In the summer of 2011, Liz Akano and London's jazz vocalist, Denise Pelley visited the site of the project in Ugbele, Akah in Eastern Nigeria. During this visit, the project site was cleared and the foundation of the classroom block of the school project was laid.
The entire trip was such an amazing experience for both of us. Seeing the joy and excitement in the faces of the children, their teachers, and the community members was more rewarding than anything else. Because our visit was so close to the last day of school before summer holiday, our visit with the students and teachers was very short but we managed to visit every class, from nursery 1 to primary 6 classes. We even organized a grad photo for the graduating class of 2011, and we were entertained by the students with songs and dances.
The headmistress was generous enough to give the students an extended recess to allow us time to interact with them, share greetings from the Board of Educate the Children and give them treats (mainly lollipops) we brought along with us. We also gave T-Shirts donated by H. B. Beal Secondary School to the graduating class. The students were so excited and thankful for the gifts. Coincidentally, the t-shirts were the same colour as the uniform for the school (photos below).
Our Visit with Eze Akpaka 1 of Ugbele Akah & the Women's group
As with the custom, Denise and I visited the Eze's palace. The position of the Eze is similar to that of the mayor in the Canadian system. We were given a very warm welcome by Eze Akpaka 1 of Ugbele Akah and the entire community represented by the eze's chiefs. They were very appreciative of the school we are building in the community and they all pledged their support and help to ensure that the project proceeds as planned.
We also had the opportunity to visit the women's group at their biweekly meeting. They shared their concerns for their children and education as well as their appreciation to Educate the Children and the project in Ugbele Ahah.
Denise and I visited other elementary as well as secondary schools in the neighbouring towns. It was very obvious that most of the schools share similar challenges of infrastructure decay, lack of sanitation and serious lack of instructional/learning materials.
Laying the Foundation of the Classroom Block
Denise's visit was cut short due to a prior commitment she had to perform in Dubai the following week. A week after I saw her off to the Abuja airport, I was back in the village to oversee the start of the project. First I met with the headmistress, some of her teachers and the chiefs to discuss our plans to commence the construction of the classroom block, the expectations and responsibilities of all involved. The eze and the chiefs were very enthusiastic and offered to provide assistance where and when needed. Plans were made for the town crier to inform the youth to gather the next morning with their machetes, axes, and other tool they may need to clear the project site. By 6:30 a.m. the next morning all men, young and old gathered at the site to cut down, pieces and remove palm trees and other big trees at the site. Before dawn, the site was completely cleared and ready for the digging of the foundation.
The next morning, the contractor and his workers as well as some volunteers were at the site to dig the foundation and start pouring the concrete for the footing. They worked tirelessly for the next ten days to complete the footing and the block work for the foundation of the classroom block, consisting of 16 classrooms and 6 stalls of boy's and girl's bathrooms.
Educate the Children is very appreciative of the work that has been done so far and would like to thank our donors, supporters, and volunteers who have made it possible. There are still a lot of work to be done in order to complete the Ugbele Akah project. We are looking forward to continuing work with the next phase of the project, the German floor in a short while.