By Bianca Iboma-Emefu
Risikat Adeola Adisa is the executive director of Rammah Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that seeks to reduce the number of out-of-school children as result of financial constraints.
The NGO also engages in sensitisation programmes for street children in Lagos and Osun states. The foundation celebrated its seventh anniversary recently with the aged, widows, orphans and the less privileged in an event where foodstuff were donated.
In this interview with Daily Sun, Adisa spoke on the value of quality education and why collective effort to provide support for girls and children is imperative.
Reports say 60 per cent of out-of-school children in Nigeria are girls. What top priority can be given to girls’ education to reduce the number?
Government needs to make conscious effort and take deliberate steps to address this challenge. Poverty is the major reason why girls often pull out of school. There is a pool of children on the streets and the number is growing rapidly.
In order to stop this negative trend and prevent the increase in crime rate as well as kids becoming agents of destruction, all hands must be on deck to tackle the scourge. We must address it from the rural areas that never had a school to the ones with dilapidated buildings, which were destroyed either out of negligence or lack of maintenance.
Today, the fact is that many children are unable to go to school in the interior parts across the nation.
Secondly, we need to ensure that more children of school age are not denied the opportunity of going to school for simple reasons of affordability or lack of access.
In this regard, government needs to go back to the policy of free and compulsory education for all school-age children from primary to secondary school levels. This will help a great deal in restoring seriousness to our educational system.
Despite COVID-19, many schools are overflowing with students, they lack sanitary facilities, capable teachers or adequate learning materials; what should government do to reduce the number of out-of-school children as a result of this pandemic?
This is a critical period for both parents and school authorities. I think, to address the situation, government needs to offer some level of financial incentive to the schools and parents, too.
However, we have had some measures to arrest the potential growth in the number of out-of-school children, even before the pandemic and during the pandemic.
One of such was that the Federal Government had given, through the Universal Basic Education (UBE), intervention funds to states on equality basis to enable them implement tangible state-based priority projects, including the building of schools or additional classrooms, renovation, rehabilitation, procurement of furniture and equipment, among others, with focus on enrolling more pupils or having more flexibility towards learning.
You have run this foundation for about seven years now. Do you recall what prompted your decision to set it up in the first place?
This foundation started in 2014. The thought of seeing some kids going to school without sandals and others with torn uniforms just broke my heart. I became curious and made enquires to know the schools they attended. I discovered that they were state-owned schools.
I saw that the vacuum in the educational sector was due because of the poverty level of some of the pupils’ parents in the public schools. They couldn’t provide the basic needs of their wards, let alone afford the luxury of private schools for them.
I felt pity for kids, especially the girls, who would manage to wear torn uniforms and wrap it in a funny manner towards one side. It was a source for concern and I knew I had to do something to help in whatever small measure I could.
So, what steps exactly did you take?
I swung into action immediately. I quickly came up with the initiative to distribute educational materials, including uniforms, school shoes and bags, among other things. My catchment areas were schools in Lagos and Osun states.
Would you say that the initiative to help indigent students was born out of personal experience?
I remember while growing up, as a little girl, I was an extrovert and my mother, Mrs. Muyibat Adisa, had a huge influence on my life. She moulded me into whatever I am now. She didn’t hesitate to use the rod of correction when it was necessary.
She only had informal education but she affected I and my siblings in a positive way. I am the last of the six children. She understood that one could only achieve greatness through hard work and that education remains the only legacy any parent can bequeath to her ward.
She presented education to me as a beautiful journey that could transform a girl into a woman viewed in a positive and respectable light.
Her encouragement to pursue education, which was the first step that turned me into a knowledgeable woman, is my pride. She knew the importance of education, so she made sure we had it and guided us towards a better life.
Can you share some of the activities and difficulties of running the foundation since inception?
The journey has been interesting. And just like any other endeavours where you have regular interface with people, it is full of wins and challenges, but the driving force towards achieving positive impact has kept me going.
When I started the NGO many years back, it was just to add educational value to the lives of some vulnerable children in my neighbourhood but I have since discovered that the journey is more than what I saw.
The scope of operation is broad and work is also enormous. However, I realized that, to actualize my vision, I needed to take some bold steps, which I did.
I started the foundation with registration of two educationally-challenged children in the government primary school. Today, I have about 50 of them We have provided over 3,000 school uniforms, schoolbags, sandals, and books.
Can you share some of your experiences so far and how did you surmount the difficulties?
Naturally, life is filled with challenges and, in any project one embarks on, you must expect those difficulties.
Those difficulties are not peculiar to us. It is general but how you are able to manage what comes your way distinguishes you from what others are doing.
Since the inception of the NGO, our priority has been to give back to widows, the less privileged, orphans, and indigent pupils and the elderly in various locations, because they are vulnerable as well.
Most widows undergo a series of betrayal and rejection from their husbands’ families, while some elders live far from their children. This condition often leaves them helpless.
Some good-spirited individuals have helped to fill some financial potholes. In fact, their support and encouragement are part of the reasons we didn’t give up.