The Chairman, Board of Trustees, Joseph and Eunice Oladaiye Foundation (JEOF), High Chief Ademola Oladaiye, was so poor that he couldn’t buy the recommended textbooks during his days at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). Yet, he graduated with a First Class degree in Mathematics and later had his MBA at the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
Oladaiye, who lost his dad at 14, recalled his humble beginning, while addressing students of Ransome Kuti Memorial Senior Grammar School, Mosalasi, Mushin, Lagos State, during the commissioning of a modern library donated recently by the Western Union Foundation and Ecobank, in collaboration with the JEOF Foundation.
He attributed his success to good use of the library and urged the students of Ransome Kuti Memorial Senior Grammar School to read in order to succeed in life. He stressed the need for students to imbibe the habit of voracious reading at an early stage of their life.
“By reading, I don’t mean restricting your reading habits to only your curriculum textbooks, but also reading various literature books, novels, newspapers, etc. All these help you to improve on your vocabulary, self-confidence, critical reasoning and understanding skills,” he explained.
Oladaiye blamed the poor reading culture prevalent in today’s society on negative trends in the society. According to him, some young people lost interest in reading due to the neglect of education over the years, such that many primary and secondary schools lack good libraries and where it exists, there are no books. He indentified also the negative effects of social media on students, as some spend most of their time surfing the internet for information that doesn’t add value to their lives.
He advised the students to make good use of the library, saying, “Challenge yourselves to be better students and citizens, inspire yourselves to be much more than you are. I know this is very possible because I have walked in your shoes before; I have seen poverty and lived with it for so many years after the death of my Father when I was 14 years old. My poor mother and I passed through so many storms. However, I never took my eyes of the goal, I never allowed circumstances to stop my dream. Despite all odds, I graduated from the University with a First Class in Mathematics; through the use of the school library, because I could not afford to buy a single recommended textbook then.”
Oladaiye said school libraries play a very special role in enriching those students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and who need additional help to develop their skills needed to succeed. He promised that JEOF and its partners would continue to invest in projects that would improve lots of school children.
“School libraries are important cornerstones of healthy educational development. Libraries give you the opportunity to explore, experience new ideas, get lost in wonderful stories, while at the same time providing information, education and a sense of belonging for students to gather especially during their leisure time. The school library is often the only readily available source of comprehensive information needed by students in school,” he added.
The Programme Director, JEOF, Clare Henshaw, said the foundation visited several schools located in the socially and economically disadvantaged parts of Lagos State to conduct a needs assessment test. Based on the assessment, Ransome Kuti Memorial Senior Grammar School, Mushin emerged as the beneficiary of the 2016 ‘Read to Succeed’ school library project. She also expressed satisfaction with the innovative approach to learning in the school and commended the Principal, Mrs Christiana Olubunmi Dosumu for setting an enviable standard.
Clare said 1,299 hard cover books and 100 e-books were donated to the library, including fiction and non-fiction, books of renowned authors, motivational books, recommended textbooks, comic books, novels, literature books as well as other interesting books. She expressed optimism that the good use of the library by the students would help them improve their communication skills, as well as their level of competence.
The Regional Vice President of Western Union for Africa, Aida Diarra, said the Western Union Foundation and Ecobank Nigeria Limited teamed up to finance the initiative as part of the “Read to Succeed” programme. The project, she said, took USD $20,000, which includes the provision of new tables, chairs, books, book shelves, ceiling fans, air conditioners, computers, printers and other supplies.
She said the new library would benefit more than 1,000 students at the school. According to her, Western Union would equally grant an additional USD $5,000 to three qualified, underprivileged university students to finance their scholarships.
Aida said the Western Union Foundation has over the last 20 years, worked with Diamond Bank, Guaranty Trusty Bank (GTB), UBA, Ecobank Nigeria, Skye Bank, First Bank of Nigeria and Access Bank to refurbish and equip public school libraries through a grant of more than USD $280,000 for the “Read to Succeed” library project in Lagos.
“Separately, Western Union also awarded USD $30,000 in scholarships to underprivileged university students between 2012 and 2014. These actions align with the values upheld by Western Union and the Western Union Foundation and offer a unique opportunity to apply their commitment to education in Africa,” she said.
Aida said the Western Union Foundation would continue to offer support programmes and services that promote equity and education for all children. “These efforts bring to Nigerian youth the opportunity for success, access to quality education and a path to a brighter future. Through the “Read to Succeed” project, we encourage students to read by creating a suitable reading and learning environment,” she added.
A representative of Ecobank, who is also the Head, Remittance and Mobile Money Transfer, Esther Obot, said the bank maintains positive association with organisations and reputable bodies that promote education in the country.
“The combined effort of Ecobank and the Western Union Foundation aligned with this vision of promoting reading in schools. And that it why we partnered with the foundation on this ‘Read to Succeed’ project since 2012 till date,” she explained.
She advised the students to take ownership of the library, by making use of the facility as often as possible. She also encouraged them to make maximum use of the opportunity offered to them and aspire to be great in life. According to her, Ecobank understands the need to awaken the passion for books, as she described reading as an investment in knowledge that never runs at a loss.
While commending the donors, the Deputy Director, School’s Support Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Education, District V1, Mr Josiah Ayodele, said the new library would encourage reading in the school and boost the academic performance of students. He promised that the facility would be put to good use and advised the school to elect a library prefect to work with other staff in the library.