March 11, 2020

Daphne Ntiri recognized for decades of service, longstanding commitment to literacy, adult education

Daphne Ntiri, professor in the Department of African American Studies and director of the WSU Another Chance program, was inducted into the International Adult Education and Continuing Education (IACE) Hall of Fame.

For more than 30 years, Ntiri has blended research and scholarship, community engagement, and service in Detroit and beyond. Her work epitomizes the goals and engagement set forth by the IACE, whose prestigious Hall of Fame is housed at the University of Oklahoma. Ntiri was selected by the IACE Board of Directors for this honor, and was invited to celebrate her induction at the organization’s annual symposium and induction ceremony on March 11 in Philadelphia.

She joined the Wayne State faculty in 1987, and her expertise spans the areas of African American studies, adult education and literacy, and gender and third-world studies. Ntiri’s work challenges the concept of the individual and his or her place in society and shows, through solidly grounded research, the manifestations of continuing social inequalities and effective strategies of empowerment to combat them.

“Education is that singular opportunity to get where you’re going — it opens so many doors,” said Ntiri. “There are levels of literacy, including low literacy, functional illiteracy and total illiteracy. For those taking advantage of literacy opportunities, it’s redemptive and empowering. When people develop those skills, their expectations and aspirations change completely.”

Ntiri served for three years as a consultant on adult education/literacy to United Nations (UNESCO) in France, Senegal and Somalia, before launching her long-term initiatives at Wayne State through state-funded and federal grants totaling over $5 million. Those initiatives included Council for Excellence in Adult Learning (CEAL), Office of Lifelong Learning Research (ALLR) and, more recently, the WSU Another Chance program, launched in 2009 to extend outreach literacy programing in Detroit and its surrounding communities, providing adults with low basic skills a pathway to success. The program addresses the educational needs of the disproportionately large number of urban residents who need preparation to get their GED diplomas, or to help transition into post-secondary institutions or the modern workplace.

The program has served as a model for sustainable, academically affiliated, community-based organizations that have been successfully replicated in different settings, including prison-based programs, churches, hospitals and other urban populations.

Ntiri is committed to promoting learning and transformative experiences for students in Detroit and beyond. She has also taught at the University of Djibouti, and earned a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, where she taught and worked to promote education in agriculture and cottage industries, and advocated for improved conditions for women and girls in an Islamic society. In 2017, Ntiri was invited to join the research faculty at the Centre for Gender Research at Uppsala University, where her work focused on gender equality and literacy for Somali immigrants in continuation of her earlier studies of this population.

 “My role is to promote and encourage questioning and to value the full humanity of every person and to work for access and equity,” she said. “The hope is to incarnate change and hope in a globalizing world. The aim is to have them READ the world rather than just the word. The hope is to incarnate change and hope for a better life.”

Her tireless advocacy has been recognized in many ways. Ntiri has served as executive director of the Detroit Literacy Coalition and chair of the City of Detroit Literacy Task Force. For her work, she received the Arthur L. Johnson Individual Community Leadership Award, the Alumni Faculty Service Award, the Women of Wayne Award, the Pearls of Hope Foundation Women in Education Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Michigan State Department of Education.  She will be appointed to the rank of distinguished service professor by the president of the university on April 23 for her extraordinary contributions to the university and services outside the university that have brought honor and recognition to the institution.

A prolific scholar, Ntiri founded Bedford Publishers to advance the scholarship of the diaspora and to aid the advancement and promotion of minority scholars in the academy with works like Africana Womanism: Reclaiming Ourselves. She has served on the journal review board of Adult Education Quarterly and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Commission of Professors of Adult Education. She has amassed over 40 published papers, and most recently edited the book Literacy as Gendered Discourse: Engaging the Voices of Women in Global Societies.  In a sense, the totality of her work demonstrates the importance of achieving the right balance between theory and practice, detachment and engagement, the academy and the community.

Ntiri is a member of the Adult Education Research Consortium (AERC), the African Studies Association, the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the Association of American Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), the Michigan Association for Adult and Continuing Education (MAACE) and the Third World Conference Foundation. Ntiri received her doctorate from Michigan State University and her Bachelors from Fourah Bay College, the University of Sierra Leone, her home country.