Written By:

Ijeoma Ukwadinachi

It all started in a very mundane manner but here is how the story goes:

Our work entails visiting slum neighborhoods most of the time. I have come to discover that no two visits to the same neighbourhood are ever the same. On this particular day in 2009, I went on a field visit to Ikota.

Ikota is a high-density slum neighbourhood situated along Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lagos. This community plays host to over ten thousand people of which children and women constitute a greater percentage of the population. It is a cultural melting point hosting communities of diverse tribes and nationalities, amongst which are Ibos, Yorubas, Bini, Efik, Itsekiris, Ijaws, as well as Ghanaians. Children in this community face many daily challenges to their education. Their parents are very poor, uninformed and uneducated. The extreme level of poverty in the community is evidenced by the filth visible everywhere and the bamboo shacks that has been converted to homes.

As I got into the community on that fateful day, I noticed a group of young children playing near a refuse dump. It was about 10am in the morning and I knew they were supposed to be in school. However, knowing the poverty and illiteracy level in this community, I wasn’t too surprised to find children running around in their underwear during school hours. On closer examination, I discovered that they were not playing. They were actually scavenging for food! I was shocked to my marrows! My eyes welled up with tears. Neatly packed in the small tote bag in my left hand was my lunch for the day. The stench from that refuse dump was horrid and I couldn’t help but ask them to leave the place. They all ran away playfully except for one of them.

She looked frail and small. By merely looking at her, I placed her age at 4 years but when I stooped to talk to her, she told me she was 8! Poverty and malnutrition had slowed down this girl’s physical growth and development. Then we got talking. I asked after her mother and she said: “I no have mama and papa, I dey live with Broda Ramon”.At this point, I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore.

I thought about myself at that age. I couldn’t imagine not having my parents. I would have been like a fish out of water. During my growing up years, I was so unaware of what went on around me that I couldn’t imagine scouting for what to eat. But here was an 8 year old girl with a bleak future staring her in the face if nobody did anything.

Immediately I asked her to take me to Broda Ramon, she took my hand as if we had known each other for a long time. Brother Ramon turned out to be her paternal uncle who took her into his home after she lost both parents. Her other siblings (a boy and a girl) were also living with different relatives. He had been crippled from the waist down as a result of his involvement in a serious auto accident. He told me he repaired umbrellas to make ends meet and could barely provide for himself and his family (his wife left him with their 3 children after the accident) I told him about Bethesda and asked the little girl if she would love to go to school. Her response was “I wan chop food before I go Bethesda school”

This snapshot was taken after we shared the food in my lunch pack and dressed her up.

Modinat (that’s her name), has since been enrolled into the Bethesda Nursery and Primary School, Ikota. She is presently in the Primary 3 class and doing very well.

Modinat playing with her friends in school 2 years later.

There are thousands of Modinats around us: in our neighbourhoods; in the slums and on the streets! Imagine what their future will be like without our intervention, no matter how small.

The SLUM2School project is an amazing initiative and we are extremely glad to work together with Otto Orondaam and his amazing group of young change agents who have decided to put hope on the faces of innocent children. If nothing is done, these children could grow up to become sex workers, house helps, touts and miscreants in the society. It is amazing how a little act of kindness can switch the future of a child. Just like Modinat, we can give them hope and secure their future!

Support the SLUM2School Project today! Let’s put 100 children from the Makoko slum in school by May 10th, 2012!

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Remember that a tree can produce millions of match sticks, but just one match stick can bring down a forest. We never know how much impact we can create with our little effort, until we begin to act. #iVolunteeR

For inquiries about pledges, support, volunteering or donations please send us an e-mail at slumtoschool@gmail or SMS to 08063477974 or 08033536487