Schneider: ‘It Was God Who Was Behind Us’

Bob and Ginny Schneider image via Crossville Chronicle

FAIRFIELD GLADE (CROSSVILLE CHRONICLE)--It’s 6,477 miles from Manhattan, Kansas, to Zaria, Nigeria, but Bob and Ginny Schneider have made the trip several times.

The teachers, who have retired and live in the Good Samaritan complex in Fairfield Glade, spent years working on agricultural projects in Nigeria while with Kansas State University. The task? Build a college of agricultural at Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University. Years of British colonial rule had left Nigeria with few people trained in modern agricultural practices.

“I was offered the position while living in Kansas,’ Bob said. “I didn’t even know where Nigeria was.”

When the couple arrived at the school in 1965, they suddenly realized the effort would have to start from scratch.

“Nearly all the farming back then was done with hand tools,” Bob said. “In our first class we had a total of five students. We had one small classroom and hardly any supplies. Limited supplies were available nearby, but because we were funded by the U.S taxpayers, we were required to buy supplies from U.S. suppliers.

"By the time those supplies arrived, it would be months later,” he continued. “But we persevered.”

Bob’s first office was a thatched hut. But despite the odds, the program began to grow.

As more classes moved through the program, some students were selected to go to the U.S. and study agriculture at Kansas State University.

“It was quite an honor for them, but they needed a lot of support when they arrived in this country,” he said. “It was a cultural shock, to say the least.”

While Bob was building the agricultural program at the school, Ginny taught in the local schools.

“The children were great. Not once, in all the time I taught there, did I have a discipline problem,” she said.

Bob said when both tours were offered to them, the decision to accept them was a joint one.

“We did this together,“ he said. “We were not going to be separated by that great a distance for that amount of time."

The Schneiders taught in Nigeria from 1965-'67 and again from 1970-'72. The couple bought a lot on Lake St. George in 1974 after touring the Fairfield Glade area. Twenty years later, Ginny designed their house. They moved in in 1994. In June 2017, they relocated to Good Samaritan Village.

Today, the Schneiders would like to return to Zaria, but the closest they have come is viewing the campus of the university on Google Earth. The college of agriculture is thriving and the university now has more than 22,000 students enrolled.

“We feel good about serving the Nigerian people in the way we could,” he said. “But it was God who was behind us. He held us together and we’ve never forgotten that.”