Group XXVII description

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Nigeria Group XXVII

Group description: Teachers
Service years: 1966-68
Number of volunteers : 67
Trained at : Roxbury MA

67 trainees, mostly secondary school teachers, trained Oct-Dec 1966, Roxbury (Boston) --Phansen 18:57, 10 November 2007 (EST)


Who We Were Before Training

Nigeria 27 Training Directory PDF file


The contract for the training program was held by Educational Services Incorporated (ESI) -- which became the Education Development Center (EDC) as a result of a merger in 1967. All of the staff were ESI employees. Training began on Saturday, October 8, 1966. Upon arrival at the training headquarters, some trainees learned that their names were not on "the list," but were told not to worry.

The training program included both Nigeria trainees (67) and Ghana trainees (19). Unlike most previous training programs it was not housed on a university campus. Trainees lived with families in Roxbury, an African-American neighborhood of Boston, and were provided their breakfasts by their host families -- other meals were eaten at local restaurants. ESI rented an old house as the training program headquarters and plenary meetings took place in the neighborhood AME church.

The training consisted of three components: 1) language training, 2) teacher training, and 3) cultural seminars. Roger Landrum, a member of Nigeria II, was the program's director and his two deputies were Felix Obinani and John ___?___.

The trainees consisted of, 1) Hausa learners destined for the North, 2) Pidgin English learners destined for the Midwest, and 3) eight Yoruba learners who were assigned to the University of Ife (renamed Obafemi Awolowo University in 1987) in the West. The language instructors were: Haroun Adamu (Hausa); Paul Okpokam (Pidgin); and Ann Hilferty (Nigeria V, Yoruba).

The trainees were divided into small groups for cultural seminars – each located in a small apartment in Roxbury and each with a leader. Seminar leaders included: Susanne Albert (Nigeria V), Henrietta (Bunny) Briggs (Nigeria X), Tom McGrew (Nigeria XIII), Robin Nilsson (fka Robin Nelson, Nigeria IX), Frank Starkweather (Nigeria XI), Bob Tannen, Ralph and Margot Treitel (Nigeria IX), and Janaki Natarajan Tschannerl.

[Not all of these have been confirmed. For example, does any Nigeria XXVII member recall Tom McGrew or Janaki Natarajan Tschannerl? Also, there may be other trainers whose names have been omitted? Even if you can only remember a first name, please edit this piece accordingly or notify Peter Hansen. Thanks.]

The teacher training staff included permanent ESI employees and at least one resource person, Per Christiansen (PCV, Philippines, 1963-1966), an expert in appropriate technology. Several weeks into the training program most trainees were placed as student teachers in public and private secondary schools in the Boston area.

A small group of psychologists (one named Katz) and/or psychiatrists was employed to assist with trainee evaluation -- a possible outcome of which was the notorious “deselection.”

In the interests of preventative medicine, trainees were periodically lined up at the training headquarters to receive a vaccination, or were loaded on buses and taken elsewhere for the same -- the 5cc of gamma globulin in the derriere perhaps most memorable. Teeth were also examined and wisdom teeth that appeared potentially problematic were extracted.

Plenary sessions also played a role in the training. Speakers included R. Buckminster Fuller (who later drank beer and shot the breeze with one of the seminar groups while sitting on the floor of their furnitureless apartment), an individual who had been imprisoned by the Chinese for spying (“Were you a spy?” “Well the Navy Department did ask me...”), and an ob/gyn specialist who in one hour taught trainees how to deliver babies (his most important advice: a newborn is slippery, don’t drop it).

Sunday nights many trainees attended free public lectures in the Ford Hall Forum series. Speakers were typically current newsmakers such as Stokely Carmichael.

Near the end of the training program the leadership suggested that we move from Roxbury to Franconia College, a relatively new avant garde liberal arts college in Franconia, New Hampshire. This resulted in a fair amount of disagreement since quite a number of trainees had become involved in community activities from which they did not wish to walk away on such short notice. Nonetheless, by majority vote the decision was made to leave Roxbury.

The training program ended on December 16, 1966, and trainees returned to their homes for the holidays. Of the 67 individuals who started the training program, nine were "deselected," dropped out, or completed training but chose not to become Peace Corps Volunteers.

--Phansen 13:44, 22 January 2008 (CST)

Arrival In Country

Nigeria XXVII flew from New York to Lagos on January 5, 1967, with a layover in Amsterdam and a stop in Accra(?). Free alcoholic beverages were provided on the New York to Amsterdam flight, and as a memento of the trip passengers were given small pocket knives inscribed with "KLM" -- knives which are currently illegal on commercial flights.

The flight arrived in Lagos at night on a darkened runway at a time of high anxiety in Nigeria. Talks at Aburi (in Ghana) to reduce tensions between the federal government (lead by General Yakubu Gowon) and the Eastern region (lead by Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu) had only recently been completed (resulting in the Aburi Accord) and the return flight of the federal government's delegation was expected shortly. The presence of numerous armed soldiers on the runway was somewhat unnerving for the rookie Nigeria XXVII PCVs.

Nigeria XXVII members were bussed to the Mainland Hotel where they stayed until being transported to their in-country sites.

--Phansen 16:29, 11 November 2007 (EST)

End of Service

The onset of the Biafran War resulted in many Nigeria 27 PCVs being evacuated from their sites and either transferred to other countries, or allowed to terminate and return home. Nine volunteers transferred to Kenya, seven to Ethiopia, three to both Senegal and Tanzania, two to Sierra Leone, and one to Tunisia. Three volunteers chose termination and one evacuee is unaccounted for. These data were obtained from two old mimeographed documents (one titled "Baggage Status as of June 1, 1968" provides the number of pieces of luggage and their weight for each evacuee). Most of the evacuees served in Nigeria for about eight months.

Although available Peace Corps records are not without errors, it appears as though 28 Nigeria XXVII PCVs served in-country for more than one year. Of these, 17 served approximately two years, and six served significantly more than two years.

--Phansen 22:28, 11 November 2007 (EST)

See Also

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