The Back to School Project

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Convener, Anioma Youths Network for Development and back to school project, Odita Sunday

Rebecca Ejifoma writes on the Back to School Project initiated by the Anioma Youths Network for Development, which recently empowered 120 less privileged children and orphans

The first week of September is usually a trying period for most parents in Nigeria due to the pressure of paying their children’s school fees and providing other requirements for the start of a new school session.

But the Anioma Youths Network for Development (AYND), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) operating from Delta North senatorial district in Delta State, has decided to reduce the financial burden on parents during the resumption period. For the second time running, ANYD hosted 120 less privileged school kids and orphans, who were also given educational materials, including school bags, math sets, writing materials, and books.

Last year, which marked the launch of the Back to School Project, about 130 less privileged primary school pupils and secondary school students and were assisted with various educational materials.

Empowerment

A ceremony to mark the project was organised recently at one of the garages in Onicha Ugbo. The event attracted a large crowd of people, as the beneficiaries, majority of whom were the less-privileged and orphans drawn from the five communities, including Onicha-Ugbo, Ubulu-Uku, Isele-Uku, Igbodo, and Obior, were handed the materials.
Among the attendees were traditional rulers, business moguls, journalists, politicians and senior security personnel from the state and beyond.

The occasion kicked off with an opening prayer and words of exhortation by the royal father of the day, the Obi of Onicha Ugbo kingdom, His Royal Majesty Agbogidi Victor Chukwumalieze 1, who was represented by his traditional Prime Minister- the Iyasere of Onicha Ugbo.

After a few activities, the moment everyone had waited for came and that was the presentation gift items, made up of school bags, book and other aids, to learning to the pupils and students. The master of ceremony, Mr. Frank Oshanugor, a Lagos based veteran journalist and author, read out the names of registered beneficiaries as they came out to receive the items amid clapping by the audience and other gestures of appreciation.

According to Convener and National President of the AYND empowerment initiative, Mr. Odita Sunday-Udemaguna, the back to school project 2018 was a huge success as hundreds of bags, text and note books, dictionaries and math sets were shared to orphans and the less privileged. It was also a fun time of dancing and rejoicing with the kids drawn from the five communities in Delta State.

Giving as Lifestyle

For the convener, who is also President, Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria (CRAN), giving is living. Sunday-Udemaguna said, “Giving is living. Make it a hobby. Little gift can go a long way in putting smiles on people’s faces.”

Prior to his speech, Sunday-Udemaguna first made cash donations of N25, 000 each to two widows to assist them in their petty trade. According to him, in trying to give a helping hand to less privileged brothers and sisters in primary and secondary schools, he is personally not driven by political intentions or pecuniary gains, rather by passion and the fact that as a child, he also suffered so much deprivation as he grew up without a mother.

He said, “As a toddler, I did not have the motherly affection and attention as I lost my mother very early in life. At this juncture, I strongly believe that apart from God, education is the only thing that can liberate the sons and daughters of poor parents in our society. Education becomes interesting for kids and teenagers when you make academic tools available to them. Like I said in my address last year, the ‘Back to school’ programme was strategically planned to take place at a time like this when primary and secondary schools in the country are about to resume for a new 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. It is a known fact that there are some children in our communities whose parents are not well placed to cater to their needs at this time of school resumption; hence we have chosen to lend some support in our little way.

“As a non-governmental organisation NGO with a vision to positively impact the lives of the young ones in our communities, AYND strongly believes that one does not need to have so much money before one could make impact in the lives of others. Like I did last year, let me once again quote Etienne de Grelett’s postulation on the essence of good deed in life as long as one is alive, saying, ‘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.’

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

AYND’s Vision

Statistics from UNESCO reveals that Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in sub-Sahara Africa, to the alarming tune of 10.8 million, an anomaly that is often caused by lack of money for fees, academic materials or sheer illiteracy.

It is some of these anomalies that the Back to School Project by the AYND is trying to rectify by providing educational materials for the 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 120 less privileged primary and secondary school students held this September at Onicha-Ugbo, Delta State where the beneficiaries from various secondary and primary schools in Onicha-Ugbo, Ubulu-Uku, Issele-Uku, Obior and Igbodo, all in Anioma, were given high quality school bags, note books, mathematical sets, biros and other accessories to aid them as the 2018/2019 school year begins.

Odita Sunday said, “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).

“None of us at AYND are 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.
“As a non-governmental organisation with a vision to positively impact the lives of the young ones in our communities, AYND strongly believes that one does not need to have so much money before he could make impact in the life of others.”

He appealed to Anioma people to key into the project and help in uplifting the lives of the less privileged ones in the communities. “We cannot wait for government to do” everything, he said. “Otherwise, we would be waiting for ever.”

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Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in sub-Sahara Africa, an anomaly that is often caused by lack of money for fees, academic materials or sheer illiteracy. It is some of these anomalies that the Back to School Project by the AYND is trying to rectify.