By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
One in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed, and even though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school.
According to the Fund, only 61 percent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.
Also, the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) states that 57 million primary-aged children remain out of school, more than half of them in sub-Saharan Africa, and about half of all out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas.
To help reduce this number, individuals have taken up the initiative to get these children back to the classrooms. Although it is not an easy feat as education requires money, they have taken up the challenge to bear the cost, just to ensure that Nigeria’s future leaders get quality education and for the country to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4—Quality Education come 2030.
Such Nigerians who have towed the path of supporting out-of-school children to attend school and learn, is Ms. Esohe Rita Osamwonyi from Benin, Edo State— the proprietor of Gifted Kiddies Montessori Academy— a school which started in September 2018, out of her love for children.
It was on a Wednesday afternoon when The Sight News visited the school in Sauka, along the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Road in Abuja, to meet Osamwonyi teaching her students with so much joy and enthusiasm and the students in turn were attentive to what she taught.
With just a marker board and a few chairs in the classrooms, she made the environment as comfortable as it could be for the children to learn properly, and the students who were neatly dressed in their chequer school uniforms, were very attentive to what they were being taught.
Speaking to our reporter, Osamwonyi who is physically challenged, disclosed that she developed a love for children from a very tender age. “I like seeing them around me, even in church, I teach in the children’s department. When I am with children, I find peace of mind and comfort,” she enthused.
The School which operates in a block of uncompleted building donated to her by a church, presently has 23 students and three teachers, but Osamwonyi faces the challenge of lack of payment of school fees as most parents can’t afford it. Despite the challenge, she still ensures that these children remain in school rather than on the streets.
According to her, “Some parents will come, promise and beg me to allow the children write their exams, after then, I won’t see them again. The money aspect, I’m really finding it difficult. Some have refused to resume because they owe a huge amount of money”.
With little money to run her school, Osamwonyi tells our reporter that she’s running it by faith as she even goes without eating to ensure that her teachers get paid. “Sometimes, I will stay days without eating just to ensure that I am able to pay my teachers. So I am really finding it difficult to fund the school”.
She however said that no kind of support has been received from any quarter as she runs the school by herself without government or individual interventions. She expressed the hope that soon God will give her a breakthrough and take the school beyond where it is.
The School runs Crèche, Pre-kindergarten, Kindergarten 1 and 2, Basic 1 and 3. She called for support from Nigerians to speak on career to the children on their Career days and to also assist her as she would want to develop and move to her own place.
“I will want to have a place to build the school, chairs, tables and all the facilities necessary and also a library”, she added.
Although Osamwonyi does not have any children of her own, she has a child living with her due to her love for children and would want to see more children leave the streets and get back to the classrooms.