The sound of drumming and singing from the pupils of Alive and Awake Royal Charity School, in the Abule-Egba area of Lagos, on Thursday, was near deafening. Sixty-two pupils of the school, dressed in different uniforms, marched to loud beats of the drums, played furiously by two of their colleagues. Morning assemblies are colourful in this school, the only academic centre located on Oriade Street in the Olota community.
But the school building, uncompleted and unplastered, lacks the protection of doors and windows. Desks and chairs are available, but there are no learning materials in sight. But there are more bruises in this school, where pupils are not required to pay tuition.
Only two teachers, including the proprietress, Pastor Mercy Temidire, teach the six primary classes and nursery section. That deficit, however, has yet to impact on the enrolment figure.
“I have lost all my teachers because I could not pay them. But we keep on having pupils every term and we cannot turn them back. I have a passion to help children from less-privileged homes. The nearest public school is Meiran Community School and it is miles away. The private schools around are also expensive and some of these children are orphans or products of broken homes.
“Most of them were roaming the streets when we accosted them and visited their homes. We encouraged their parents to send them to school and we promised that there would be no school fees. Since 2010, when this school was established, we have not charged a dime. We only asked the parents to pay N1,500 per term as lesson fees, and as you would rightly imagine, the majority do not pay,’’ she said.
The embattled proprietress, who said she had tried to reach out to the state government and well-meaning Nigerians to no avail, added that the school lacked critical resources to thrive.
“There is no fund for salaries. I pay my teacher N15,000 monthly and she has been wonderful. I am able to pay her through my trading business. This building is rented and we need a better environment. You can see that the children wear different uniforms to schools. Some do not even have at all and they wear mufti to school. You can’t send a child that has not eaten back home. We have to give them food first otherwise teachers will labour in vain. There is no school bus and textbooks. We are only managing to get by.
“Officials of the state government have been here and they commended us, but nothing has come out of it. I was tempted to give up in 2013 when I had to use my house rent to pay salaries and I was forced to squat with people. In fact, I did try to run away but I thought of the children. What would happen to them? They are always reluctant to leave the school because we feed them. We are appealing to any Nigerian who is compassionate enough to give us a lifeline,’’she said