“I didn’t know I’d go to school after the death of my parents. When I was in SS3, Touch-A-Life scholarship came up and I was among eight selected students.”
Alao Opeyemi Azeez, an indigene of Osun State, was reluctant to talk when our reporter approached him for this story. His fear was that his story might break the dam in his eyes and cause tears to start flowing out freely down his cheeks. In fact, as he started to talk, the 20-year-old orphan almost got choked on his tears as he struggled to say something in response to your question. His situation was only helped when you asked him to stop and catch some breath before continuing.
The agile young man said he has been an orphan since 12. It was a painful experience that started with the sudden death of his mother when he was nine years old. His father remarried soon after. But three years down the line he was dead, but not until he had chased away Azeez and his siblings because their stepmother didn’t seem to like them that much. Nor cared! Through it all, one fact has stood out like a sore finger: between age 12 when he lost his father and now age 20, Azeez had served as a houseboy in seven different homes, in a bid to eke out a living.
Moving from one family to another
“I survived by God’s grace,” he told Saturday Sun. “I was constantly moving from one family to another, struggling to make them want me. We are three children from my mother. I live with one person for three to four months and when they say they are tired and complained of finances, I move in with another person. That’s how I have been moving from one place to another. At a point, even my own biological sister sent me away. Right now, I am staying with my uncle.”
But on one of the occasions, he wished his parents were alive. That was when he was asked to repeat a class, not because he was not brilliant, but because he could not pay for one of the school projects. “The care of a parent cannot be compared with the secondary care I had and I am still having,” he sighed as he said so. “I miss my parents seriously especially when I was in SS1. The issue of project money came up; it was N1500. I had nobody to pay for me and I failed SS1 because I didn’t meet up with the exams. Assuming my parents were alive, they wouldn’t watch me fail like that.” He sighed again.
Like Azeez, Chinyere Orji, 28-year-old orphan from Delta State has also been through some experiences you could describe as her own hell. Tall, she looks, every inch, like Kim Kardashian, the US model. Narrating what she passed through in the hands of her uncle. Chinyere said that from the first day she stepped her foot into her uncle’s house at Gbagada, Lagos, he began to ogle at her.
“That night, we had just returned from the burial of my parents who died in a car accident on their journey to a burial,” she recalled. “My uncle decided to take me in and I accepted because he had no daughter. I thought he was going to channel the love he would have had for a daughter if had one, to me. And, he did indeed: he loved me but not the way I wanted it. He was constantly coming into my room asking to see my pant. His first son, started his own after had finished his university education from the University of Nigeria in the Southeastern part of the country.
“I tried to resist both father and son for a while. But from the love they claimed to want to show me, they changed to hatred. I was always the thief in the house and I started feeling like an orphan. I was eating leftovers. I dared not join them on the dining table or sleep while at least one person was awake.”
Suffering that comes from losing both parents
Another orphan, 16-year-old Blessing Enuwa from Benue State, also admits going through some grueling times. According the girl who lost her father at the age of three and mother, three years ago, she had to fend for the family while caring for her mother who suffered from ‘kidney failure’.
“When she was alive, I usually take my mum to the hospital for her check-ups and dialysis,” she said. “Though it affected my studies I was hoping that my efforts would not be in vain but after everything to God be the glory, we lost her,” she stated. Currently, Blessing who passed out of secondary school, not too long ago, keeps two jobs: that of a teacher in a not-too-popular private school apart from being an apprentice tailor.
“It is not really easy but I believe that I will survive with my academics and moral efforts,” she added. “I am a secondary school teacher. I take JSS 1-3 in Math, Social Studies and CRK while I take SS1 in CRK. I am also learning tailoring skills. I see it as a good thing to have a handwork I can be doing instead of relying on what comes from home. I want to be able to boast of a skill, something that will make me independent,” she stated.
Njoku Chibuzor Daniel, another orphan, told Saturday Sun of how he had to sit at the dining table listening to the horrible tale of how his father was found dead in a gutter. The Imo State indigene narrated how his mother could not bear the death of their father until she gave up the ghost. “My dad died when I was in Primary 3 in 2007 and two years later, my mum followed,” he said soberly. “He was an engineer. On that day, he had an appointment and told my mother that he wanted to fix a gas cylinder problem for a client. But on his way home, he slumped and died. My mother loved my father so much that the frustration and sufferings that ensued after my father’s death led to my mum’s death two years later as she developed high blood pressure. My mother cried almost everyday until she gave up the ghost. Life became hell for me; people always pitied my situation and that made me sad the more.” It affected not only his daily living but also his chance of bettering his life through education, as there was no one to pay his school fees.
Getting help from unexpected quarters
That is the same story with Raheem Sunday who recently secured an admission to study in his state-owned university, Ekiti State University. Like Njoku, he also lost both parents at a tender age. According to him, he felt it much on “Open Days” when parents and guardians usually visit schools to see how their wards are doing and to interact with their teachers but in his own case there would be nobody coming to check on his schoolworks.
“I didn’t know I would go to school after the death of my parents,” he said. “When I was in SS3, Touch-A-Life scholarship came up and I was among the eight selected students. After the exams and interviews, I was awarded scholarship. When I was in SS2, my sister talked me into choosing a handiwork and the plan was to start learning it immediately after my SS3 exams so that I can have something doing and at the same time be able to save some money to go to school. I actually chose aluminum but the scholarship paved a faster and better way. It was my brother who helped me out. He ran around to source for the money I used in registering for the exams although I didn’t quite understand what they were all about. My initial choice was medicine and surgery.”
Actually, the last two, Raheem and Daniel, who secured admission to read Biological Science in a university on a scholarship, wouldn’t have been able to make it in life, via education, but for such opportunity, provided, free of charge, by Touch-A-Life Foundation, founded by a sweet hearted lady called Bose Durojaye. According to her, there brilliant students she has come across some in her journey to improving and equip public schools.
“These children are not asking for too much, they just want to break away from that background they are coming from, that background that suggests that they are going nowhere,” she said. “Many of them have done well academically especially towards gaining admission into institutions of higher learning and they are prepared to have an alternative. My observation is that they want to break away from poverty and become something in future. They want to become decent and responsible.”