Anslem Ozor, Dr. Modupe Adefeso-Olateru, Dr. Modupe Irele, Early Childhood, Educaation Reform Team, Education, Education Reform Research Fellow, Fantz Fanon, Incubator Africa, Media Communications, Mr Kunle Oguneye and Mrs. Lara Cookey who have invested their resources in my journey to becoming a dynamic holy spirit-led reformer., Mr. Taiwo Akinlami, Mr. Thomas Rudnick, Mrs Alero Ayida-Otobo, Mrs Bola Kehinde, Mrs Bolaji Osime, Mrs Oyinda Sonola, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, Ms. Sola Adeola, Pa Christopher Kolade, Reform, www.Slum2School.wordpress.com
“Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it-Frantz Fanon
I was perplexed, tired and exhausted after a long walk from Mashi to Kogo-Gabas Village, very close to Niger Republic. I was unsettled as I saw how Nigerians, citizens of my own country suffered in silence. They were mostly Fulani folks, their footwears were made of rubber nylons used to wrap food stuffs and consumables-thanks to INEC voters’ registration exercise. As I rode home on camel, those images came flashing in my mind, they kept haunting me. I couldn’t see them suffer and not help. I jumped down from the camel, fell down onto the hot desert sand and started weeping.
I kept pondering on what next do, confused & helpless, I fancied the idea of leaving them to their fate, afterall it wasn’t my case, besides that, another thought confronted me with the boldness of either acting up or burning up in silence, the latter which I chose to act upon. Next day I spoke with a corper doctor, she said I would only get to help if they consented and that was how we went back to that village around 10pm in the night to tell the villagers that in a week time, the doctor & I would be back to give them drugs and domestic household items after my trip from Kano. I spoke to the kids through an interpreter, they responded that they would have loved to go to school but there was no school. But this was a State that has produced two presidents of this country – I heaved a sigh of relief and continued to make plans till I was able to go back to that village and donate the items to those kids and their families. It dawned on me that the onus lay on us, my generation to either shoulder this responsibility or shy away from nation building. I might not have fulfilled all my desires to buy all I had in mind, but somehow my doctor friend & I in one way had managed to restore hope to those communities. Each time I reflect on my experiences there, I’m of the opinion that if Nigeria’s greatness is to be restored, it would have to start from northern Nigeria-wonderful people, friendly environment, vast farmlands, inspiring cultures.
Fast forward to 2012, after my NYSC, I was at conversations-an event anchored by Creative Nigeria Project when I heard Otto Orondaam speak about Slum2School Project, as at then Slum2School was gradually evolving, I never waited to hear him speak twice when I offered my bid to be a volunteer. I navigated my way to Makoko and discovered another shocker! That people lived in dilapidated, decrepit and unhygienic environment! I started making comparisons. With the same burden, I tied my experience in the far north to what I was seeing down here in the west. Another option closed in on my mind. That regardless of wherever we are there is poverty and economic breakdown in the country, our schools are churning our graduates who are educated slaves’ so to speak, our primary education, is in near collapse and everyone seems to act like all is well. There and then, I discovered that our leaders have failed in all areas, they have used religion which was meant to be a tool for social re-engineering to divide the people; they have stolen their future and mortgaged ours for pains. They not only stole from their generation, they took away our inheritance, they left us with no heritage and left us a legacy of hopelessness. What could I do? At least to make a difference, It was then that the Slum2School team came together to put Measurement & Evaluation in place to check how well each kid already enrolled into the school system in Makoko was performing. iVolunteers Toyosi Banjo , Inemo Preghafi, Eva Umebese, Uju Nwobu, Otto Orondaam, Ogboru Mudiaga, Bethia Idoko, Arinze, Olaleye Kemi ,and some other iVolunteers spearheaded this team. Then there was the verification stage also, where we verified the details of the children and their eligibility to be enrolled into schools. The die was cast, everyone was involved we became a formidable force, noting would stop us!
