Joy knew no bound and happiness was flowing freely all around Owotoro Village on Friday, 13th November 2015 students from the University of Ibadan officially commissioned a quality and sound school library in a rural school, Owotoro Community Grammar School (OCGS). This first-of-its-kind project was made possible by these studentsthrough the Quality Education for All (QUEFA) Project of the Better Nigeria Initiative (BNI).
BNI is a Youth and Community Development Agency existing as both campus and community networks,committed to a new generation of righteous and well-equipped Nigerians that will be builder of a better Nigeria.
On Thursday, 20th November 2014; BNI,University of Ibadan
chapter, held two school outreaches simultaneously to Ofiki Grammar School (OGS), Ofiki and Owotoro Community Grammar School (OCGS), Owotoro village as part of activities for the QUEFA Project of the Organisation.
The inspiration for this outreach came from the testimony of Yemi Adekunle, a 2014 First Class graduate of Pharmacy at the University of Ibadan. Yemi came from a humble background, growing up in the village under the care of his grandfather and
later his single mother. He attended OGS where he served as the Senior Prefect. As at the time of his study, the school had no library, no Laboratory, no chemistry Teacher, no Further Mathematics teacher and Biology teacher. Despite all these challenges, Yemi studied hard to prepare himself for external examinations (WAEC, NECO, and JAMB), and also organized tutorials for his fellow SS3 students. In 2008, He got admitted to study Pharmacy at the University of Ibadan. Financing his education became a serious challenge at that time; he then resorted into doing commercial motorcycle business (Okada) as a means of sponsoring himself through Pharmacy school.
The testimony of Yemi gave him the inspiration to help several other brilliant students in disadvantaged secondary schools in rural areas to access quality education. This led to the introduction of the QUEFA by the Organisation, where Yemi served as the Project Manager.
According to the United Nations, there has been significant progress in expanding access to primary education (MDG 2) and gender parity (MDG 3) with 50 million additional children in school than in 2000, many of whom are girls. However, enormous challenges remain. In 2012, 58 million children of primary school age and 63 million children of lower secondary school age were out of school, over half of whom were girls and over 28 million of whom lived in conflict-affected areas. Even for those in school, at least 250 million primary school age children were not learning basic skills.
In our dear country Nigeria, children in rural areas and marginalized communities are fairly able to attend a school; but however, unable to access quality education, either due to the shortage of staff, unconducive learning environment and also lack of learning aids and teaching facilities. This situation has led many students to perceive school to be a centre for recreation and friend-making.
A typical scenario of the situation is at OGS and OCGS. Both
schools serve students in Ofiki, Owotoro, Agunrege and neighboring villages in Atisbo local government area of Oyo state.During the course of the school outreaches to both schools, it was observed that the schools lacked adequate facility that was needed for the transfer of knowledge and skills –there was shortage of staff, the learning environment was not encouraging, there was neither a library nor a laboratory facility, and most importantly there was lack of commitment on the part of the student.
At the commissioning, a representative of BNI said, “We knew we might not be able to provide solution to all these challenges, but we believed we could meet some of the needs. Our primary goal as regards our project for the school was to encourage self-study by the students since they lack staff that can be there to teach them. Based on our interactions with the students, we realized that most of them did not have class notes or even text books; hence, there was nothing for them to study with. This led us to the decision of setting up a Library at OCGS. During the course of our school outreach at OCGS, there was no library at all in the school, the only structure that was close to being a library was a shelf containing less than 15 books.”
He further added, “After the outreach, we launched a
book donation campaign as a way of getting the support of the general public towards donating their fairly used and newly purchased books for the school. We made book donation boxes and placed them in supermarkets and malls in Ibadan. We also raised money among our members towards making library shelves and furnishing of the library. We were so much blessed to have the support of the public. Some families went as far as purchasing new books; some gave us money as well. It’s amazing what happens when you ask.”
A Day of Joy:
Friday, 13th November 2015 was indeed a day of fulfillment onthe part of the members of BNI, UI chapter an d also a great day of restoration of hope and possibility for the students of OCGS as BNI members set on a three-hour journey from University of Ibadan to Owotoro village for the official commissioning of OCGS library; a QUEFA Project of BNI.
“On getting to the school, what we met on ground was far more than what we expected. The School had invited the Community chiefs, religious organizations in the community, representatives of the Community association and the students are more than ready to receive us. It was overwhelming”, a member admitted.
During his welcome address, the Principal Mr. J.K.Fatoki, represented by the Vice Principal, Mr. Ojeniyi, appreciated BNI for her special interest in the school and also for taking a giant step towards the development of education in the community. According to him, for a student organization from the University of Ibadan to travel that all the way to come to the aid of the students and community is highly commendable especially in a situation where most reputable Non-Governmental Organizations hardly implement projects for the benefit of marginalized communities like Owotoro. He, however, highlighted some challenges facing the school some of which are:
Lack of staff: As of now the total number of teachers in the
school is 12. Last year, when BNI visited, it was 9. The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in the community took responsibility for providing two teachers for the school. The PTA also appointed three other staff for the school one of which is the Librarian (Mr. Adegbiji). The PTA also agreed to support the Library project by providing the school with a Librarian.
Science Laboratory and Equipment: OCGS has no laboratory facility at all. The only structure close to it is a table and shelf containing few and unusable glass wares.
ICT Equipment: The school has no computer, printer or photocopying machine. This is very important owing to the fact that computer/ICT Literacy has become a necessityespecially for students. UTME and Post-UTME examinations are now done electronically. Some of the students have not seen a Laptop before. BNI intends to work on this need of the school not just for the students but for the community by planning to see how the Library can be equipped with computer, projector and printer such that the library can also function as a Owotoro Community Literacy Centre (OCLC). “This is our QUEFA goal for OCGS in 2016”, stated Pharm. John Oluwadero, BNI Executive Coordinator.
Library: Before now, lack of library used to be part of the school challenges but thanks to the laudable act of BNI, it is a challenge that has been sorted to an extent. The school however still looks to equipping the library with more books.
The Baale of Owotoro Community HRH Oba Amos Olayemi
Ogungbenro ably represented by Pastor Tayo Ogungbenro expressed his happiness over the project and promise that the community
shall also do her best towards improving the standard of education in the school. The PTA Chairman, Mr. Awodiran also appreciated BNI for their contribution and also implored the students to stay focused.
“Winston Churchill said,“we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Albert Einstein also said,“only a life lived for other is a life worthwhile”.In our own little way as a student organization, we believe the library facility we set up at OCGS will go a long way to transform the life of the students, because readers are leaders.”