By Christine Onwuachumba
Growing up as a little girl in Ajegunle, Lagos, Chimanma Nina Gold Rushworth-Moore had experienced the full prism of the Nigerian reality. In Lagos where she grew up the daughter of a banker father and a teacher mother, she attended Local Authority Primary School in Ajegunle-Apapa, before going on to the Federal Government Girls College Owerri, Imo State and Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun State for her bachelor degree in Dramatic Arts.
Her first-hand experience of the vulnerability of poor children in the city of Lagos, remains indelible in her mind so much so that decades later, she returned to set up Goldfish Initiative for Illiteracy and Poverty Alleviation as a Non-Governmental Organisation devoted to children.
Rushworth-Moore’s career has been on the upswing in the UK from being a staff of Driving Standards Agency under the Department of Transport to an employee of the British Telecom to a staffer of Care Quality Commission, an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health, where she currently works.
She outlined her motivation for setting up the charity organisation that seeks to give lifeline to vulnerable children and the ways she is trying to make an impact.
What is the value, vision and impact of your organization?
The Goldfish Initiative strongly believes and commits to the ideology that No Child Should Be Left Behind! We are dedicated to bringing out the best in the African child because every child can succeed given the right support and direction.
We aim to nurture and guide every willing child to learn to read and write, and convince or persuade any unwilling child and or their parents to see the benefits of basic formal education the most crucial access to the socio-economic opportunities space.
We are creating platforms adapted to suit every child’s abilities. Essentially, we want to enable every child to identify his or her strengths, talents and abilities, I call this “catching them young.”
I believe that literacy will go a long way to reduce poverty across Africa, and help the development of knowledge and capacity in other fields such as agriculture, politics, history, economics, human relations and many others.
In pursuit of your vision, what are the challenges in your way and what is your motivation?
So far, funding and related logistics comes primarily from earnings from my day job in the UK and support from close family and friends who believe that together, we can make the world a better place.
Another challenge is getting the right people to work with.
Generally, in Nigeria, it is herculean task to get government to move rapidly in support of Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)-led initiatives due to the structure of government. The data on the population of these children in our rural communities who do not attend school is incomplete at best.
As an NGO that is self-funded at the moment, there is a limit to what we can do and achieve at a given time. We have lined up a number of projects in different locations at the grassroots in the coming year, but, of course, achieving them is subject to the amount of funding we have.
However, we are making efforts to get support and assistance.
It can also be quite tasking managing and dealing with people, particularly because I am not in close proximity to all of them. Currently, I have a team I work with that has been extremely dedicated and committed to the goals of the organisation but often we still need to relate and involve services of other external persons, in some cases we are faced with certain rules, conditions, demands which can make working in some areas quite difficult.
For instance, when we got to one of the communities to donate learning materials and supplies to the children, we were approached by unemployed youths who were making demands and even requesting for money before we can get access to their community, to work with the kids. In most cases, that is what happens. It is quite sad and discouraging sometimes, but we will not relent.
Despite all these, I am more than determined to keep going. What drives me is the hope of a better tomorrow especially the belief that beneath the surface, there is a successful person in every child.
My biggest driving force is my personal life experience. I grew up in Ajegunle. I have seen a situation where the child of a garri seller has risen to senior management in a multinational organisation. I have seen the boy who wore the most tattered uniforms become an IT guru, helping his own family out of poverty. It is a chain reaction which only literacy can bring.
How are we as a society perpetuating poverty?
Our society can easily be ranked among the wealthiest nations of the world if we get our acts right and do the right things. Sadly, this is not the case. The gap between the rich and poor is so wide. We lack simple, basic amenities for the average man like healthy drinking water, electricity, healthcare. One major problem is the lack of infrastructure.
