“Why is his uniform and socks badly torn?” His sandals are the other way round and they are worn out! I followed him to school and saw other children kneeling down. I looked around and noticed a teacher with a cane; he flogged a child and said, “Next time, you will tell your parents to buy you socks!”…. I quickly jumped in, “It is not their fault that they have no socks”. I said out loud! The man looked at me and said, “If I don’t flog them, they won't tell their parents they need socks”…. I have never heard such a statement before in my life. “What if I want to buy them socks? Will you let them all go?”
I will like to tell you a little about me and the state I was in that day; I was in my second year in the University, broke and was walking to school the time I saw that boy. My account was empty, I hadn’t had breakfast, had no idea where the next meal was going to come from and there I was asking this teacher if he would let the children go should I buy them socks.
He said to me smiling “Are you buying socks for all the children in the school?” I said “yes” and immediately I asked, “How many children are in the school again?” “1000” he said. The children started screaming when he let them go. That was when I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. How could I have promised to buy socks for 1000 children when I don’t even have money to feed? What was I thinking?
I kept murmuring and talking to myself as I got into my school. “How do I get funds to buy socks for 1000 children?” I asked myself.
We finally provided socks for 1000 children the week after and the excitement of the children got to me. I started looking around the school and that was when I noticed some of the children had nylon bags as school bags, the ceiling was leaking and the boards are actually black walls and not even blackboards. I spoke to a few teachers and my heart broke; we couldn’t hold a conversation with some of them. How then can they impact the lives of these children?
After a series of visits back and forth to the schools, I realize that even the government is not helping the situation. They hire teachers that have no qualification to teach the future leaders of the nation. The public primary school system has more children that the private school. So why is there no infrastructure in place to help this system thrive?
My journey started with that little boy and five years down the line, I could say categorically that it was completely worth it. We have tried so many approaches in solving the problems with the public primary system. We have provided free school supplies, we organized free after school clubs, we organized special programs to help girls stay in school, we replaced the black boards with whiteboards, and we also trained the teachers. We organized graduation and Christmas parties. The major challenge has always been manpower and the funds. We have sourced for funds for our project on social media for four yeas without a single sponsor.
After 5 years, I can say that the problem with the major problem to be handled is teacher training.
My heart is constantly drawn to the public primary system and seeing the children and their teachers breaks my heart. The teachers need continuous and in-service training. Some of them lack self-confidence while some have no skills to handle the classroom. My dream is to have a teacher-training center where we are able to train teachers to teach the children better.
Our intervention at Beyond the Classroom Foundation is beyond providing free school supplies, our intervention is now focused on teacher training and organising free technology literacy clubs for the children. We have seen the impact of the trainings in the past on the teachers and on the children. As a trained teacher from the University of Lagos, I always thought I studied Education so I can own a school in the future but day-by-day I’m beginning to see that it is really not about owning a school but that I can make more impact on more children through teacher training. Really, my heart has been in the education space but and my desire is to fix the problem starting with teacher training. I spoke to my vision mentor about the need to create module