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SOGUNRO: Community where pupils access education on boats

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*As community lacks govt presence

By Elizabeth Uwandu

EDUCATION is said to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.  It is also considered as one of the basic rights that a state has to provide for its citizens. This is apparently the reason that Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights state that “everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.”

Pupils going to school at Sogunro Community in Iwaya, Yaba in Lagos

However lofty the goals of education, according to a recent report by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, many children still lack access to education due to poverty and lack of government presence.

Educational opportunities

It states, “Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. Yet, millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities, many as a result of poverty.”

True to UNESCO’s reports, Sogunro community in Iwaya, Yaba, a Lagos suburb that is made up of Okunagbo waterside; Sogunro waterside and Sogunro sea shore, depicts the sordid  picture of hopelessness, despair and sufferings. Pupils in this neighbourhoods risk their lives on daily basis by crossing the river channel on boats to the only three private schools, Sunset Nursery & Primary International School; Climax Pathway Nursery & Primary School and Living Rock International Nursery and Primary School, to access education and satisfy their love for knowledge. . This is because in this neighbourhood, there is complete absence of government educational institutions.

Apart from this, these pupils who come mostly from Okunagbo and Sogunro Waterside to Sogunro endure the waves and elements of the sea such as cold or wild winds during the rainy season or the scorching sun during the dry season. They also ply on these boats without life jackets. In Sogunro, the pupils learn in the most inhuman environment, in dilapidated structures, putting their heads down every time they write.

Love for education makes us cross the river everyday – Sogunro Children

When Vanguard in the company of a teacher at Sunset Nursery and Primary School, Mr. Obed Todo, spoke to some children in the community, they affirmed that despite the harsh conditions they are exposed to on daily basis, their love for education propels them to use the riverboats to school.

They, however, cited poverty, harsh weather conditions and disease like malaria, hand and foot sores as hindrances to their quest for knowledge.

Favour Tanko, eight-year-old primary three pupil of Sunset Nursery school in the company of her five year-old brother, Samuel, told Vanguard that despite her love for education, her quest for knowledge sometimes gets threatened when her parents cannot afford the N100 daily school fees or when there is heavy downpour. Her words: “My parents’ occupation is fish business and I am the first of three children. I come from Okunagbon by boat to school everyday. But sometimes, I and my brother stay at home when our parents cannot give us N100 each for school fees. Again, when heavy rain falls, we miss school as we do not have safety jackets to protect us from the cold weather.”

I want to be a doctor because my community lacks doctors and hospitals – Todo Joel

For Todo Joel, senior prefect, Climax Pathway Nursery and Primary School, who urged the Lagos State government to come and establish  good schools and hospitals in the community said his aim is to become a medical doctor. “I come from Sogunro waterside to school everyday because I want to be a medical doctor to treat my people as we do not have a hospital or a doctor but nurses in the community.”

Education in slums within Lagos mega city

It is, however, a paradox that in Lagos, one of the emerging mega cities in the world with huge budget earmarked for education as evidenced in the 2016 budget in which N113.379bn was allocated to education sector (representing 11.37 per cent of the total  budget) this scenario is allowed to fester. Despite Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s allocation of N92.4b to education in the 2017 fiscal year and the initiation of  educational policies such as 360 Degree Education launched last year by the state Deputy Governor and Commissioner for Education, Dr. Idiat Oluranti, education in slums such as Sogunro and Makoko has continued to remain in a state of disillusion.

Learning environment

Oluranti among other things promised that the new 360 degree educational policy when fully implemented, would make teaching and learning environment more conducive for total education of school children, provide new model schools that would be fully equipped with state-of-the art learning facilities to attract children to learn.

We try our best, our best needs government intervention – Private schools owners

Expressing dismay over unfulfilled promises by government and non- governmental organisations, NGOs, Mr. Emmanuel Oke, founder, Sunset Nursery & Primary International School, said government’s inability to fulfill its numerous promises in setting up public primary and secondary schools in Sogunro has made him sceptical whenever government intervention is mentioned.

His words: “You can see that the children are suffering. They suffer when coming to school and even in classrooms as majority of them write on their laps and the environment is even not conducive.”

Corroborating Oke’s claim, the manager, Climax Pathway Nursery & Primary School, Mr. Kola Zachariah Olufemi, whose school served as pioneer to others bemoaned the challenges such as poverty and ignorance of some members of the community that inhibit their children from going to school.

His words, “Before this school was established in 2003, only few went to long-distance public schools. That was one of the reasons we set up this school where parents pay a token of N100 daily for each of their wards. Yet, many of  children do not come to school.”

 

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