Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that the maiden edition of the ‘Back to School Project’ initiated by the Anioma Youths Network for Development started off on a high note, as 130 less-privileged primary and secondary school students benefitted immensely

“I have always wanted to go to school but I had no idea where I will get the basic requirements to start the new school session until help came from Anioma Youths Network for Development (AYND), who provided me with all I need for the school session.”

Those were the words of Ugochukwu Ebube, one of the less-privileged 130 primary and secondary school pupils and students recently given a new lease of life by Anioma Youths Network for Development (AYND), a non-governmental organization (NGO), the Anioma nation from the Delta North Senatorial District.

Ugochukwu and others might have been lucky but recent statistics by UNESCO has unfortunately revealed that Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in sub-Sahara Africa to the alarming tune of 10.8 million. Encouraged by the saying, ‘little drops of water makes a mighty ocean’, the Back to School Project by the AYND, recently took up the gauntlet to rectify this anomaly by providing educational materials to these less-privileged kids in five communities in the Anioma community.

With a vision to transform the society by empowering disadvantaged children to realise their full potential, the Back to School Project for 130 less-privileged primary and secondary school students held in September at Onicha-Ugbo, Delta State where the beneficiaries from various secondary and primary schools in Onicha-Ugbo, Ubulu-Uku, Issele-Uku, Obior, Igbodo all in Anioma area were given high quality school bags, note books, mathematical sets, biros and other accessories to aid them as the 2017/2018 school year begins.

With its laudable dreams, the AYND said it’s already in the pipeline for the NGO to commence skills acquisition and ICT training for the youths in Anioma, adding that their vision is to positively impact the lives of the young ones in their communities.

The beneficiaries

Cutting across five communities in Anioma area, the beneficiaries include those from Onicha-Ugbo and they include Praise and Ebube Ugochukwu, Chibueze, Neboliseh, and Munachi Okafor, Justine Emmanuel, Ugo, Ebube and Dumebi Onyeoka, Emeka and Chibuike Eduwa, Sunday Bioloseh, Okonkwor Somto, Ekwubi Isioma, Aisha, Idris and Yusuf Mohammed, Obioma Mary, Funanya, Chinye, Isioma and Nonso Abiamuwe, Peter Lucky, Onochie, Chidinma and Mirabel Nkeafuonye.

Others include Uwaeju Blessing, Iliya Sheto, Ekwubi Cynthia, Michael Jennifer, Njokede Ozioma, Nkechor Miracle, Ifechukwude Emmanuel, Ikechukwu Prosper, Nwabuisi Ebube, Kevin Ebegbune, Okafor Emeke, Ngozi Uzu, Akabude Precious, Alex Favour, Ofili Samuel, Uzu Daniel, Akaeze Ifechukwude, Agbor Favour, Odoh Chinasa, Rachael and Emmanuel Ogwugwua, Victor, Favour and Daniel Okwunodu and Okwechime Amaka.

Students like Bioseh Frank, Nnyaha Chiamaka, Odor Gift, Amumbor Ogochukwu, Okolie Azuka, Osemeke Chekwube, Success and Praise Afamefuna, Onwe Ogechi, Chisom Divine, Ekwubi Ifeanyi, Echezona Nkechor, Amarachi Emmanuel, Abia Ruth, Sunday Emmanuel, Chioma Obi, Monye Kosiso and Ifeanyi Nwaghodo, also benefitted.

Beneficiaries from Obior Town include Tobe Egeuyenga, Joy Isichei, Odumakin Ifechukwu, Miracle Ugeh, Ndubuisi Nkwor, Chiefuna Chioma, Emmanuel Maduka, Igwe Chinaza, Maxwell Cynthia and Nwaokolo Favour.

Other beneficiaries from Igbodo Town include Glory Ekwamaka, Chigbue Favour, Happy Nedum, Chukwudi Chinonso, Chidera Emeka, Osakwe Chukwueku, Okeleke Nonso, Ojogbo Bright, Chidi Unakpa and Esther Emmanuel.

From Ubulu-Uku Town were beneficiaries like Chukwunyem Okonta, Anwuli Emordi, Amechi Okonkwo, Elo Adigwe, Nkechi Okafor, Emeka Okonkwo, Ekene Okocha, Amaka Adoh, Ugbechie Jennifer, Chinedu Okafor, Rebecca Okocha and Afamefuna Adoh.

