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Cablegate: Benin: Gpra Report International Education Week

DE RUEHCO #0754/01 3371017
R 021017Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
NOVEMBER 17-21, 2008


SUMMARY: The Public Diplomacy Section of the American Embassy in
Cotonou organized communications on the exchange programs and the
showing of the films titled "If You Want to Study in the U.S.", "On
Behalf of All Women", "Akeelah and the Bee", as the activities
scheduled to mark the International Education Week. END SUMMARY.

2. DATE OF ACTIVITY: November 17-21; First quarter, FY 09.

International Education Week (IEW) on the Road by implementing a
series of activities to highlight the impact of international
exchange and the educational opportunities in the United States, the
importance of education, and to encourage girls to go to school and
teach them that where boys succeed, girls can do as well.

Basic Health and Human Rights. At least 700 participants, including
students from the International Christian School of Benin, the
Nigeria International School, the University of Abomey-Calavi, the
University of Parakou, the Teachers' Training Colleges in Porto-Novo
and Natitingou, the Military High School for Young Girls in
Natitingou, faculty members and other interested guests took part in
these programs. The week-long programs held across the country were
covered by all major media outlets including TV, radio and print
media. Estimated audience reached: 3.5 million.

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5. ACTIVITIES/IMPACT/RESULT: To launch this important week,
Ambassador Gayleatha Brown was the special guest on the
government-owned TV station, with an audience estimated at 2.5
million. The Ambassador seized this opportunity to reiterate the
conviction that enduring friendships and partnerships created
through international education and exchange are important for a
secure future for all countries. She underlined that the doors of
U.S. educational institutions are open to all qualified students and
professionals from around the world and encouraged Beninese students
to prepare themselves for scientific fields of study, since science
and technology constitute an important engine for Africa's economic
growth and sustainable development, that can induce self reliance
and facilitate the full integration of Africa into the global

To begin the week, Public Affairs Officer Rhonda Watson and her
colleagues launched on November 17, 2008 the International Education
Week and the Fulbright Program for the academic year 2010-2011, at
the University of Abomey-Calavi, a pioneer institution that has an
enrollment of over 50,000 students. An audience of 100 including
university authorities, faculty members and students attended the
launching ceremony. A book exhibition was also held at the American
Corner of the University of Abomey-Calavi for 2 days, November
17-18, to market our products, services and resources. Nouveaux
Horizons Publications recently received were displayed and books
were donated to the American Corner. This was also the opportunity
for the renewing of the Memorandum of Understanding between PAS and
University officials.

In the morning of November 18, 2008, the PAS team showed the film on
sexual harassment entitled "On Behalf of All Women", a film produced
by Women Legal Rights and sponsored by USAID, to raise women
students' awareness about this phenomenon against which a law was
voted in Benin in 2007. Elvire Hounou Huenassou, former Coordinator
of WLR served as moderator and answered questions posed by the
audience of 50 persons comprising students and administrative staff.
Then after showing the film "If You Want to Study in the U.S.," the
Cultural Affairs Assistant gave a thorough and comprehensive
overview of academic and professional exchange opportunities,
followed by the experience sharing of the Fulbright Alumnus, Etienne
Ewikotan, who came back home last June after spending two years
studying Education Planning at the University of Loyola in Chicago.
His communication mostly centered on the education system in the
U.S, a system that fosters responsibility, life long learning and

In the afternoon of November 18, the PAO and her colleagues traveled
to Porto-Novo, the capital of Benin. At the Ecole Normale Superieure
(Teachers' Training College), 80 students and faculty members
attended the program, which consisted in showing the film "If you
want to study in the U.S." and presenting the exchange programs. The
Director of the Teachers' Training College, a Fulbright alumnus was
given the opportunity to share his U.S. experience with the

On November 19, 2008, the PAS team, comprising the Cultural Affairs
Assistant and the Information Resource Center Director, accompanied
by the Fulbright Alumnus Innocent Datondji, Director of Porto-Novo
Teachers' Training College, traveled to the University of Parakou,
located in the Northern part of Benin, which has an enrollment of

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about 6,000 students. The IRC Director chaired a book donation
ceremony to the American Corner in the presence of the Vice
Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs. The Cultural Affairs
Assistant presented the exchange programs and Innocent Datondji gave
a communication on "Bridge-Building between Benin and the U.S." To
start his presentation, Professor Datondji provided a definition of
the concept which he calls bridge-building, which consists in making
it possible for Beninese and Americans to have the opportunity to
come together and meet for a better understanding of their
respective cultures and civilisations. He developed this concept by
stressing its importance due to the globalisation process according
to which no people can, nowadays, remain enclosed within itself.

