Gallaudet University Awarded $2 Million USAID Grant

Deaf-E3 Project to Advance Education and Employment Opportunities for Deaf Children and Youth in Nigeria

Gallaudet University has been awarded a three-year, $2.05 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support initiatives to advance education, employment, and life opportunities toward the empowerment of deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind children and youth in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This project, formally known as the Deaf-E3 Project, will promote Education, Employment, and Empowerment, is a partnership between Gallaudet, the Nigerian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD), and Wesley University.

This USAID grant award is the culmination of more than three years of work by many people at Gallaudet and in Nigeria. As will be explained below, it is a testament to the vision and dream of the late Isaac O. Agboola. It also is the proximate result of dialogue between Gallaudet University President Roberta J. Cordano and Sir Demola Aladekomo, chair of the governing board of Wesley University, who was Dr. Agboola’s cousin. The project built on a concept note developed by Mr. John Olumoya, ’82, and Dr. Tola Odusanya, ’85 & G-’87.

NNAD officers and members past and present, Wesley University officials, and Gallaudet administrators, faculty, staff, and alumni have all played major roles in realizing Dr. Agboola’s dream. A steering committee also has contributed in many ways. A listing of many of the individuals and entities involved is shown on the GAIN-Africa website, with much gratitude and appreciation for all. 

Read more about NNAD and Wesley University

See list of acknowledgements

The Impetus for the Deaf-E3 Project: Dr. Isaac O. Agboola

The Deaf-E3 Project was inspired by Dr. Isaac Olubunmi Agboola, ’81 & G-’83, a beloved Gallaudet faculty member and dean who passed away in 2017. 

Dr. Agboola was born and raised in Nigeria, and was a student and later a co-worker of Dr. Andrew J. Foster, ’54 & H-’70, who founded 31 deaf schools across the African continent. Dr. Agboola first met Dr. Foster in 1971 while attending the Ibadan Mission School for the Deaf (IMSD) in Nigeria. He also worked in Dr. Foster’s mission office in Ibadan as an administrative clerk, describing this as “inspiring” since he sat just two seats away. 

“The opportunity to attend [Dr. Foster’s] school enabled me to resume my education. It is highly unlikely that I would have achieved as much as I have if he had not established a mission school in Nigeria,” said Dr. Agboola at the time.

Dr. Agboola came to Gallaudet in the fall of 1978, and completed his bachelor’s degree in three years, graduating summa cum laude in 1981. He went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree at Gallaudet in 1983, and his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Information Systems at the University of Maryland, College Park in 1998.

Dr. Agboola joined the University faculty in the Department of Business in 1984. He served as department chair from 2003 to 2007. In 2007, he was appointed Dean of the former College of Liberal Arts, Sciences, and Technologies (CLAST), and served in that role until being named Interim Dean of the former School of Education, Business, and Human Services (SEBHS) in 2013, and permanent Dean in 2016. 

Dr. Agboola had a long, distinguished history as a faculty member and dean. He led or participated in several strategic planning efforts and accreditation reviews, and led curriculum reform in the business disciplines, including what is now the Information Technology major in the School of Science, Technology, Accessibility, Public Health, and Mathematics. He also was very involved in the creation of the Risk Management and Insurance major in the Department of Business. Finally, he was instrumental in the transformation of the university’s general education program to a formal, more intentional, outcomes-based General Studies Program. 

Dr. Agboola had a long-held dream of self-determination for the Nigerian deaf community. The existing Gallaudet in Nigeria-Africa (GAIN-Africa) program, and now the new Deaf-E3 Project, are major milestones toward achieving his dream.

According to Dr. Khadijat K. Rashid, Interim Dean of the Faculty, “Dr. Agboola wanted to bring Gallaudet home to Nigeria, and Deaf-E3 fulfills that wish.”

