An interview with Pearl Igho of the Onuesoke Foundation, one of the beneficiaries of ZODML’s Ocean Waves Project.
What is the primary goal of the Onuesoke Foundation and what inspired its formation?
The primary goal of Onuesoke foundation has been rural community development and the physical environment which is now becoming a threat as a result of degradation and pollution. Seeing the neglect and abandonment of our cherished rural communities for the urban, leaving the main sources of good living for the cosmetic urban society and neglecting its development for human capacity building in health, agriculture sustainable environment, education and technology inspired the formation of the Onuesoke Foundation.
Hon. Sunny Onuesoke, a man with a passion for the development of rural people picked goal 2 and goal 7 of the millennium goals as his contribution to society.
When I was brought on board as the head of operations of the foundation, I immediately keyed into these goals and since then, I have been occupied with activities, programs, initiatives and strategies aimed at achieving these goals "goals 2 and 7 of the millennium goals".
This year, ZODML worked with Onuesoke Foundation to get books and teacher resources to Delta state. How has this helped in accomplishing your objectives?
Our connection with ZODML was a “dream come true” in solving one of the problems we observed was a huge obstacle in achieving student's academic success in the rural areas of DELTA STATE which are the absence of good schools with good learning facilities and the poor reading culture among rural school children.
To correct these ills, we decided to run a mobile Library. We were able to get a truck, bought for us by our Director. The next huge challenge was books. How do we get books? We sought for sponsors to no avail and discovered that people in this part of the world would rather sponsor a beauty pageant than to donate books for a library.
The act of God brought ZODML our way through an introduction by a friend and today ZODML is the source of our mobile library. And we will forever be grateful
The Onuesoke foundation’s mobile library has affected the lives of so many primary school children in Delta State.
We can say that children are building a new reading culture in all the communities we have visited. And we believe we can improve the reading culture of children in the rural communities of Delta state.
What do you see as the greatest barrier to Education in Delta State and what is the way forward?
Barrier to Education in Delta State...this is a system problem. From policy to implementation, structure, teachers, and even they way they run the public schools is a chain of system failure. Teachers areobsolete for today's learning and teaching. School heads and principals are beautifully decorated in obsolete ornament of teacher and school leadership not meant for today's schools.
The tertiary institutions, which are responsible for building teachers also run obsolete curriculum and so the schools are physically in the 21st, but in function are out of the dynamic global concept of what education is all about in today's world.
The way forward is a process. The government has a huge role to play. For me, education in Nigeria today should be declared a “state of emergency”. A strong committee should be set up to look into it with the instruction to diagnose the problems, outline a set of solutions that will stem from nursery education to tertiary education involving all stake holders
There should be a defined philosophy as to what type of education we need in our country, the skills and attitudes we need to imbibe from such philosophy and how it will improve our own civilization and development, an example is the philosophy of education in China, Japan and Singapore.
What has been the most challenging moment in your work?
Challenging moments? Presently, I am facing some hurdles. Children in Warri south are so deprived!
Funds for taking our Library to the creeks is the greatest hurdle we are facing now. Visits to these areas leaves me with silent tears and sometimes I just play songs by Bob Marley, Wyclef , Lucky Dube when I’m going to such areas. Children in the creeks don't know what a library is. They are only familiar with the pages of blank exercise books with their covering pages off. To them, a storybook is like a Christmas dress. If they get one as a gift, for the colours and the scent of it, they would rather keep it than read it because a lot of them can’t read materials meant for their academic level. They are not motivated to read as people around them don't read. Teachers don't read to them. Spelling practice is like counting letters and reading is a taboo so it seems.
Getting the books to them has been my problem. I need funds to pay workers who will go on water to get to a school on water or a nearby one on land and stay for 4-5 hours to read out to the children, give them books to read, teach them how to spell and let them enjoy reading for just 4 weeks and we move on to the next place on boat.
We have been looking for sponsors to help us visit Ogulagha community presently. The children there are thirsty to read. It's a 3 hour drive on water. I wish I can get a sponsor for that and September we will be there. That is the next community from Warri south on our list.
ONE major problem is that rural schools are DEAD permit me to use this word. Most of the buildings are not habitable. I really feel bad about this.
The Joyful Moments?
On our last visit during the fourth week, we see them read fluently, God! IT’S LIKE FIREWORKS AND we record success. We go back and ask parents about the change of attitude in their children’s behavior since the library came to their community and the response is ...like a woman said “My piken come carry bible com dey read for me. For evening e go carry book, sit down for chair for outside dey read. Una do well o (My child reads the Bible to me. In the evening he sits outside and reads a book. You have done well)”.
The wonderful exclamations from the children when they climb up into the truck to see books also bring us great joy. One of the children on seeing the books in the truck said" I will sleep here and read all the books overnight".
It’s been good so far, but there are so many limitations for us too.
What books do you enjoy the most and will want to recommend?
Books I enjoy most? Just as I am eclectic with music so I am with books.
But to recommend one and for the purpose of this subject matter, our MOBILE library, I will recommend "Gifted Hands" by Ben Carson and a movie" Lean on me " featuring Morgan Freeman. Whenever I’m training teachers and school principals, I recommend they see " Lean On Me and Sister Act II"
These two movies are a teaching tool for bringing lost children back to books.
The book “Gifted Hands” is a simple application of leading a child to success through reading, leading children through learning difficulties, helping the child to find victory by himself with discipline, self commitment and focus. I have seen the movie over and over. I have used the principles as a mother to teach my own children and it worked for me. My children are "great with books", an attitude I took after my father. He is over 77 and is a student doing his PHD right now.
This is the dream of a man, Hon. Sunny Onuesoke, a Deltan who believes in good governance and in touching the lives of disadvantaged people. Rural they call it but they are the source of urban beauty...His words" Everybody is from the rural, we only move to a place we made urban".