From Isele-Uku, the beneficiaries include
Chukwudi Ifeoma, Moluba Esther, Maureen and Isioma Anika, Ebijie Isioma, Obiokor Victory, Imudia Juliet, Odio Uche, Justin Afamefuna, Nwanjor Nkem and Ifeanyi Chukwudi.

A barrel of dreams
In his speech, the President, AYND, Mr. Sunday Odita, who also doubles as the President, Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria (CRAN) said, “This great event was strategically planned to take place now that primary and secondary schools in the country are about to resume for the 2017/2018 academic year.

“Unarguably, it is a period parents are usually under pressure to pay school fees and buy all the necessary books and materials for their children and wards. We are very much aware of the fact that there are some children in our communities whose parents are not well placed to cater for their needs at this time of school resumption; hence we have chosen to lend some support, no matter how small.

“I need not over-emphasise the fact that today brings an immense joy to me as a person and to other members of Anioma Youths Network for Development (AYND) as a dream nurtured over the years to positively affect the lives of our brothers and sisters in Anioma is being crystalised through our gathering here today.

“Historically, the AYND NGO with the youths as its centre-piece was founded about three years ago by a few of us following an idea mooted by my humble self (among other things), to advance issues that affect the lives of young people (youths) largely in the various communities that make up the Anioma nation – (Delta North Senatorial District).

“It is an open secret that the youths in our society constitute a large percentage of the unemployed and under-employed. While a good number of them are well educated in tertiary and post primary institutions, many others either dropped out of schools or learnt some trade but do not have what it takes to establish some business that could meaningfully engage them.

“Many of these unemployed and under-employed are part of us and our association is calling on government and development agencies, well placed individuals and organisations to assist in any way they can afford to create means of livelihood for these jobless youths.

“Specifically; our gathering here today is to kick-start what we have christened ‘back to school programme’ which is designed to be an annual thing, God willing. As the founder and National President of the AYND, I thought it wise and necessary that one would not have to wait until he becomes a billionaire before giving a helping hand to those who really need help.

“None of us at AYND is yet in the billionaires’ club, but we have the passion to be our brother’s keeper hence we believe so much in using this programme to identify with our brothers and sisters in the secondary and primary schools.

“Personally, I embarked on this initiative with my salary as a journalist (with Guardian Newspaper) and some support from friends (largely in security organisations) and kind-hearted politicians like Prince Ned Nwoko and my cousin Mr. Dumebi Kachikwu, both of whom lent their financial support to this maiden edition of the programme.

“May I also use this medium to appreciate Dr. Brasca Ifeadi (from Ubulu-Okiti) and Barrister Mike Ejiofor (from Ubulu-Uku) both of who served this nation meritoriously and retired graciously in recent time as Deputy Comptroller General of Immigration (DCG) and Director, Department of State Services respectively. Both of them share so much in the aspiration of AYND and have been supportive. We are proud to say that they were the first recipients of AYND award of honour in 2016.

“Worthy of appreciation also, is the Commissioner of Police, Delta State Command, Mr. Ibrahim Zanna who, in spite of his relative newness in Delta State, has given encouragement to us.

“Without sounding immodest, may I say that my strong belief for fiscal integrity and transparency largely prompted some friends whom I had met in my over 15 years of crime and security reporting to buy into this lofty idea of giving a helping hand to the youths. I wish to warmly appreciate them for believing in me and giving their support.

“As we witness the maiden edition of the back to school programme with the extension of hands of love to our young brothers and sisters; we are quite hopeful that in no distant time, AYND would commence skill acquisition and ICT training for the youths in Anioma.

“In these days of unemployment, I firmly believe that graduates of tertiary institutions can seek more knowledge by acquiring skill in some trades. To do so, is not a rocket science, but a self-will and determination to succeed. I am an example of the message I am trying to preach now.

“I am a graduate of Mass Communication and even though I am gainfully employed as a journalist, I still went out of my way to train and acquire professional skill in photography from a top-rate photography studio in Lekki, Lagos. I can proudly say that today, I make more income from photography than my journalism job.

