Slum2School:  Building An Education Revolution In Africa’s Slum

Can young people in Africa address the basic educational needs of the continent’s fast growing population despite the limitations posed by inadequate socio-political and economic reforms?

In Nigeria, Slum2School is helping Nigeria’s 10 million out-of-school children into school and learning.

Created by Nigerian-entrepreneur Orondaam Otto, Slum2School is a volunteer driven social development organization operating in Nigeria with a vision to transform the society by empowering disadvantaged children in Slums and remote communities.

This movement is not driven by millions of Naira but through the relentless effort and commitment of young people in over 25 countries.

Since it was founded in 2012, it has provided educational scholarships and support for 650 disadvantaged children from various Slums and remote communities like Emina, Saga Island, Okuagbo and Makoko.

Slum2School has already won over 15 national and international awards for its innovative strategies, community development focus, leadership style, youth drive and social impact.

Rural Reporters spoke with Elizabeth Laiza Kalu, Slums2school Social Communications manager.

Laiza originally joined Slums2school as a volunteer but today, she helps the organisation with its media and communications input, showing that there is a serious business going on in creating inclusive social development even from the most rural parts of Nigeria and Africa.

Orondaam Otto also joined in our conversation. Here is what they have to say on how the movement is transforming the lives of people in rural Nigeria.

 

 

RR: Why was Slum2School created?

 

Otto: Back in 2012, there was a period when everywhere I turned to I saw negative news about Nigeria and Africa. At work it was CNN and almost all I saw were children dying, African children out of school. One day I watched a report about education and found out that Nigeria had over 10 million out-of-school children. On my way to work and back I always saw children hawking and doing menial jobs on the street and it always bothered me. I tried to endure it until one evening, I was going across the 3rd mainland bridge and fortunately for me there was a huge traffic; I noticed the community sitting on the lagoon called Makoko. The traffic was slow so I succeeded in taking so many pictures but that wasn’t enough.

As an adventurous guy I forced myself to visit and see for myself what happened in the smoking huts and to my greatest shock I was faced with the reality that I had watched for months. I saw thousands of innocent children without clothes littered everywhere; children who should be in school but were not. It was a sad reality and that day I made the decision to resign from the bank and try to solve some of their problems. And that was how Slum2School Africa started.

 

RR: Hello Laiza, when and why did you join the Slum2school team?

Laiza: Hi Busayo! I joined Slum2School in 2012 while I was participating in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program. I’ve always been passionate about serving my community and generally helping transform people’s lives no matter how small. My NYSC period was the perfect time to contribute, learn and grow and off course Slum2School gave me the right opportunity. Besides my passion for community development, I joined Slum2School simply because of the passion and commitment I saw when I attended an event they organized in Makoko. I saw pure passion amongst the volunteers, I felt compassion for the children and connected strongly with their vision, especially as an advocate for education and empowerment.

 

RR: What has been your experience?

Laiza: My experience has been amazing, fulfilling, fun and has connected me to my purpose. Working with selfless, passionate and hardworking volunteers has made me understand that life is beyond self. I’m talking about dedicated individuals who are ready to go into the slums and very remote areas, sleep in places where there’s no light, get their hands dirty and come out with results. It’s been an inspiring journey with Slum2School. It has helped me grow personally, spiritually and mentally. It’s been truly life changing!

 

RR: So far, how many people has Slum2School helped since it started?

Otto: Directly through our educational scholarship program we have sponsored 650 children into school who had never gone to school.

We have trained 30 community youths and 5 children on how to make beads, bags, shoes and accessories and supported them to start businesses and they are making money from it.

Our psycho-social support and medical programs have benefitted over 4000 children, women, youths and men across 7 communities.

Also our professional volunteers especially through leadership seminars, Project management skills, courses and personal development have also been beneficiaries of our impact.

 

RR: Are your projects only in Makoko?

Laiza: Although our projects are largely based in Makoko, we’ve expanded beyond that area. We’ve seen how our projects have positively impacted the lives of children and also their families, so we had to expand. So far, we’ve provided educational scholarships and support to 650 disadvantaged children from various slums and remote communities including Emina, Saga island, Okuagbo and Makoko.

 

RR: What past project has Slum2school embarked on and what is the success rate?

Laiza: Slum2School has had several past and successful projects. We always make sure we keep the conversation going, get people engaged and interested. For example, we’ve had several events from Christmas in a Box, Annual Fundraising projects, volunteer awareness campaigns, skill acquisition events for our community based volunteers, leadership training and more. Our major project every year is the Annual Fundraising Event. It takes a lot of planning from all communities, volunteers and the management team. Beyond just raising funds, we have other events attached to it. Because we work with orphans and vulnerable children, we have standard selection criteria. So, in order to produce accurate results and select the right beneficiaries, we need to have well trained professional volunteers to conduct baseline index assessments. We have to reach out to the right traditional media houses, online platforms, social media platforms and public figures to help spread the word. With over 3,000 volunteers in 25 countries, it takes a dedicated volunteer management team to make sure that everyone is engaged and spreading the word rightly. Because of our passionate team, volunteers and off course supporters, we’ve had very high success rates, especially for an organization that is 2years old. The support has been amazing and sometimes we are literally astonished by the backing we get.

Providing educational scholarships is only one step out of many to improve the situation for children in disadvantaged communities. An overall process forging sustainable development is essential to reduce poverty. Therefore our work revolves around 4 core programs- Community Advocacy, Scholarship Programs, Community Support Programs and School support programs.

 

RR: How do you evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns you do?

Laiza: It depends on the kind of campaign. For each campaign though, we have clearly defined goals and action steps on how to achieve them. We make sure that we arm our volunteers in advance towards achieving an effective and fruitful campaign. For example, If it’s strictly a social media campaign like our Volunteer Social Media Campaign which we conducted earlier this year, we knew that the social media and volunteer engagement teams had to be very active. From the applications we got regularly, we knew that we were exceeding our goals because we had the right people who monitored the process. Our teams track and monitor the progress and engagement via our social media platforms and using other third-party tools. Generally, regular monitoring, evaluating and getting feedbacks strengthens the impact of our campaigns and has been crucial towards wider organizational planning. That way, we can immediately recognize errors and work on strategies to improve.

 

RR: How does Slum2school communicate its goal effectively to the rural communities they work in, whereby they wouldn’t see the project as a charity cause but a move towards personal development?

Laiza: The goal is to help the communities where we operate to ultimately become self-sustained so that the presence of Slum2School is not necessary in the long run. We look beyond just giving but towards empowering. Some of the ways we achieve this goal of sustainability is through our community support programs (e.g. medical support and skill acquisition training) for the caregivers, to reduce the poverty of the whole community and keep them motivated and supportive towards educating their children. We just finished our first phase of skill acquisition training for community based volunteers in Makoko. They were trained on skills such as bead making, shoes, bags, jewelleries and more. We believe that through such projects, their lives can be changed and they can be financially empowered. We ensure that we also get the community based volunteers and the parents of the children in involved in some of our programs so that they feel accepted and encourage the spirit of education.

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RR: What distinguish Slum2School from other NGO in Nigeria?

Laiza: I believe most NGOs are unique especially because of their vision and dedication towards transforming lives. For Slum2School, we understand that it’s all about helping each other and nation building. We want to grow together as a nation and we believe that we can only do this effectively by supporting and working with other NGOs, governmental institutions and more. Moreover our focus is to mobilize efforts of government, private sector, individuals and other development agencies towards building a collaborative and sustainable network to secure educational opportunities for children from disadvantaged families/communities and also build a network of socially responsible youths with a mindset of social development. We definitely cannot achieve our goals alone.

We also understand the benefit of volunteer service and new media which we have incorporated in our structure and towards achieving our goals. Slum2School Africa is currently one of the most vibrant youth driven non-profit organization operating in Nigeria. We believe that when we all focus on building a future Nigeria or strengthening our communities and nation as a whole, rather than focusing on competition, then it will make a huge difference.

 

RR: Any plan on expanding Slum2school to other African nations?

Laiza: Yes, we definitely have plans to expand to other African nations. For now though, we are focused on Nigeria as we make plans towards scaling up our operations to cover more communities across Nigeria and Africa. We are all about quality first and making sure that we build solid foundations where ever we are.

 

RR: Please share one of the inspiring experiences you have had in the cause of delivering the Slum2school project?

Laiza: Hmmm! I’ve had so many inspiring experiences with Slum2School. One of the very memorable events was seeing one of our kids teaching her mother what she learnt in school. Many people might see that as ordinary. But those little moments just remind us of the importance of education. When one child is educated and enlightened, it lights up their world and impacts their families too. That moment was very inspiring and definitely encouraged us to keep pushing the boundaries for more children to gain education.

 

RR: What is your message to young people reading this?

Otto: I have a lot of advice but one of my recent quotes which I love says “You must make the best of life while you have the chance to do so. Life is really not all about you but what you do with yourself that will improve, inspire and impact the world around you.”

 

In less than two years since it started, Slum2School has motivated passionate and dynamic young individuals to provide access to education and psycho-social support for disadvantaged children in slums and remote communities. It has also been able to inspire young people to be the change and give them the perfect platform to volunteer in that process.

As part of its goal towards empowering children in the slums, Slum2school recently launched its annual Fundraiser to build 4 mentorship Hubs in 4 communities to encourage and facilitate early childhood education.

To know more about this movement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GwOyPJkRbI

Busayo Sotunde is a prolific writer with special focus on Business, Entrepreneurship, Reproductive Health and other development issues in Africa. Her articles have been published by different outlets including Investing Port and Ventures-Africa.com. She has a penchant for reading and sustainable development. Follow Busayo on Twitter @BusayomiSotunde