Unarguably, one very seemingly grueling phenomenon that confronts parents at the end of every long school holidays is preparing the children to embrace a fresh academic session, paying school fees and of course, getting all the necessary aids to learning.
The situation is better imagined for the low and middle-income earners. But it is much more pitiable for children and wards whose parents might be out of job and therefore, have no means to mollify this arduous situation especially, the orphans whose fate is hinged on God and humanitarianism.
However, one inimitable Foundation which has been on the vanguard to putting smiles on faces of these less privileged school children at every new academic year is the Anioma Youths Network for Development’s “Back To School Programme”; reports Ekamma UBA, Senior Staff Investigator Writer who was at the 2nd edition of the programme held recently at Onicha-Ugbo, Delta State. Excerpts.
As early as 8.30am, the expansive garage at the center of Onicha Ugbo town, a sleepy community in Delta State was filled to capacity mainly by school children, majority of whom were the less-privileged and orphans drawn from no fewer than five communities; including Ubulu-Uku, Isele-Uku, Igbodo, Obior and of course, the host community- Onicha-Ugbo.
Date was September 8, 2018. Parents and guardians of these school children were also not left out as they were spotted dressed in their best; all in dire anticipation of the goodies the AYND had in stock for them.
It is worthy of note that the AYND’s Back To School initiative is a sole conception by Odita Sunday-Udemaguna, a senior journalist with The Guardian newspapers; who himself was a victim of neglect and utter deprivation while growing up as a child without parental care and love; having lost his mother at a time when other children suckled.
At about some minutes past 10.00 am, dignitaries including traditional rulers, business moguls, journalists, politicians and senior security personnel from the state and beyond trickled in their numbers, adorning the entire hemisphere with their posh cars and soon, the occasion kicked off with an opening prayer and words of exhortation from the royal father of the day, the Obi of Onicha Ugbo kingdom, His Royal Majesty Agbogidi Victor Chukwumalieze 1 who was however, ably represented by his traditional Prime Minister- the Iyasere of Onicha Ugbo.
Then came the moment everyone had waited for and that was the presentation gift items made up of school bags, books and other aids to learning to the pupils.
The master of ceremony MC, Mr. Frank Oshanugor, a Lagos based veteran journalist and author reeled out names of registered beneficiaries as they filed up regimentally to receive the items amid grin-filled cheeks and visible joy of appreciation.
“A heart rending spectacle was enacted while the distribution of the gift items progressed: as the MC called out the name of a 9-year-old orphan as next in line for the August gift which took place in the month of September, the visibly excited boy sprang with the agility of a leopard, dashed to the center of the stage, collected the items jealously and gleefully made for his seat; betraying emotions of contentment and sense of belonging”
“ Thank God, I now have a beautiful schoolbag, writing materials and books to show to my friends in school when we resume,” he seems to be telling another beneficiary seated next to him; as he pulls out the items one after the other from the bag in admiration.
On the whole, over 120 of such beneficiaries made up of primary and secondary school pupils went home rejoicing, singing songs of praise to God Almighty for raising a son of Onicha Ugbo extraction with rear milk of humanity in Odita Sunday-Udemaguna to their rescue.
Perhaps, the denouement and emotion laden moment which heralded the climax of the occasion was brought to bear when the convener and national President of the AYND empowerment initiative, Mr. Odita Sunday-Udemaguna was handed over the microphone to deliver his 15 paragraphed speech and made cash donations of N25,000.00 each to two widows to assist in boosting their petty trade.
The audience could not but betray emotions, emotions of a once underprivileged and wretched child raised by unfamiliar persons other than his biological parents; now alleviating the agonies of similar children in his immediate community and beyond when he said, “…in trying to give a helping hand to our less privileged brothers and sisters in primary and secondary schools, I am personally not driven by political intentions or pecuniary gains, rather by passion and the fact that as a child, I suffered so much deprivation as I grew up without a mother. As a toddler, I did not have the motherly affection and attention as I lost my mother very early in life.”
Continuing, emotion-gripped Odita reiterated the essence of Western education in the life a growing child and the importance of lending a helping hand in acquiring academic tools when necessary saying, “Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me at this juncture to say that I strongly believe that apart from God, education is the only thing that can liberate the son and daughter 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 place 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, Anioma Youths Network for Development 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.”
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