Children’s Day: Focus on Slum2School example
By Linda Orajekwe
For a country that reportedly has one of the highest economic growth rate in Africa, it is ironic that we have the highest number of out of school children.
According to UNICEF, over 13 million children in Nigeria are presently out of school. This report is higher compared to the report of 2016 where 10.3 Million children couldn’t afford the luxury of basic education in Nigeria.
This lack of education is caused by myriad of reasons synonymous to the present Nigerian system; from lack of employment, to underemployment, and insecurity that have successfully uprooted and misplaced families.
These misfortunes have placed families in impoverish situation where survival rather than education becomes a priority. Families now live in situations where they’re forced to live from hand to mouth; a way of life that can obstruct any dream of a future beyond mere survival.
This reality is what the people of Makoko community has effortlessly made a lifestyle. According to Wikipedia, “Makoko is a neighbourhood across the third mainland bridge located at the coast of Lagos”. This definition as apt as it is m, does not describe the abject poverty that permeates the land. Children walk around looking haggard, bare footed, dry skin, mostly covered in dirt, houses built on water with more than seven humans staying in a small constructed wooden house.
According to the population report in 2012, Makoko consists of 84,840 individuals with majority of this population being children whose parents cannot afford a basic free education for them.
These children of Makoko, almost forgotten by the educational sector of Nigeria, are usually seen helping their parents, who are popular for their job as fishermen, either fish or help them sell the fish. Their lives in most cases, start and end with water and fish; a lifestyle that doesn’t just limit your dream but also limits your life choices.
What this means for the children of Makoko, is that the poverty of the land becomes hereditary. They grow to become their parents, starting from where the previous generation stopped without knowing what could’ve been- what a quality, standard education can provide.
In 2012, a young National Youth Corp Member serving with a bank, Otto Orondaam, visited Makoko community in Lagos State and was shocked at the number of children living their lives without basic education. He saw children who never dreamt and the ones who did dream but lived hopelessly because their dreams might never see the light of day. Orondaam, who is passionate about social development decided to use Makoko community as his community project for his NYSC. That pet project was eventually transformed and Christianed Slum2School Africa, an organization that ensures children are not just educated but receive quality education at zero cost.
To grow a project such as this, Otto Orondaam quit his job at the bank and fully committed himself to ensure these children get the kind of education they deserve.
“After I quit my job, I faced a lot of challenges from friends and family who felt I have gone mad” says Orondaam. “But after about two to three months, we were able to fundraise within our social media space, among friends and family, and we were able to get 118 children who were never into school into schools.”.
From that humble beginning seven years ago, Slum2School has now offered scholarship to thousands of children, to begin their primary and secondary school journey. In doing this, they’ve adopted various public schools to ensure quality education is available at zero cost, and built learning centers to help easy learning and expand the scope of the children’s minds.
This experience has been nothing short of life-changing for so many children and their families. Children who thought their dreams have no chance in the real world are hopeful again and can boldly talk about their future now, because they have the passport of education to get them there.
Dosun Sharon, a beneficiary of Slum2School Africa, who is presently in junior secondary school, said “when I was much younger, I dreamt of becoming a lawyer.
I didn’t think the dream was possible because I couldn’t read and write. I saw Slum2School around us, I didn’t know what they were looking for. I saw them writing children’s names so I went to write my name. They brought me to the school, registered me, and I started from primary one Now, I can read and write and I can be a lawyer”
Another beneficiary, Samuel said; “When I was very small I dreamt I was going to be a doctor but when my friends were going to school and could read and write, me I couldn’t read, write and speak English. At that point, I said that dream won’t be possible”
Deborah’s case was different but familiar. According to her, “before I met Slum2School, I was going to school but I was not serious with it. Sometimes I will go to school and sometimes, I will stay at home, selling with my mum”.
There are thousands of children like Sharon, Samuel, and Deborah, saved by the Slum2School project, filling the gap where our government has ignored to provide quality education for its people.
The project is not just educating these children, but also empowering them, through the help of volunteers, who commit time and resources to ensure that these children have the opportunity to stand a Chance to change their estate in life.
But how involved is government in a project of this kind that is fast changing the lives of these slum dwellers?
“Government’s input is more of collaboration than financial”says Orondaam. “One of the things we’ve been doing is collaborating with the government. We have about three government schools we’ve adopted, and we’re trying to ensure that we can support these schools and build them to be model public schools”
Slum2school is majorly driven by these young volunteers who are not just seeing the problems that afflict Nigeria and its people, but taking that step further to be a part of the people that are solving that problem. They do this by stretch their hands to raise the new generation, so that they can also raise themselves.
