My name is Odunayo Aliu. I'm in my mid-twenties and I am a mother of thirty-six children.
Growing up as the first child of a family of five gave me the prospect of a bright and fulfilling future but that became bleak with the passing of each day. I was born and raised initially in Lagos State Nigeria, a densely populated city with over 10 percent of the nation's population of 186million people; Lagos is where an average Nigerian wants to live in because of its level of civilization and industrialization as a metropolis. My father who was an inspector of police was recently posted to Lagos and that marked the beginning of a good life for me. However, the luxury was short-lived.
After few years, I was separated from my parents to live with my grandmother in a rural community. After staying a while at her place, I moved in with some other distant relatives; then another, this was how my journey around the country began. By the time I was Ten years old, I had lived in eight different rural/sub-urban communities and moved between ten schools. As an adaptive mechanism, I developed a high level of social interaction amongst these poor communities where I lived in, I was usually seen as an elite child because of the little times I get to go back to the city during holidays. Also, that I go to school at all to them was a privilege because almost all their kids hawk rather than go to school. Meanwhile, on the contrast, while on holidays with my peers in urban communities, I usually feel out of place. Time after time, I suffered poor education due to my geographic region, my level of self-confidence and esteem began to drop till I couldn't withstand my contemporaries in the metropolis when engaged in any intellectual discussion. I felt inferior and "not among" due to my long stay in the rural community where good education was the least priority to them.
Gradually, my hope and prospect of having and living a bright future was diminishing. I remembered suffering from an extreme lack of confidence, and low self-esteem because I was usually overwhelmed by my various inadequacies, even though I had some potential back then, but there was no one to help me channel them. I grew up with these many sided experience, it shaped my personality so much so that I couldn’t speak in public, I never thought I could ever be worth listening to.
All these events modified my life in some very important ways. After a few years that I finished high school, I was fully back in the city, I got into a company of some young folks by divine providence who were intelligent and were passionate readers; that was all I needed. I began to study biographies of great men and women that ever lived in history leaving me with the interrogative thought that; “who says I can’t be better than these?” It was the beginning of a new revolution for me. An unusual quest and drive for knowledge spiked up within me; I wanted to know something about everything.
Due to my personal development, my confidence level and self-esteem boosted to a surprising great degree. I began to believe in myself as against what I grew up to know and see, I could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my contemporaries in the city and engage them in meaningful intellectual discussions with much courage.
In 2010, just when I thought I had left it all behind, I gained admission to a tertiary institution in another sub-urban and memories of my previous childhood experiences in the rural communities started flying back and starring me in the face when I saw children hawking and aimlessly roaming the streets while some were exposed to drug and child trafficking. I was not the victim anymore; hundreds of children are. In Nigeria, about 4% of the world’s 141 million educationally disadvantaged children roam our streets; either hawking or being hawked (indirectly). In the year 2016, the series of events that coloured my childhood and early adolescence began to shape in my mind ideas and strategies to tackle this situation.
I started selecting the most vulnerable of these kids (mostly orphans) and enrolled them in public primary schools with the hope that in some years from now, we'd have an educational community where poor children (and educationally disadvantaged) from different parts of Nigeria will have undenied access to quality education and also, a place where their potentials can be fully groomed and developed.
I eagerly look forward to when my country will have an educational system that is both quality and affordable, raising cohort of leaders and nation builders who would be socially responsible and change-agents in their various fields of interest and communities. This will break the vicious cycle of poverty through the instrumentality and power of quality education, active and accelerated learning for increased knowledge, growth and development. The number of children who are left to wander about aimlessly and who eventually become victims of various social vices like terrorism, theft, drug abuse, illicit sex, etc. will greatly reduce.
With this passion, I hope to contribute to the change and improvement of this situation by supporting and cooperating with individuals on this track at the grass-root level, creating a synergy with them to see a reduction in this statistic locally which will resultantly spread across other areas globally as it will create a deep sense of awareness to the world that every child deserves to be given the best education and attention regardless of the background.
Today (and forever), with the compassion of a mother in my heart, I am more resolute about the future of Nigerian children. Though circumstance has tagged many of them "vulnerable or less privileged", quality education will take them through a course that will reshape their identity. They are made for more, excellence and creativity is deep down within every child.
Right now, I'm unlearning and relearning. Freedom must start from our days.
P.S: This is Oluwaseun Dada, the youngest of my Thirty-six, he is saying hi.