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Free Schools: A Cleric’s Iconic Way of Giving Education to Poor

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If there is any Nigerian who believes in the education and well-being of the less privileged, he is Apostle Chibuzor Chinyere, the founder of Omega Power Ministry (OPM) Worldwide, with its headquarters in Port Harcourt.

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Apostle Chinyere believes that children from a very poor background may not realise their dream in life in the present system of education in Nigeria, where education seems to be the yardstick for measuring affluence.

As far as the cleric is concerned, there is no difference between the rich and the poor.

No wonder he decided to build free schools for children from the poorest of the poor families in Bayelsa, Rivers and Abia states and on the verge of completing another one in Kaduna.

According to Chinyere, children from poor families cannot be left behind as efforts are being made by government to reposition the country for good.

It was therefore, no surprise that he got so gripped with the “free school’’ project having tasted poverty at childhood.

As a former recharge card seller and an airport cleaner, Chinyere has undergone a dramatic transformation in the space of just 12 years having floated “The OPM Foundation’’, a foundation that brought him to limelight, thanks to humanitarian services.

For instance, about nine free schools are operational with five in various locations in Port Harcourt.

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These schools and the foundation are fully funded through the church which has over 150 branches within and outside the country.

Presently, he is a man that cannot go unnoticed having risen from grass to grace. He is not one to shy away from mixing with his friends regardless of their age or social status.

“I was motivated to doing the right thing because 12 years ago, I was a homeless man, I had nothing; I was selling MTN recharge card in Lagos.

“The first time I travelled to Lagos, I slept under the bridge. I later became a cleaner at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), where I also cleaned the airport toilets.

“Go to MMA Lagos and ask of Chibuzor Chinyere, everybody knows me there as a cleaner; it is not a secret. I posted the picture on the church Facebook wall.

“At times when I am travelling or coming back from my journey, I stop at the airport to greet my former colleagues, and I gladly share what I have with them.

“In fact, I had to establish one of them and he is now doing well in Port Harcourt,’’ Apostle Chinyere said.

Seeing the less privileged squeeze out their hard earned little money to send their wards to school in spite government’s perceived free education, left much to be desired.

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There is no doubt that the federal and state governments have made frantic effort to ensure that there is free education from primary to junior secondary schools across the nation, but there is still a snag; parents still pay about N2,000 to get their wards go to school every term.

Parents are forced to pay between N500 and N1,000 for school charge, Parents Teachers Association (PTA) dues and data (usually for computing of results) every term to attend the so called free public school of government, but it is interesting to note that the cost of attending the OPM free schools is absolutely free.

Just as Apostle Chinyere will always say, “Everything is absolutely free.’’

“We have four sets of school uniforms, school sandals, free school books, free lunch and free school bags. The pupils also go on international excursion; like the last time, they were in Paris.

“We have a committee that screens the candidates’ families to find out if they are orphans and if they are from the poorest of the poor families. We also find out from their neighbours.

“Advert is placed in the media, then, people will come –Muslims, Christians, even idol worshippers and take the exam; those that passed are subjected to further scrutiny as the committee will now go to their different homes, meet neighbours to know more about the candidates.

“There was a situation where we met a woman living in a very big bungalow with cars parked and she told us that she is a widow.

“But we told her no, that she is a rich widow. We disqualified her even though her son was successful in the exam; we want the poorest of the poor. We want those living in shanties and those that do not have shelter,’’ he said.

Pupils of the OPM Free Schools have visited Paris for educational excursion through the direct sponsorship of the foundation.

The foundation is also awarding university scholarships to the downtrodden.

It seems this is the reason Apostle Chinyere’s humanitarian services through the OPM Foundation bagged international and local awards from prestigious institutions and organisations, including the Honorary Doctorate Degree in Theology from the Freedom University and Theological Seminary, Philadelphia in the U.S.

For Apostle Chinyere, humanitarian work does not begin and end with the free schools.

He constructed free housing estates at Rumuokwurushi, Rumuoigbo and Aluu communities for widows and the less privileged without collecting a kobo as rent and also operated a free restaurant, where Muslims and Christians go to eat.

The cleric says: “The OPM Foundation is also behind our skill acquisition centre where people come and learn different skills.

“We rehabilitate both militants and armed robbers and feed them every day. We also rehabilitate commercial sex workers and also give them accommodation and we are also feeding them.

“They are now doing legitimate businesses.’’

In 2010, the foundation opened and commissioned the Free Computer Training Centre at Elele prisons. Today so many prisoners, including the prison warders have graduated from the scheme.

The OPM Foundation has over the period, trained thousands of Nigerians in basic computer programming, Microsoft excel, power point and other computer packages through the establishment of free computer training centre in Nigeria.

Most of the beneficiaries are now potential computer gurus in most of the public and private sectors.

It has free tailoring and Computer Training Centre at Rumuji town in Emuoha Local Government Area of Rivers State where multitudes of people in the area, including non-indigenes have benefited from the programme.

The foundation has also provided and commissioned water boreholes to the people of Rumuji and other communities in Nigeria to alleviate the problem of water scarcity experienced in the area.

The foundation in October 2011, assembled a large number of destitute from the streets of Port Harcourt and beyond at OPM Church headquarters at Eliozu, fed them, clothed them and provided some financial packages to the beneficiaries.

The foundation has since taken its humanitarian services to Houston Texas, U.S., in a bid to minister to the destitute particularly at Down Town Street.

Recently, Apostle Chinyere sponsored 140 couples that participated in the wedding ceremony and he offered the men funds to pay for the bride price to their shocked in-laws, many of whom have given up such honour will ever come their way.

He went ahead to pay for the wedding gowns and suits for the couples and there was refreshment for the invited guests at the reception ceremony.

It is on record that over 6,000 Nigerians have so far benefitted from OPM’s Multi-Skill Acquisition Centre in oil and gas, carpentry, tailoring, rig welding, free driving school and so on.

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