In all of these, I was more than excited seeing the smiles on the faces of these kids when they learnt that come the next months they would be going to school for the first time in their lives, I was more than happy to have become a solution rather than assume the unneeded title of a social critic and chant litanies of complaints. I had now become a social architect, a reformer and a game changer. Each day in the Slum, had me smelling of smoke, travelling on water in wooden canoes to see the elders of the communities for meetings and community related events. I fell into dirty pools of water, had my clothes stained and came out smelling of fish! I was more than resolute to feel the people’s pains. Seeing the children in school gave me hope of a better and brighter future for Nigeria’s future leaders and when called upon to mentor-a-child, I saw it as more than just a task, it was a call, I’ve began a journey as a mentor, a role model, a volunteer, an education reformer and a nation builder, I had put my hands on the plough, this was not the time to back off, quit, back out, excuse myself and switch lanes, this was the real time to do the right thing! And these reasons below forever inspires me why I chose to be a mentor to a child
L-R iVolunteers Bethia Idoko, Anslem Ozor, Cecil Dunkwu, Bayo Omoboriowo, Elomena Asamaige, Uju Nwobu & Otto Orondaam
Learning: Dealing with children is simply amazing! These little mentees have knowledge I don’t have! My close relationship with these mentees has helped me develop good people skills, which has enhanced my professional and personal life. One lesson I’ll never forget is that “A child needs someone to believe. The number one ability of the teacher is ATTITUDE. Instilling discipline in a child does not a start with rule, it starts with example, and this is the primary role of education – Education must fulfil that. This so far has been my number one lesson as a mentor.
Paying Back. Becoming a mentor has afforded me an opportunity to “pay back.” Over the years as I reminisced on my successes in academics and on the corporate chain, I understood that I wouldn’t have been where I am presently if not for mentors , who have , who have been and who are still guiding me . I have been helped climbing the ladder of life. This is my chance to do the same and I’m glad I’m doing it will all dedication and value driven commitment. Although I’ve received recognitions from peers and other agencies. Nothwithstanding, becoming a mentor is a big commitment and, for some, a risk. “Putting myself out there” to help these children achieve their innate abilities, skills and talents is admirable and this is what drives me.
Self Appraisal. Being a child mentor, I’ve been able to validate my own accomplishments. It has helped me review my history and in some way has made me more humble than I thought. When someone helps you reframe all you’ve learned. You’ll realize that you have accomplished more than you thought! Self accomplishment can never come from earning juicy salaries; it comes from the satisfaction of being a giver, a cause helper and a nation builder.
Sphere Of Influence. Being a child mentor has expanded my professional and personal network, my sphere of influence and people that I meet. I feel proud and satisfied about my role as a mentor. And, I feel good helping another child advance his/her learning skills. There is a lot to be discovered in a child, the earlier we realize this, the better the quality of our education system will be.
Taking the time to get to know and respect a little child and share my experiences is a powerful way to change the world. I am glad I met fellow Slum2School iVolunteer who oftentimes take personal trips to undertake tasks, who also use their personal efforts, resources irrespective of seemingly difficulties to get the jobs done. Iam encouraged. I am powerful beyond measure. I don’t need to occupy a level of authority to become a leader. My consciousness of mortality remains my greatest strength to achieving immortality, because when I transit to a higher life someday, it would be said that I’ve used my life to recreate the world around me, this is what I work towards.
On A Lighter Note
I understand that the history of Nigeria is at an alternating gear, Nigeria and the world is waiting for something from we Nigerian Youths other than copying, imitating and harbouring undue comparisons, which would make an unrealistic framework for us to follow. It is now bestowed on us to set out on a new journey of starting a new history of Nigeria, a history which will have regard for societal values, nation building, transparency, justice and have educational institutions put in place. If Nigeria is to become what we expect it to be, all young people need to leave the backseat and take the front row, the time has come for young people to become political aspirants, local government councilors, ward chairmen and even ministers! We must look within ourselves for solutions. What worked in India might not work in Nigeria, the story of how Singapore, China, Brazil & Finland changed the nature of their educational systems attests to this. Nigeria must begin to manufacture, we must start the process of exportation, we must renew the culture of farming, we must make energy, education and infrasture national priorities.
As an Education Reformer, my gratitude goes to Mrs Alero Ayida-Otobo, Dr. Modupe Irele, Mr. Taiwo Akinlami, Ms. Sola Adeola, Pa Christopher Kolade, Mrs Bolaji Osime, Mr. Thomas Rudnick, Mrs Bola Kehinde, Dr. Modupe Adefeso-Olateru, Mrs Oyinda Sonola, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, Mr Kunle Oguneye and Mrs. Lara Cookey who have invested their resources in my journey to becoming a dynamic holy spirit-led reformer.
Think About This: Our consciousness of mortality is our greatest strength to achieving immortality”