By RUME OYITSO |
It was a happy moment for Mrs. Tanimola Raji Disu, a widow, when her son, Hammed, 11, graduated from the Primary section of the Inner City Mission for Children Schools in Lagos, Nigeria. “Everything is perfect here—teachers, structure, teaching. And my son is doing very well even at home,” she said. “I live in Ogun State and I use to come to Lagos to visit my sister. When my husband died, I thought all was over for me, but I thank God for the ICMC that has given my son free education. I couldn’t have been able to do this on my own” These were her words. The story is the same for the parents of the 82 pupils who graduated from both the Nursery and Primary sections of the Institution.
“To the graduating students…you are entering a new chapter of your life in an exciting world, full of challenges and opportunities. The school has prepared you not just on the academic front, but as leaders to play your part in helping communities improve their quality of life. This is a quality that you must build on”. This was the charge of the Head of School on the occasion of the 2nd gradation/Prize giving day of the ICMC.
Nigeria, the 5thlargest oil producer in the world is still a country battling with poverty. 80 million of its citizens strive below poverty line and over 10 million roam forlorn streets, says United Nations Organization (UN). Poor wealth inclusion and dodgy social values have been placed on the dirty doorsteps of corrupt politicians. Access to good quality education has become an increasingly expensive enterprise as educational facilities crumble and basic amenities remain austere as children of the very poor drop out at basic levels while others do not get the chance to go near even the grubbiest of Primary schools. It seems nearly certain they will end up deeper in the cesspool of poverty—but for the ICMC.
A call to change the sorry state of the poor has been led by the Inner City Mission for Children, a non-governmental organization (NGO) created by a Christian body, the Believers LoveWorld Ministry A.K.A Christ Embassy and its President, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome. “Every child is your child”, Pastor Oyakhilome said a decade ago. “We have a divine responsibility to God, to reach children in our inner cities. If we don’t reach them quickly and get them off the streets, if we don’t educate them…they will be a source of danger 15 years’ from now”.
The NGO started as an education relief centre that provided bridge programmes for late starters and the so called ‘left behind’ so that they could recover lost years and play catch up with their peers. There was no full academic curriculum at the time. In 2008, the programme became a model school comprising both nursery and primary wings that graduated 52 pupils last year and 82 in 2015. The bridge programme still runs.
With messages like “End Child Poverty” and “Education is a Fundamental Solution to Child Poverty” all over its website and facebook page, the mission is bent on protecting the rights to education of the less privileged children. “I have triplets in the Innercity Mission Nursery and Primary School. I am a widow”. Mrs Nwosu testified.
“It cuts across Nigeria and other countries, including Ghana, South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, and the entire continent of Africa,” said Pastor Solayinka Agboola, the Director of the Mission. The school aspect is just a strand of the thick fibre of child-oriented programmes run in the ICMC. According to her, “there are four major programmes: children health and nutrition; child care and support; family strengthening; and child development”. The school, under the fourth programme, provides quality education to indigent children absolutely free of charge.
The school normally feeds it pupils’ morning and afternoon because there’s a food bank stocked by the mission and its partners. It also supports low income earning families. “My wife would come and get some provision from the mission for the family because I lost my job,” said Nicholas Eze, a beneficiary of the food bank and father of three. The mission supports orphanages with basic amenities and through its food bank. It also has a home that takes care of helpless children; “they are getting all an ideal home can offer a child—including exposures like excursions and a platform to demand their place in the world” Agbola said. Here is where the mission advocacy push complements the global action on eradicating extreme child poverty.
Agboola, who was recently invited to the United Nations Headquarters to lend her voice to social development, said “we are helping in fulfilling the world’s new development agenda—the Sustainable Development Agenda—where it relates to the rights of the child”. No fewer than 27 schools came together for the Children Voice programme organized by the mission recently. The mission authorities said it was a platform for the neglected children to voice out. “They might be so dirty you can’t hug them, but when you interact with them, you know they have dreams and aspirations like every other child” she said. The advocacy, according to her, has led the ICMC children to fora and media discourses on child rights and development issues. “We also provide brain-friendly materials where we expound the rights of the child, and how they can make demand from the government for their own place in the world”.
The ICMC is able to monitor its alumni through special programs for them. “During our last Alumni meeting, I remember one of our old students came up the stage to say“now I am an entrepreneur, I run my own business, I have customers from all over the world and I pay people salaries” Agboola said. These are just a few of the many testimonials of how the NGO is transforming lives.
By RUME OYITSO |