Seeing the children dancing and singing along to tunes blazing from the speakers in the hall sends a signal of jolly fellas – without worries or woes. It is upon a second look that one'd realise that these are children whose school uniforms are torn. Whose feet are bare. And whose school bags are empty. They are children whose parents can't afford all those ‘necessities’, but who are going to school despite the odds. And they’ve put all troubles aside on this occasion at the Infrastructure Institution Industry Town Hall, Ondo state, where our team has brought together for the Assured Future Empowerment Initiative (AFEI) 2016 School Tour titled ‘Against All Odds.’
“AFEI went to schools randomly and unannounced. We saw students in bad shapes. Then, we started taking their names there and then,” said AFEI Project Manager, Wumi Praize, when speaking on how AFEI gathered the children.
These over 45 children are those marked as beneficiaries of new school uniforms, school sandals and books provided by AFEI. From the four schools (Egbudu Primary School, St. Raphael Nursery and Primary School, Community Primary School and Erinje Grammar School) in the Igbodigo region of Ondo state, they needed these items the most. At the venue are chiefs (representing the king of Igbodigo, Oba J. E. Olaayeko) and the Chairman, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Igbodigo kingdom, Comr. Arowojolu S. A. who were interested in watching the children get the gifts. In fact, Head teachers, teachers and some parents are present too. One of the chiefs, High Chief (Retired Major) Olayegun, is impressed by the generosity of AFEI.
High Chief Olayegun
“What AFEI have done today hasn't been done in here before. Our king is only unavoidably absent but we will return home to report to him. We are very much happy with what AFEI has done to alleviate the sufferings of the people particularly those who go to school barefooted and those who do not have uniforms. We thank you very much and we’d love you to visit us again.”
Mrs. Madoke A head teacher, Mrs. Madoke C of Egbudu Primary School, says similar thing: "I've been teaching for more than thirty years and I have never seen a situation like this. We have people who are rich and who would never do something like this.
“The teachers, staff, students and parents of students of Egudu Primary school say thank you. If we have ten of you in this community, the community would have changed," she noted.
Mr. Ogungbe with his children (middle) Then a parent, Mr. Ogunbe, beams with smiles while he says, “I didn't expect it. I was only thinking about how to get my children's school uniforms.”
And just when it seems that the event is over, after the children had been given the items, a parent, Mrs. Opaniyi, walks into the hall, seeking out the benefactor that gave her child a pair of new sandals with uniform and books.
“My child came home and gave me new school uniform, scandal, and book. So I asked to be brought here.” She says. “I thank you very much AFEI.” All these individuals – parents, chiefs and teachers – are grateful and asking what to do in return for what AFEI had done.
Yet, all AFEI want had been captured in the opening prayer of the program said by Comr. Arowojolu, the NUT chairman.
“We thank you lord for a day like this. Let your spirit take control of the program…we pray upon all these children, let their future be glorious in Jesus name. When they are counting leaders, great men of this nation in the future, let them be in their numbers in Jesus name”