The village of Okoijorogu in Delta State, Nigeria, did not have a school. Children would walk miles, braving the traffic on the highway, braving storms and rain, bad weather and potholes. They would run the gauntlet of bad weather, difficult terrain, incomparable traffic and highway vehicular movements, and even their own health and physical conditions just to be able to go to school.
In this day and age when Education has been perceived not just as an ideal, but as a Millennium Development Goal – a bare minimum that simply needs to be provided no matter what – it was disheartening and unacceptable that this was the plight of the children in Okoijorogu. On the one hand, Malala Yousufzai fought the Taliban in her crusade for her right to education. On the other hand, her compatriots in Delta State were no different – except that they simply hadn’t even had a school to go to, to start with.
To still pursue the education that they dreamed rightfully to have, they were forced to cross the dangerous and unattended Benin/Sapele Express Road on the way to the neighbouring village – this road is a hub of traffic, construction and rough activity that can be disparaging to the safety of the children. Consequently, it wound up depriving many children from five years of education – since many children relied on transportation by their mother’s backs – as mothers cannot participate in this owing to their statuses as bread-winners of their families. Should they leave those responsibilities and take their children to school, their families might have to go without a meal. The nearest school was situated 4 kilometres, and it did not have chairs, either. If they continued without assistance, a child might have lost his life while crossing the express road. Nigeria has about 190 school days in a year. One need not be an expert to understand the impact this lengthy trip might have on children.
When Delta Women came to understand that this was the prevailing scenario, we lost no time in ensuring that we would fight for the justice and the rights that these children, and their children in the coming years deserve. In the process, we began out activism by reaching out to the Ministry and letting them know that they had a duty to the children of Okoijorogu, a duty that obliged them to take action in interests of not only the children, but also of the community and its future.
We wrote letters, campaigned online aggressively and also sent petitions to the Ministry. We blogged extensively, wrote to the ministry and commissioners, and finally, the school was sanctioned. In pursuant to this, the NGO had written a request letter dated 21, August 2012 with reference number DW/Oku/001 to the state governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, the speaker, Delta State house of Assembly, Hon. Victor Ochei, and the state commissioner for basic and secondary education, Professor Patrick Muoagbahare.
We also started a group on Facebook to garner support for our cause. We made a video that we uploaded on Youtube and sought to garner more international attention. Our campaign was made into a CNN iReport and eventually, the sanction for the school was given. There has been considerable improvement, and the school is in the process of being built currently.
What’s happening currently is what you see in these pictures! The job is being done by the Universal Basic Education group, (UBE) in collaboration with the government of Delta State!
At this point, we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to our team, the volunteers, our well-wishers and all the people who supported our venture. We are also especially grateful to the Governor for keeping his promise.