For these volunteers, the success of the children is their drive and satisfaction. They give their all, from communicating to the children, to a strict follow up to ensure they are learning, and communicating with the parents, to ensure the children report to school when they should.
According to a seasoned volunteer, Inemo Preghafi, “We take actions. We are ready to put all the 50,000 thousand children in school, God willing. Seeing Sharon from where we started, and Sharon of now is major progress.
It’s one of the reasons that give us the motivation to want to do more because, we have so many children like Sharon who started from a certain level and now they’re a success story”
It’s over six years since Slum2School went from a Corp member’s project to being an organization and in that time, it has provided scholarships and series of support to over 32,000 children across Nigeria, and won over 20 national and international awards of recognition for the great work being done in Africa.
In 2018, Slum2School, which is primarily being run by volunteers called for volunteer openings and over 3,000 volunteers across 13 countries in Africa signed up to be a part of this change-making process, to help build and secure the future of the next generation.
This organization is not just about enrolling children to school but also about following up on their growth to ensure they’re improving in almost every area of their lives; from education to health, to mentoring, vocational and life skills acquisition. This is where the thousands of Volunteers pull their weight.
They’re sectioned according to their expertise to volunteer in areas that benefit these children and they dive in, giving their all for the growth of every child.
Unlike the normal structures in many Nigerian schools, Slum2School has a follow-up and grooming plans to ensure the child is well monitored for growth and properly coached by learned and skilled volunteers.
This work being done by Otto Orondaam and other young Nigerians, is one the people of Makoko, who at a time didn’t understand the importance of education, are beginning to love. Speaking to Agboola Adijat, a resident in Makoko community whose children were once in public school, she revealed that she had to change their school because the school wasn’t helping her child academically.
However, she wishes Slum2School would extend their provision of quality education to other schools.
“I like the method Slum2School uses. I love it well but it’s only public schools they use to give, they don’t give to any other schools” Adijat went on to talk about how useful the project has been to the people of Makoko “This thing they’re doing has helped a lot of families because, it’s not every family that can afford to give their children basic education.
They bring these children to school, give them uniform, school bags, and textbooks, biro, and notebook. They’re giving them all these things so that education will be less expensive for them; because, people who do not have education, it’s just as if you do not have anything in life. I just wish they’ll put it in every school”.
Another resident, Monsura Gimba said; “Slum2school project has been very helpful in taking children out of the street into school. Instead of these kids to be roaming around, wasting themselves, this project is helping their future by making sure they don’t waste it away”.
Slum2School is the dream come true for every underprivileged child, whose future is being washed away right in front of their eyes. With little being done in a country like Nigeria, an environment like Makoko is not one given the necessary priority it deserves, despite the possibility that lies in the hearts and hands of the children that reside there.
In May 2018, the children who are present beneficiaries of Slum2School in Makoko, created a campaign called “A Thousand Dreams”. This campaign according to one of the beneficiaries, Obichukwu Emmanuel, is to help enroll a thousand children into school each year. It’s interesting to see how these children who had no knowledge or understanding of the importance of education have now grown through the Slum2school project to become Ambassadors of education in their community.
According to 12 years old Alade Mariam “We go into the community and then we tell them about the importance of education and why they should send their children to school”
Obichukwu Emmanuel explained that the parents have to be convinced because aside from the fact that they don’t have enough funds to send their children to school, some of these parents don’t understand the importance or value of education.
As the world marks International Children’s Day tomorrow, there are many who will not be celebrating as their future hang in the balance. A project like the Slum2School is one that should be replicated in many of our rural communities where children are begging for the opportunity of better learning conditions.
Nigerians would do well to support initiatives like this financially and the many selfless volunteers.
So far, Otto Orandaam says: “what we do as an organization is to tap into our network of volunteers and see how we can raise funds for the campaign.”
Last year, Slum2School launched its Enterprise Development Centre, (EDC) in one of its adopted schools in Makoko where over 1000 children and youths between the ages of 9 to 25 can learn how to set up small businesses, and also learn skills to become professionals.
To Slum2School, education is not just about going to school. There is a strong belief in the system that every child should be equipped with necessary skills to boost their confidence, and give them a fair chance to opportunities available for all.
They keep researching to find better ways to improve learning for the children and be their light until they can make theirs. In Samuel’s words, “Slum2school has given us the chance to become what we want to become in future.”.