See, A No-school Slum Inside Civilization

I stumbled upon this place, now you only have to read about it.

That’s my face in the hat of journalism and my friend, Gbenga.

Gamboya Gimba, aged nine, is unable to have her regular three square meal even though she lives just behind a N 100 million mansion. Gamboya like her friend Mowe Koffi, aged seven, has never seen the four walls of a school. Their destiny plays twist and turn on them and many kids living in this slum called Monkey Village. When I first heard about the place I thought it was a place far from development, a suburb in a rural location. I was wrong. Monkey village is situated right at the center of civilization, one hour drive from the venue that accommodated Kim Kardashian on her visit to Darey Art Alade’s show. Situated at the capital of Lagos State, just behind the commercial street of Allen Avenue, Ikeja, further heightens the matter.

News of the area’s impoverishment got to me through a friend and I couldn’t imagine how poverty can prevent young kids from going to school in this present age. So I prepared visiting the place. Was actually intending a long travel and already brain-packed my travel bag. Then, my friend almost gave me a heart attack when he said it’s just streets away from National Daily complex.

Like every other amenities that ensures easy life, the networks of good road takes you to Monkey village but it stops at the entrance of the slum. “It’s a hard life in here” some young lad muttered in the local language as we strolled into the place. Our tour guide is 38 years old Avolumehn Ereshe who prefers to be called Cooper (and that’s scarcely the second western symbolism I have experienced here after the tattered clothes). “It is called Monkey village because many years back this place use to be an accidental plantain plantation, the wealthy people around dump their wastes and dirt here and nature grew up plantains which attracted the monkeys. Soon humans took over” Our Cooper explains.

Apparently a certain Papa Joe first settled on this place and gradually with time it became a settlement for people who share same similarities with Papa Joe. People too poor to have helping hands. Here is a slum-nation of its own population, comprising of mix cultures and heritages. A refugee nation of a sort. Settlers are from neighboring French and English speaking countries, Niger Deltants, and Northerners. And naturally, the lingual-franca here is Pidgin.

I told Cooper I need to take a pee and he takes me to the segmented open allotment. Here is a crusade of human wastes and feaces loitering in different forms, some dried some fresh. So I uttered a few prayers for the lord’s protection in my heart as I go forth to take a pee. For the place is sloppy and if I slip or dash a feet, I could tumble over this ‘nation’s sewage’. Cooking here is done through the hard way. Stones are used for grinding, fire woods for cooking. The houses are constructed from second-hand used planks and zincs. For furniture and home appliances only few can afford worn-out beds. When it rains, the little kids must run and trap them selves inside or stand the risk of getting swept off by the waves of uncontrolled erosion. There is no form of water drainage system around only the one nature gives them as the land here slants to a corner.

The Orderly Society Trust and my friend decided to bring a school to Monkey village because (according to their findings)they can’t afford a free school. A free school comes with opportunity costs. And the actual costs of uniforms and text books is also some ache to the financial purse.

Despite the charitable efforts of the OS in bringing a mini school of a canopy and plastic chairs to the village. It’s still a huge challenge to bring the kids to school. Farida’s mum insists her daughter must help in the peasant fish frying business “I have no body to help, this business ensures we don’t die of hunger and my daughter must assist in hawking” the woman whimpered. But if Farida doesn’t go to school the mother will continue in this peasant business all her life and the same future is what her daughter will inherit, upon this advice, she will allow her daughter benefit from this intervention. However, Farida attends off and on.

At first, the OST officials are skeptical on using the books and basic study materials available because these kids know nothing about reciting ABCs, they’ve never been taught. They aren’t expose to “Ben 10” or any form or westernization but they are smart kids and the outcome surprised the teachers. With basic picture and graphic aids they are grasping fast.

“Amazingly they remember Rex the dinosaur and the tale we have taught them, its a tremendous improvement. We have taught them nursery basics of hygiene (how to wash their hands), how to show respect, queue and be orderly” one of the three teachers explains.

Gamboya and other kids are quite delighted at this rapid change; they are adjusting to a brighter future of hope but for how long? Will they ever get to experience normal classroom learning? The OST director says “hopefully, the plan is to eventually put them in a running school. This is just a bridge. Preparing them in order to identify their weaknesses and strength, so that we can help them adjust to a properly run school. This is like a Montessori approach to schooling, we are working with each child…some may not even be able to go to normal school, because they need special attention individually. It’s amazing that even with free kits, education and incentives we still have parents who don’t want their kids to go to school due to ignorance”.

As Gamboya puts on her first ever school uniform, the feeling is ecstatic, she giddily galvanizes around the slum.

Basking in that mood she tells me she may never pull off the lovely dress, never! Hopefully, OST and well meaning Lagosians will help Gamboya and her peers become examples for the people in the slum. And who knows, her light may shine brighter than the electricity bulb, among other life amenity, monkey village lacks.


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Originally published at old.nationaldailyng.com.