Igali opens Nigerian school

September 21, 2006, volume 37, no. 2
By Diane Luckow

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In the small nigerian village of Eniwari, up to 60 pupils from around the country will begin classes this year in a new school established by SFU master's candidate Daniel Igali.

The official opening was Aug. 22. The renowned Olympic free wrestling gold medalist, who was born and grew up in the impoverished village, has spent the past several years raising more than $600,000 to build the 11-room school.

It is far different from the leaky, one-room shack where he was schooled. It has a gymnasium, an auditorium, a library, computer room, a six-room accommodation complex and an administrative block.

Igali's wrestling prowess brought him to Canada in 1994 for an international wrestling competition. He never left, and went on to win an Olympic gold medal for Canada in 2000. He has named the school in memory of his friend and surrogate Canadian mother, Maureen Matheny.

"I want so much to benefit the people in the village and the Niger Delta region in particular," says Igali. "It will mean a potential lifestyle change for villagers and students alike, who can benefit from a school that hopes to also teach life skills." Among those will be a range of athletic activities, including wrestling.

To build the school, Igali established the non-profit Igali Foundation and convinced the Canadian International Development Agency, Canadian University Services Overseas (CUSO) as well as many other organizations and individuals to help him.

Former SFU chancellor Milton Wong and President Michael Stevenson helped spearhead an SFU dinner that raised $50,000; Nello Angerilli, former executive director of SFU international, visited Nigeria in 2003 with a view to helping Nigeria strengthen its education management through information technologies. The SFU faculty of education has offered to help with curriculum and educational activities as the school moves forward.

Igali, who had hoped to defend his criminology master's thesis this fall, will instead spend much of his time in Nigeria as he continues fundraising and works to supply the school with resources such as computers and learning materials. For more information or to help, visit www.igali.com

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