The Middle of Somewhere
- 2 December 2008
Bauchi diocese in Northern Nigeria has 64,000 Catholics in an overall population of 5 million people. Thus Bishop John Moore finds that the southern part of his diocese, which is largely Christian, is seriously ‘neglected and lacks the basic amenities of roads, light, water, clinics and schools.’
With intense effort and generosity, the diocese has been able to build ten primary schools and three secondary schools. ‘Some of these meet with Government standards. Others do not’, the bishop remarked. ‘But still, the schools provide a service which has been denied them for a long time. The training of proper teachers is something we will have to look into.’ Hence he is striving to inaugurate a scheme which will allow untrained teachers to undertake a 2-year on-the-job training which will eventually culminate in a qualification.
Bishop Tim Carroll SMA was appointed to the newly-established Apostolic Vicariate in May 2002 after many years spent working on the far side of the River Niger. He is no stranger to crossing the river, to being isolated during the rainy season by impassable roads which, in the dry season are a back-breaking, bumpy, dusty ordeal that only someone of complete dedication to the Kamberi people would undertake.
Dispossessed of their traditional lands the illiterate Kamberi were severely disadvantaged. Never having had an opportunity of an education, the provision of schools and literacy skills for these subsistence farmers became a top priority for the Church. In a very real way, the Church has ensured that these people, ‘in the middle of nowhere’ as far as the rest of the world is concerned, are very definitely ‘in the middle of somewhere’ to God’s way of thinking.
In his pastoral plan, Bishop Carroll had to consider that his people are totally dependent on subsistence farming for survival. Every parish in the Vicariate built its own hostel, where, during the dry season, boys and girls from even the most remote villages can go for a three-month course in reading and writing.
Gradually villagers are developing literacy skills and, with those abilities, a degree of independence and self-sufficiency.
Three and a half hours drive from the town of Kontagora, is a school run by Nigerian Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. It is a new school, started a mere five years ago and so, at present, only catering up to Primary 5. The school is surrounded by the magnificent beauty of the Plateau and mile after mile of bush. Village children have to board at the school because of the distances they would otherwise be forced to commute on foot. When they start school, their only language is Kamberi. By the time they reach Primary 5, they are fluent in Hausa, speak very passable English, are receiving a good education and can read aloud in English to an impressive standard.
Catholic Mission supports these projects in Nigeria, and thousands of others in 160 countries around the world.