…And partners the Lagos Government on Special education
The Matron first blink her eyes trying to ensure her vision was not deceiving her; then she took two steps backwards, and broke into a chorus.
“We are saying thank you Jesus
Thank you my Lord
We are saying thank you Jesus…”
It was obvious she was trying hard to suppress the surging tears. She succeeded briefly, then a tear showed and then another. Momentarily the songs stopped, she closed her eyes and uttered her words in prayers to God.
“Thank you father, thank you father; we can easily put the interlocking in place now and the children would freely run around and play, without the fear of any of them inhaling dust”; and with that, the Home Matron, Nigerian Red Cross Society, Lagos Chapter, domiciled in Yaba broke into another chorus…
As more of her assistants heard her songs and came running in, the crowd of appreciating souls built up. No one was asking question, as each read the dummy cheque which gleefully showed N1 million and joined in the chorus rendition.
When she stopped, they stopped. Then, she went into a soliloquy:
“I know you would do it. We all prayed to You to do it. I held You accountable. And as usual, You simply always exceed our expectations!” She loved “her” children. And she was not ashamed to flaunt it.
Then, turning to us, she told us she had indeed been praying to God, concerning the interlocking, because she could not stopped the children in the home from running around and playing; her major concern had however been the dust which could also be a harbinger of germs.
The Nigerian Red Cross Orphanage, Yaba was the fourth home the Lagos Channel Management (LCM) was visiting for the day; and everywhere they visited, the team had deposited a cheque for N1 million, in humble but symbolic celebration of the Christmas.
Created in 1964 by an Act of Parliament, the Matron indicated that the Home has 34 kids, consisting of 18 boys and 16 girls. Only one has mental challenge; and she was so friendly that everyone was instantly attracted to her.
Her children looked especially well fed, well dressed, chubby cheeks and observably very happy. They were also very friendly. No wonder the security man at the gate had forced all of us to have a generous dosage of hand-sanitizer. Especially if he felt you would be offended you wash your hand with soap at the nearby washing hand basing.
“We never lacked. Our strength lies in prayers; and God is never ever tired of exceeding our expectations. If we lacked milk in the morning, I would call in everybody and we would pray; before evening, milk would be here. ..” she said, outlandishly praising her assistants who she blessed for their special passion for prayers.
Statutorily, the Home was established to cater for abandoned and motherless children from the ages of one to three years. But some of the kids who were above three years and were still in the Home, was because their parents had for one reasons or another, renege on promises made to come for them at age three, and melted into thin air!
She told the reporters that while the National Red Cross headquarters would naturally send a little allowance on yearly basis, the bedrock of their supplies came from kindly individuals in the community, adding that some individuals sometimes dropped their complimentary cards, with the instructions that they may be contacted, if things got too hot! Obanife, a kindly woman wanted us to stay; but we couldn’t; we were therefore not surprise that she prayed for the LCM and the visiting team till everyone boarded the bus, and the driver tool off.
But if Obanife was prayerful, the third recipient of the LCM was uniquely charitable. Mrs. Vero Aibinuomo, head of the Orthopedic Special School, domiciled inside Igbobi, also in Lagos was a delight to watch pampering her students. She was particularly grateful to the Lagos State Government for the various ways Government had been attentive to her school and teachers.
The school was founded specifically founded to meet the needs of students with either physical or mental challenges. Some developed such challenges as a result of accidents during pregnancy, or at early stages of development or as a result of early bouts of attacks.
She specially insisted that the LCM team must not only participate in the end of year party with staff and students, but must also partake of their rice and malt drinks.
Was there something missing in her school which could make a difference, since Government alone could not do everything: a functional car, because of the need of some of her physically challenged students, which sometimes showed in dire emergency! It was all fun, until the LCM brought out her cheque.
First, she hugged some identical twins, who were observably challenged. Then, she called out to other members of staff, jubilating that a private organization was wiling to partner with the State Government in the care of the challenged!
Aibinuomo pleaded that we stayed longer, but if had listened to her, how late would we have arrived at the Red Cross Society Home for the abandoned and the motherless!
Perhaps, it may be safer at this point to warn: Don’t ever visit the Courage Education Foundation, if you are not yet ready to become a foster parent! First the facility is small for the onerous task the foundation has taken upon itself; secondly the ever-bright eyes students would convince you that any investment made on them would be justified. And finally, the Head of the Foundation, Princess Abimbola Ajagunna keeps clean, prudent and convincing accounts of every kobo that finds its way into her coffer.
The foundation was established to scout around looking for highly brilliant kids who had dropped out of schools, because of poor finance. Subsequently, they make their recruitments either on the streets, interviewing kids hawking, or based on reports from schools of pupils who though brilliant, but had had to drop out for lack of funds. To merit Prince Ajagunna’s attention, the pupil must be very brilliant! And they were!
One of them is called Marian, who got to the school as a toddler some nine years back, because her Mai-guard father could no longer continue to fund her education. Today, she is in a private university, living as a good ambassador of the school and ‘blowing’ Queens English, as if the school was specially preparing her for the life of a happy broadcaster tomorrow!
When she got her N1 million LCM cheques, she first shouted: “Wow, Wow….wow!” then, sent for more of her students who momentarily joined her in an unblemished show of appreciations!
“This is wonderful. Haa, this is remarkable. Wow! We have to come to your office, to specially thank you. And when we are coming, I may also come with two students, to enable you see how we are spending your donations! I tell you, this is remarkable!” she stressed over and over.
We had fun, we had a woman who was able to turn our sad faces radiating with smiles: as the first place we had visited that morning, a Cerebral Palsy Centre had left all of us thanking God, but some of us, shedding tear!
Located in high brow Adeniran Ogunsanya area of Surulere, the founder, Nonye Nweke had told us that she established the place; some five years ago to cater for kids, who ordinarily most parents would want to throw away, as a result of stigmatization.
Cerebral palsy is a disease that attacks the muscles and nerves, leaving them weak and out of control! Consequently, the baby though may remain thoroughly intelligent, but nonetheless remains incapable of effectively controlling his bodily postures. The founder of the school got into the idea, after she got one of her own! The centre which today caters for such kids was then a thriving modern day eatery, where customs were treated to highly delicious meals.
In her explanation, Nonye Nweke noted that cerebral palsy usually developed as a result of inadequate supply of oxygen to the brain at birth, especially that vital period before a baby begins to cry, after delivery! She explained that the longer the delay for the baby, before he begins to cry and breathe in oxygen, the severity of the ailment.
The school had various pupils, in different pathetic stages of care. Nonye told us of a kid who was the first child of a young couple. Then there was a three year old who sat on a chair, but unable to move his necks.
It was understandable that the school actually needs medical supplies and a school bus, for moving the pupils. They would also need money for infrastructure upgrading.
We asked if there was anything the Government was doing for them, and she kept mute. Perhaps it was her best way of ensuring that she does not speak evil of any body, government inclusive.
She however indicated that her school was the first centre in Nigeria, established to cater to kids suffering cerebral palsy!
Yet, you would be seriously wrong, if you think that the LCM began its Corporate Social Responsibility in Lagos and ended it in Lagos. Last year, one the beneficiaries of its annual N5 million Naira package came from Ibadan. This year, it is the Demonstration School for Deaf Children, in far away Kano; whose N1 million cheque was presented, by the Company’s Head of Finance, Mallam Ibrahim Haruna!
We went out to donate millions to needy orphanages, indigent students and those in whose painful eyes today, there was no hope of any tomorrow. But we came back, more informed and better educated!
Have you thanked God today?! I just did!
And thank you too, the Lagos Channel Management!