Hassan, a 10-year old boy residing in Koro-Afoju has dropped out of school for about 3 years now. He had to stay back at home because his parents need him to contribute financially to the home or else they face perpetual hunger. He helps his parents by begging for alms at the local market. Some time ago, when he reconsidered resuming school again, his name was not found in the school register. Hence, he was rejected at the school with the excuse of unexplained absenteeism from classes.
8-year old Nana would love to attend school and have an education but her parents who are beggars and disabled can not afford school fees. She is especially anxious because she knows that with her current condition, early marriage has been destined for her. Nana and other girls like her life with the fear of having to face the risk of early marriage due to their families’ poverty and lack of education. She knows she will be married off soon in exchange for financial and material support from her prospective husband’s family. She is sad that she might never really get educated and become the nurse she has always dreamed of becoming in future.
These stories and more are the current experiences of many of the newly enrolled children at The Oasis Academy (TOSA) 2019. The past few weeks have been a flurry of activities at HSKi as we kickstarted TOSA classes on March 15, 2019. The Oasis Academy (TOSA) is an educational reception and development centre where out-of-school street/slum kids are adequately equipped with basic educational knowledge and life skills training before being integrated fully into standard education meant for the children.
This year, TOSA is brought to the heart of Koro Afoju (aka community of the blind), a slum community of about 10,000 people located on the outskirts of Ilorin, Kwara State. Many people were surprised at seeing prospective students being exhibited on sighting the banner of the Oasis Academy, though they didn’t know what it was, they knew it came with something good. They stared at the banner like their future depended on what it is set to bring to them. The opening was also characterised by different degrees of demonstration and fun-filled activities orchestrated by TOSA instructors. The happiness of engagement knew no bound.
Basic educational materials were given to the students, while they were registered and enrolled. A total of 21 prospective students were present at the opening of TOSA. At the end of the first week, the number of pupils enrolled had risen to 65. They, however, advocated that there were still many of them who would have loved to be there, but were either unaware or not informed. It was overwhelming and somewhat heartbreaking to see more parents lobby for their kids to get their share of the educational materials and to join the classes. However, to effectively manage the classes and not stretch our resources too thin, we can only register and cater for 65 students adequately this session.
The classes are being held on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mondays and Tuesdays are dedicated to teaching Basic Mathematics, English language and General Studies while Thursdays are dedicated mostly to extracurricular activities. All these are aimed at giving standard education for the children.
Our volunteers include 10 young, vibrant and talented students of the University of Ilorin. We have also received additional support through donations from individuals and friends of HSKi such as toys, books and stationery. We especially appreciate Mrs Funke Basil-Steve and the religious body, Youth Alive Fellowship, Winners Chapel in Ilorin for their donations and support all tailored towards amazing education experience for the children
Though the students have been very enthusiastic and dedicated to learning, the teaching environment is not conducive for them. All respective classes are being taught in an open space which was allocated to us for use by the community head. This has not deterred progress as more parents keep bringing their children to join classes.
As inspiring and touching as Hassan and Nana’s stories could be, there are many of such kids who want to be heard and to learn, their voices echoing from the street.