During the week, I attended the launch of The Purple Girl Foundation which is co-founded by Mary Akpobome; Executive Director of Heritage Bank and her husband Ali Baba. It held at the Civic Centre and I was looking forward to it. Being a manager of a non-profit myself, it was an opportunity to network and see what other civil society actors what were doing in their different fields.
During the introductory session of the program, we were told stories of the different girls who the foundation is supporting. At a point the moderator noticed the hall was a bit noisy and called politely for our attention. He then stated that perhaps, it was because the stories seemed so far from our reality. To be honest, he was right. In a way it seemed hard to imagine someone somewhere couldn’t afford to go to school especially when you’re surrounded with good food, affluent surroundings and influential people. However not for me.
I remembered when at a point in time, I had to be pulled out of school because of the fees. I didn’t attend school for close to a year, before I was enrolled and luckily pushed to the next class because I was able to pass the class exams with only a bad grade in math.
I remembered when I was doing my NYSC camp in Kebbi State. On one of those days where it was time for us to sit down under the hot sun while we endured some lectures we wouldn’t remember in the next five minutes; I usually carried a book because I never wanted to be bored. There was a young Hausa girl who couldn’t have been more than eight, but who looked quite put together. She was hawking pure water.
She was young but her Hijab was clean, her eyes clear and intelligent and I felt bad. She obviously didn’t have the chance to be enrolled in a proper school to receive the education that would empower her to be so much more. Someone who purchased water from her gave her a little extra change. There was a young Hausa boy (whom I will assume was her brother ,who was watching from a distance) stepped up and collected the money. The corpers who purchased the water started asking questions about why he was collecting the money from her. It was sad. It was heart wrenching. Patriachy at a young age.
The young boys were not left out of this harsh reality. They usually lined up in front of the hostels and begged us to allow them fetch our water and wash our boots for a token of perhaps fifty to two hundred naira. What child should be subjected to such? Their futures, as it stands, seem so bleak and some of us seem helpless to help them out.
When I founded NYouthSpeaks, a civic education outfit, its aim was not only to empower young upcoming voters in our society, but also ensure that those who couldn’t afford to go to school would be empowered to do so. We were able to do this to a certain extent through small scholarships by well meaning individuals in our society.
One thing we fail to understand about the quality of our voting decisions is as a result of the quality of information/education received. When an oppressive government aims to destroy the quality of the democracy we uphold they destroy the educational system. They either block access to it, or diminish the quality of what is received; or even worse teach harmful ideologies that would hamper their development. I believe that our curriculum doesn’t teach enough on our history, nationalism, political education and effective ways we can engage our government on issues that are important to us.
In our own individual capacities, it never hurts to give back to society by sponsoring the education of a child. We must realise that we are all inter-dependent in this society. By educating that girl, you might be ensuring that the doctor (who is going to perform that life saving surgery on you in your later years) had to chance to receive the education she needs. By sending that boy to school, you might be ensuring he doesn’t end up on the streets, and one day becomes the armed robber who will tear into your home.
Quality education should be a right, and not a privilege. Through this, we can ensure the positive development of our collective future.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime