New in Nigeria
A couple of years ago, chemistry professor Aaron Baba got a crazy idea. As new editions of the chemistry books he used kept replacing older versions, he realized the older texts could provide a lot of learning to college students in his native country of Nigeria. Books there never go out of date, especially science books.
“They teach by topics,” he says, “and the concepts don’t change much.”
So Baba began gathering books from fellow Xavier professors, and today hundreds of those books line the shelves of Kogi State University in Anyigba, about 50 miles from the village of Iyale where Baba was born.
The first shipment of chemistry books arrived in Nigeria in 2005, transported by a friend who was moving back. When he visited his home that December, Baba discovered those books were the chemistry department’s main collection. He thought if he could do this with chemistry, why not expand the donations to the rest of the University?
As sometimes happens, serendipity stepped in. The governor of Kogi State visited Cincinnati last year and, after meeting with Baba and Xavier officials, agreed to pay the $10,000 cost of the next shipment. This collection netted enough books to fill a 40-foot shipping container, especially after a local research company donated its science books to Baba’s project. The books arrived in February, and Baba traveled home in April for the official presentation ceremony.
For Baba, the first of his 10 siblings to attend college, the project is a natural outcome of his fortunate life. Though neither of his parents went to college, he completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Nigeria and his Ph.D. at Tulane University. Everyone, family and friends, helped pay his tuition. “I am carrying the hopes, aspirations, goodwill and prayers of a lot of people,” he says. “We need to give back because we are privileged and share the goodwill of other people who are less fortunate. I am very mindful of where I come from. The impact I have there is based on the education I have attained.”
Baba is collecting again for shipment later this fall. The pile of books, including business and psychology titles among the science texts, keeps growing on his laboratory table. He needs enough to fill another container, but it won’t take too long. “The books keep coming and coming,” he says.