Read about the signing of the GAIN-Africa memorandum of understanding

Read Dr. Agboola’s obituary

Deaf-E3 Project Activities

  • Capacity building: NNAD and its stakeholders. Discovering Deaf Worlds, a U.S-based international deaf advocacy organization, and NNAD will conduct an initial needs assessment and stakeholder survey to identify NNAD’s organizational capacity priorities and design training modules to enhance the advocacy, leadership, and organizational capacities of NNAD and its stakeholders.
  • Training educational professionals on multimodal/multilingual pedagogical approaches to education. This research-based activity will identify best practices and identify effective training methodologies and assessments, with the goal of producing a pedagogically deaf-centric, barrier-free, and multimodal/multilingual educational programming for deaf children. The project will produce two manuals on multimodal/multilingual approaches that can be used by educational professionals nationwide.
  • Promoting best practices related to general and educational interpreting within a Nigerian context. A working group of deaf leaders and Nigerian Sign Language (NSL) interpreters will create and disseminate guidelines to effective communication by enabling deaf consumers and NSL interpreters to work more collaboratively.
  • Collaborating with USAID and its partners to increase capacity to engage with deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind stakeholders nationwide.

Community Response

Ms. Roberta J. “Bobbi” Cordano, President of Gallaudet University, said, “Gallaudet is deeply grateful to USAID for this investment in Deaf-E3. This funding will have an incredible impact as Gallaudet, the Nigerian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD), and Wesley University, Ondo collaborate on education and employment initiatives that will empower deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind people in Nigeria.”

Dr. Khadijat K. Rashid, ’90, Interim Dean of the Faculty at Gallaudet University, said, “Gallaudet has welcomed students from Nigeria for many years. In fact, there are more Gallaudet alumni from Nigeria than from any other country outside the United States and Canada. We look forward to building on these relationships, and to collaborating with deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind leaders and community members in Nigeria to foster awareness, advocacy, education, and employment. This will positively impact the standard of living for deaf people in Nigeria for many years to come.”

Mr. Chidi Olujie, President of the Nigerian National Association of the Deaf, said, “I extend my great appreciation to everyone who worked on this project. We would not have come this far without our shared commitment to creating a conducive learning environment for deaf Nigerians and their families. We are very grateful to USAID for finding us worthy of being beneficiaries of this grant. We expect this project to have a long-term, positive impact on the Nigerian deaf community’s education, empowerment, and employment.”

Professor Sunday Ndubueze Ukachukwu, Vice Chancellor of Wesley University, said, “Coming this far is confirmation that there is strength in unity of purpose. While congratulating all the persons, organizations, and groups who worked assiduously to bring GAIN this far, our deep appreciation goes to USAID for believing in the vision. Indeed the Gallaudet University legacy of subduing barriers, and limitations, building hope and empowerment of the Deaf through education, is coming to Nigeria, signaling new hope for the deaf in the country and beyond.”


The Deaf-E3 Project is administratively housed in the Office of the Provost. Its staff is as follows:

  • Dr. Khadijat K. Rashid, ’90, Executive Director
  • Ms. Amanda H. F. Mueller, Project Director
  • Dr. Poorna Kushalnagar, ’93, Co-Project Director
  • Mr. Olufemi Ige, G-’20 & G-’21, Administrative Coordinator and Support Specialist; on June 30, Mr. Ige will become In-country Project Manager for the Deaf-E3 Project
  • Ms. Sarah Houge, G-’10, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Manager
  • Dr. Alim Chandani, PhD ’13, Interpreter Educator
  • Ms. Carla Shird, G-’01, Interpreter Educator
  • Ms. Arathy Manoharan, Multilingual Pedagogies Lead

About Gallaudet’s Partners

The Nigerian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD) is a representative body of deaf people across Nigeria committed to a society free from discrimination against deaf people through advocacy, empowerment, and education. The organization leads the country’s efforts to involve deaf people in all planning and programming matters affecting the deaf community, recognizing sign language as the linguistic identity of the deaf community and the first language of deaf children, and effectively mobilizing the deaf community towards contributing to national development.

Wesley University is a private university whose Board of Trustees chair, Sir Demola Aladekomo, was Dr. Agboola’s cousin. Funded by the Methodist Church of Nigeria, the university is committed to being a center of excellence in knowledge creation by offering a balanced education for self-reliance and self-actualization through the development of entrepreneurial skills, and producing graduates that are self-reliant and responsible citizens who are perceptive of the needs of society.

Project Detail

This project is RFA #72062021RFA00001. The U.S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide. 

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