“As a non-governmental organisation with a vision to positively impact the lives of the young ones in our communities, Anioma Youths Network for Development strongly believes that one does not need to have so much money before he could make impact in the life of others.

“This belief aptly brings to mind Etienne de Grellet’s saying that: “I shall pass through this life but once. Any good therefore I can do, or any kindness I can show, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it. For I shall never pass this way again.”

“This event will witness the modest benevolence of AYND to no fewer than 120 students and pupils drawn from secondary and primary schools in various communities in Anioma. I congratulate them and pray that their future will bring greater joy to humanity in general and to Anioma in particular.

“In conclusion, on behalf of AYND, I want to passionately appeal to well placed personalities in Anioma and elsewhere to key into what we are doing today to contribute in uplifting the less privileged ones in our communities. We cannot wait for government to do much for us; otherwise we would be waiting for ever.”

A helping hand
Given the laudable vision of the group, it was only fitting that notable individuals in the Anioma community teemed up to give a helping hand by either moral support of financial assistance to the back to school project.

In his speech, former member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Hon. Ned Nwoko described the youths as the hope of the future, adding that their potentials can only be harnessed through quality education.

Represented by Mr. Chike Okolo, the former federal lawmaker who was the chairman of the occasion, harped on the need to celebrate the youths because they are the future of any society. Further quoting South Africa’s former nationalist and President, Nelson Mandela who said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” he said no society can make any meaningful progress without education.

According to him, there must be a deliberate effort towards providing empowerment for the youths through education. Towards achieving this, he assured that he would continue to make impact through support to the education of the less-privileged ones in the society, just as he called on those willing to join him in keeping the vision on education to come on board.

One of the special guests; a former Deputy Comptroller-General of Immigration Service (DCG) Dr. Brasca Ifeadi in his goodwill message said, he did not initially believe in AYND when he got to know about its existence “because over the years, so many non-governmental organisations had existed only on the pages of newspapers as some desperate Nigerians had used such platforms to feather their own nest without positively impacting the lives of people they claimed to be working for.”

According to him, his impression however changed when he had the first physical contact with the leadership of AYND in December, 2016 during which himself and one other illustrious son of Anioma (Barrister Mike Ejiofor) were honoured by AYND for “serving the Federal Republic of Nigeria meritoriously and retiring gracefully after 35 years of service.”

The former immigration boss added that, “this award was unsolicited and not for sale, because if it were so, I would not have been considered as I do not have the kind of money that would pay for it. I saw it purely as a recognition that came from sincere hearts.”

He commended the AYND particularly for the effort to assist the less privileged ones and added that he would always give a helping hand as the NGO has shown “that it is on divine mission to uplift fellow human beings.”

Speaking in the same vein, Barrister Mike Ejiofor who retired as a Director, Department of State Service (DSS) few years ago challenged Nigerian electorate to use their votes during elections to put good persons in positions of leadership as what AYND has done through the Back to School Programme ought to be the responsibility of government.

He decried the deplorable state of Nigeria’s educational system and called for urgent intervention with a view to bringing back the lost glory.

In the words of Delta State Chairperson, House of Assembly Commission; Chief (Mrs) Josephine Kachikwu, “it is regrettable that level of education in Nigeria has fallen to such deplorable state that some children in senior secondary schools cannot even communicate in simple English Language.”

She encouraged parents to ensure that they provide adequate parental attention to the upbringing of their children both in academics, moral lessons and cultural values as these form the foundation of any child, stressing that once the values are out of place in the life of a child, the future of such a child remains bleak.

The Onicha-Ugbo monarch, His Royal Majesty Obi Victor Chukwumalieze I, who was the Royal Father of the Day, was highly enthused that the maiden edition of the Back to School programme which he considered a very laudable initiative was held in his domain.

He commended the convener and members of AYND for the programme which attracted many other dignitaries like Hon. Emeka Nwaobi of Delta State House of Assembly, Chief Madu Nwayorbuije (The Ihama of Onicha-Ugbo) , Delta State Police Commissioner, Mr. Zanna Ibrahim who was represented by the Command’s Public Relations Officer; Mr. Andrew Aniamaka.

The Ihama, at the occasion announced a financial support of N500,000 towards the Back to School Programme. A few other guests also made some contributions including the Delta State Police boss who donated some hundreds of notebooks.