The western world is not as blessed as we are in resources, but they have built infrastructure to sustain their people. A nation that fails in such isn’t giving room for empowerment of its people. When children don’t go to school, but are instead busy hawking on the streets or used as instruments for political cause, clearly the future of that society is in jeopardy. When our graduates are rendered jobless due to lack of jobs or source of livelihood then we are giving room for crime and all kinds of dangerous acts. It cannot be overemphasized that education is the bedrock of any nation’ s development, progress and survival. We need to start to prioritize education, put it at the forefront of nation building and the national budget. This is the only way we can empower the next generation, secure our future and if not eradicate but alleviate poverty to the barest minimum.
Tell us more about Goldfish Initiative
The Goldfish Initiative for Illiteracy and Poverty Alleviation is a registered Non-Governmental Organisation officially launched on September 10, 2016. The Goldfish Initiative as it is called for short is extremely passionate and dedicated to making sure poverty is alleviated through education and talent, ensuring that sure no child is left behind in getting the basic education of being able to read and write, especially for Children from the poorest parts of our society in Nigeria, and in the nearest future across Africa.
What inspired the decision to set up the NGO?
A couple of things. Firstly, I share a similar background with some of the child I am giving a voice to via the NGO. For me its a way of giving a step ladder to children whose parents live on less than a dollar a day, who are struggling with life and living, and giving them that opportunity via education to step up in life and step out of poverty. When you are poor, it is one thing; when you are illiterate and poor, believe me, its a whole new ball game, especially in this our present day 21st century. These children are usually the forgotten, the voiceless, the unspoken for, children who have fallen through the cracks of the Nigerian educational system.
My aim is to give the children a voice. They have a right to education. Its a human right, not a privilege. I believe the education of every Nigerian child, poor or rich is very essential to nation building.
Give some insights to your recent projects
I have recently toured four states randomly, Lagos, Kwara, Ogun and Cross River. In these states, we have spread hope, delivered motivational speeches and provided support (in the form of reading and writing materials, school fees, school uniforms, lunch box fillers like biscuits etc) for some children. We also identified pupils who are struggling more than most, and have offered scholarship to some. I use We because I could not have achieved all this by myself. I was supported by a group of good Nigerians who responded to my call for volunteers and used their time and energy to help out across these states.
How do you raise funds to keep the NGO going?
The NGO is still self-funded for now, as we have just recently been given certification by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to open an account as an NGO. However, there are individuals, corporate bodies and organisations we are looking at working closely with as the year progresses.
What is your opinion on child illiteracy in Nigeria?
Child illiteracy is high in Nigeria. Child Labour too is high. Most children who hawk on the streets and main roads or do things like cleaning car windows on busy roads when they are supposed to be in class school have become a regular sight on our roads. There is no system in place where parents are questioned by the government, or even convicted if need be, when their ward is denied this essential human right. As a nation, we must work closely and together to eradicate illiteracy. I am afraid its all around us. I am also aware that a lot of people cite poverty as a reason for not sending their children to school, but help can be sought, help can be rendered. Non-governmental organisations like the Goldfish Initiative for Illiteracy and Poverty Alleviation is trying to bridge that gap as much as possible.
What are the challenges you have faced?
There are so many people to help. Identifying the people who really need the help is the easy part, but the difficult aspect is making sure that parents keep their own side of the bargain by supporting and encouraging them to go school when we set them on the right path.
Funding is also a challenge. We implore people who have the means, or come from similar backgrounds and have become successful to join us.
Lastly, Nigeria is a very big country. Majority of the children who need this help are in rural areas. Some of these areas do not even have electricity or a good access road.
Nonetheless, we are dedicated to reaching out, hence our motto, “No hiding place for the African child.”
In the 21st century, poverty caused by illiteracy is an unacceptable reason for any child to fail.
Any future projects?
We hope to increase the number of states where children have been given scholarships under the Goldfish Initiative umbrella. We intend to start a “recommend a child per scheme.” This is going to be a major project across the 36 states including the Federal Capital Territory. We also want the federal government, through the Ministry of Education, to invest more in our public schools. Some of these schools are death traps and are in appalling conditions. We hope that through the help of the federal and state governments we can work closely in making a difference, by their support and the support of good citizens, to help reform some of the learning environments through volunteering and sponsorships.