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TWU grad student brings music to Nigerian students

Sierra Taylor, Managing Editor

Student Association for Music Therapy members, Lara Jenks, Ashley Bray, Aspen Maxwell, and Nicasia Rivera make egg shakers for the students of Owina.
Student Association for Music Therapy members, Lara Jenks, Ashley Bray, Aspen Maxwell, and Nicasia Rivera make egg shakers for the students of Owina.

A TWU graduate student, with the help of the TWU Music Department, hopes to provide backpacks, school supplies and classroom musical instruments to 400 students in Nigeria. 

In the fall of 2014, TWU Music and Education graduate student Blessed Onaiwu returned to her native country of Nigeria for the first time since leaving at the age of nine. While Onaiwu was there, associate professor of music and coordinator of music education Dr.  Vicki Baker suggested she do a project on music education and culture in Nigeria. She was astonished by the state of Owina Primary School in Benin City and the lack of music education in public schools.

Onaiwu shared: “I was shocked because the walls were torn down. The roof was blown apart, the ceilings were either missing or stained, and there was no AC, no restrooms. I thought it was storage or just something they abandoned.”

In the spring of 2015 at the Teachers Music Educators Association Convention, Onaiwu went to a board over music education and homelessness and afterwards knew exactly what she wanted to do for her graduate research project. 

Then returning to TWU, Onaiwu and  Baker started making lesson plans and contacting music companies for donations. Contributions of instruments soon started, and Onaiwu was able to return to Owina Primary School.  

Onaiwu said: “The first day I went there, the children didn’t know what I was saying. They went home and told their parents there was this lady from America, and they didn’t know what she said, but they knew that she was going to teach them music.”  Onaiwu spent a week during the summer spending time with the children of the school and educating them on music. She said that her favorite part of the week was the day that the students made their own instruments and the boys made flutes out of pumpkin sticks.

Onaiwu stated: “When they told me what they wanted to do, I had my doubts. I left them to do their own thing, but after a while I heard them play ‘Hot Cross Buns,’ which we had been learning all week on the flutes.”

Onaiwu said that this moment really showed her that music affected them. She elaborated: “When I came in to do this project, my actual goal was to see how we can relate to them or impact their lives. Now I’ve seen firsthand how it actually does change their lives. Going to music class makes them who they want to be.” 

On her last day at the school, Onaiwu asked the children what they would like her to bring with her the next time she came to see them. She said she was shocked when they simply asked for backpacks and school supplies. 

Then she returned to TWU, she and Baker began planning Operation Owina. The music department has begun taking donation for school supplies in hopes to provide the children of Owina Primary school with these supplies. The music and theatre department hosted a benefit concert on Oct. 1st, where they collected school supplies in lieu of tickets to get in. 

Onaiwu said: “The response from TWU is astonishing. I want to see the smiles on those children’s faces  when I give them those backpacks. I want them to know that we do believe in them, TWU believes in them and is giving them this gift.”

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