He ended his presentation by illustrating it with his own experience
in America. His four visits to that country (in 1981, 1984, 1995,
and 2006-2007, thanks to the Fulbright Program) have in fact
convinced him of the necessity for teachers in Benin, among other
things, to:
1) Improve their students' knowledge of American culture and
civilization so as to reduce bias and prejudice, thus encouraging
cross cultural relationships. To do this he put at their disposal
the materials that he has brought home with him, and he organized
periodic talk-sessions with them.
2) Tell them something about homesickness and invite them to be
prepared for it, should they travel (someday to America or
elsewhere), even though he realizes that experiences and lessons
differ from person to person.

The one final lesson that he has derived from his 2006-2007 stay is
that, despite everything, despite the stress and all the drawbacks,
despite all the privations and mistakes, it is worth going away, if
only to test and evaluate oneself again, to be more serious about
education, to make deeper self-exploration, to get to understand
better other peoples and their cultures (even if sometimes one does
not adopt them), so that, on their return, they could better help
their own people and mostly their students to be more themselves, as
individuals and community members.
To end the session in Parakou, the audience watched Obama's
biography and asked questions about the electoral system and the
lessons to be drawn from President Obama's election.

On November 20, 2008 the PAS team and Innocent Datondji headed for
Natitingou. At the Teachers' Training College, (this college has
only been created for scientific studies,) books were donated and
communications were given on the exchange programs by the CAA and on
the importance of the English language by Innocent Datondji. He
explored the most important factors which can affect the
teaching/learning of English as follows:
1) The objectives of English learning: Commerce, tourism, teaching,
international relations, diplomacy, technology, sciences,
transports, professional career, leisure.
2)The conditions and variables: The country where it is taught, the
area (urban or rural), the racial composition, the economic
situation, the educational system, the cultural values, the place of
English in the country, the medium of instruction, the contents of
the teaching.
3) The human variables:
-The learners: Their level of instruction, their age, their
aptitude, their attitude, their gender, their health, their family
background, their exposure to English, their degree of motivation,
their expectations regarding English.
-The teachers: their level of education, their qualification as
English teachers, their experiences, their level in English, their
comprehension of the nature of English, their interest for English,
their teaching methods.
-The environment: Geographical situation, availability of classes,
availability of teaching materials, availability of language
laboratory, the expectations of the parents.
It was a good opportunity to encourage students in science to keep
learning English, since they tend to give it up generally.

The team also visited the Military School for young girls, a school
that was started in the year 2000 to promote excellence based on the
model of a military school for boys called "Prytanee Militaire of
Bembereke". Currently, there are 278 girls attending the school.
Selection for enrollment is based on a yearly competition and the
three best students from the 12 Departments are invited to enroll.
The students range in age from 9 to 18 and follow the same
curriculum as the one used nationally. We donated books to the
school and showed the film on sexual harassment "On Behalf of All
Women" and this was much appreciated by the whole school and by the
staff. All the girls attended the session.

Judging by the number and intensity of questions and audience
contributions, the programs were well received and successful. We
distributed flyers to market our exchange programs and encouraged
potential candidates to apply for the Fulbright Program.
Requests were made in Parakou and Natitingou for additional programs

COTONOU 00000754 003 OF 003

and resources, especially for the faculty in developing English
curriculum and training for its staff.

To wrap up the IEW activities, the film titled "Akeelah and the Bee"
was shown at the American Cultural Center on November 21, 2008. The
film provided an opportunity to point out that education is a key
factor to success. The film was an efficient tool in emphasizing
that when a girl has the determination to succeed in life, she could
be equally as or more successful than a boy. At the end of the film,
students' representatives made lengthy comments about how to succeed
in life, which was a sign that the message was well received. Many
University students seized the opportunity of this film program to
express their interest in getting more involved in PD programs.

Most of the academic institutions we visited did their best to
encourage students to attend the sessions, even though they haven't
resumed yet at the University of Abomey Calavi, at the Teachers'
Training Colleges in Porto-Novo and Natitingou. Regarding the film
show at the ACC, the willingness of three institutions of learning
to send students to attend this program was instrumental to the
overwhelming success of this activity. The participation of the
Fulbright alumni Etienne Ewikotan and Innocent Datondji and Elvire
Hounou Huenassou brought vivid first-hand accounts to the events.

7. QUALITY OF USG SUPPORT: Excellent. Kudos to Doctor Alfred
Frederick, Professor of Education at State University of New York,
for accepting to serve as Moderator in the program of "Akeelah and
the Bee". During the lively discussion which took place at the end
of the film, Dr. Frederick's pedagogical approach was highly


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