By Prisca Sam-Duru

Five Nigerian students, selected by their faculties from universities across the country departed Nigeria from Lagos, on Saturday, 27 August for Beirut. They joined students from other countries’ universities in a cultural study exchange programme titled, ‘Study Abroad In Lebanon, SAIL’.

The SAIL programme is an initiative of CEDARS Institute, Notre Dame University, Lebanon, which is designed as an intensive course for international students, in the spirit of the global effort to promote dialogue between cultures.

This was disclosed during a press conference in Lagos with Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, members of the Soyinka Foundation as well as the Lebanese initiator of the programme, Dr Jafaar Habib.

Prof Soyinka said “I am interested in the efforts of the Wole Soyinka Foundation to try and expose youthful minds to all the cultures, civilisation, socio-political problems else where to ancient ways. Dr Jaffar is the brain behind the initiative, this is the first effort to participate in youthful exercises especially intellectual cultural artistic sides going on in other places. The five students selected for the SAIL programme is the first group which will be accompanied by Professor Ajayi Soyinka who is a gender study specialist.”

The Lebanese fascilitator of the study programme, Dr Jafaar said it was a privilege for the “Wole Soyinka Foundation to be partnering with Cedars in the project dedicated to cultural exchanges and international collaboration. The partnership of the University of Notre Dame and Nigeria actually goes back some years, one of its most memorable initiatives being an international colloquium on the one year anniversary of the death of Professor Chinua Achebe.

It was titled Honouring Chinua Achebe, a Lebanese-Nigerian Celebration, that event was presided over by the then Nigerian Ambassador Plenipotentiary, Amos Oluwole Idowu.”

Five Nigerian students united with their counterparts from other countries in an intensive, interactive course on a syllabus designed to broaden their world perspectives. The students will be introduced to a modern Middle-Eastern nation with a complex history, filled with scenic surprises, a rich and facilitating cultural heritage, and a long experience in conflict resolution through experiments in governance systems.

Dr Habib Jafaar who described himself as a Nigerian of  Lebanese descent, having been born in Kano State and boasts of several business ventures in Nigeria, said through his life experience, has noticed that although Nigeria and Lebanon share a lot of experiences and challenges and are both multicultural and multi religious societies yet, “I find there are areas which are lacking in the social and cultural aspects of the relationship between these two countries and people. So over the years I have been in activities to improve that aspect among which is the Nigerian Lebanese initiative and most important is my recent work with the Wole Soyinka Foundation at the Cedars Institute of Lebanon.

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