, Wale Okediran.
Last year, four people took part in the programme. These were: Damilare Justice (PGD Environmental Geology, student University of Jos); Zubairu Bambale (M.Phil student, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria); Ibrahim Jimba ( BA student, Kwara State University, Malete, Kwara State); and Olumuyiwa Ajayi (PhD student Convenant University Ota, Ogun State).
They were accompanied by a board member of the WSF, Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka, Prof of Theatre and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Department, University of Kansas, Lawrence, US.
One of the previous participants named Jimba expressed his gratitude for the socio-cultural programme in a statement read at the briefing. “I consider the program (SAIL) an intellectual and cultural tourism. It was a really fascinating and knowledge-filled experience as we were able walk through, and live history in a distinct way. In addition, we saw world history through the eyes of Lebanon. The enthusiasm of our tutors was really admirable and intriguing.
He also drew the parallels between the two nations, suggesting that Nigeria should learn from the Lebanese Civil War.
“My perception about the Lebanese community and the Lebanese-Nigerian relations have positively changed. The two countries have so many religious, Socio-cultural and political historical traits in common. These include plurality in culture, religion and ethnicity. Those beating the drums of war in Nigeria should realize that 25 years after the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), Lebanon is still unable to come back,” he stated.