How do you help to educate children who have only known life on water? One of our Global Youth Ambassadors tells about a project in Nigeria to teach them where they feel most at home.
Education is a tool to promote lasting peace and prosperity. However, as basic as this tool is, many people are still not educated in Nigeria and, more widely, Africa.
One of the most marginalised and affected group of people are children who live in urban slums. Life in an urban slum is worse than you can imagine and is often viewed as "someone else’s problem".
People think the government should take care of the slum or maybe that rich people should contribute. More often than not, nothing or next to nothing is being done for these marginalised groups.
One such urban slum is Makoko in Lagos. Here the majority of the people live in wooden houses that are built on stilts or float on the water.
This means that day-to-day activities take place on the water's surface. A major challenge with the Makoko Waterside community is that most children born of water don't know how to adapt to life on land.
Most children from this slum don’t know how to cross roads as they are not used to cars and lorries driving, as they have only known canoes and water traffic.
This has led to high illiteracy levels as many parents choose the perceived safety of their children over gaining an education on land. Thus, the Makoko Dream School Project was born.
The Makoko Dream School is a school on water, one of the few schools on water in Makoko - but the only school where the children learn basic English Language, Arithmetics and Communication in both their native and a foreign language.
The Makoko Settlement is made up of predominantly Egun-speaking people, with a good number of them immigrants from Bene Republic about 200 years ago. This means that the languages prevalent there are Egun and French.
The Makoko Dream School Project aims to inspire more children to be in school and learn relevant skills so that illiteracy will be reduced in Makoko.
The Makoko Dream School Bus, the first of its kind in Africa, has helped 30 to 50 more children to get to school.
As a floating community with all activities taking place on water, a canoe is a necessity. Unlike on land, where even if you don’t have access to a car or bus you can walk if needed, in Makoko this is impossible as the water is incredibly dirty.
If a family only has one canoe, as many families do, it makes it very difficult for the children to get to school. Whenever the parents are using the canoe to fish, go to work, sell goods, they can’t use it to get to and from school.
It is possible to get a "taxi canoe" but this is a cost that not all families can afford.
To solve this challenge, we decided to create the free Makoko Dream School Bus, the first of its kind in Africa. This innovation has helped 30 to 50 more children to get to school.
Presently, there are between 130 and 200 children in The Makoko Dream School and pupils do not pay school fees.
However, they do pay a daily stipend of 20 naira which is given to the teachers daily. This 20 naira is not constant as many families are unable to afford this amount.
The space available for classrooms is very small and children are learning in cramped conditions. More structure is needed to improve their learning experience.
We need good, consistent sponsorship so that we have more teachers who we are able to pay monthly. Currently most teachers are volunteers and as such there is much turnover of teachers.
So far, we’ve had support from personal funds of the founder and their network. With further sponsorship we hope to build an annexe of the Makoko Dream School to encourage more children from the slum to join and learn.
Eventually, we hope to build the very first block wall school structure on water in Africa.