Airtel's CSR initiative: Community Pry. School, Amumara turns cynosure

By Adebayo Dawodu

Upon being enrolled into the primary school, it didn't take long before most pupils get accustomed to going to school every morning with at least a litre of water in their water bottles tucked into their school bag along with writing materials. It had become mandatory for the kids to take along some water to class every morning since the school lacked pipe-borne water from inception in 1934. Soon, it became a routine most parents and the pupils followed year-in year out.

Community Primary School located in Amumara, Mbaise under Ezinihitte Local Government, Imo State is one of the schools Amumara and other adjoining villages such as Oboama and Akpodun are privileged to have. For some children in these townships, going to school every morning mean walking for about 15 minutes to 25 minutes through thick shrubs along pathways carved by frequent treading by villagers.

Built on an expanse of bare land partly grassy and without a fence to define its compound, Community Primary School comprises three set of structures – one with classes for pupils and the adjacent block as offices for teaching staff. The third was built to serve as loo for the teachers and pupils.

Over the years, the facilities in the school had inevitably deteriorated, subjecting the teachers and pupils to hard conditions. Nearly all the classrooms were without windows or doors. Most of the desks and chairs in the classrooms had become wonky and fragile, having seen age. Even the teachers had to manage their old tables and chairs. The walls cracked gradually, ceilings caved in, colours faded off the structures and many of the facilities became dilapidated. Heat of the midday sun scorched both teachers and parents while classes went since there was no ceiling under the corrugated iron sheets above their heads.

Break time for the pupils meant fun and play after their meals. But the challenge they often faced was how to get sufficient water to quench their thirst after running freely in the wide playground. Most of them experienced dehydration since the water in their bottles hardly sufficed through the hours in school. To get a bucket of water for use in school required fetching from a well located in another compound which is about 10 minutes walk away.

Thousands of people, despite the deplorable situation in Community Primary School, have passed through the school and many more are still in the school learning. There is no gainsaying to the fact that when enabling environment is provided for pupils to learn, they learn with the right frame of mind and are well developed. This means providing quality education to raise well-adjusted future leaders.

This is in line with the vision of the leading telecommunications service provider, Airtel Nigeria, as part of its vision to give quality education and opportunity to people in less privileged areas in Nigeria. The Telco, therefore, had initiated a Corporate Social Responsibility programmed dubbed 'Adopt-a-School.'

Under this programme, the telecom company in collaboration with some states government adopted schools in less privileged communities in an effort to support the state governments. Schools adopted by Airtel are assisted by renovating their structures, providing them with notebooks, text books, uniform, desks and chairs, boreholes for potable water, appliances and other learning materials. In addition, the teachers are made more competent and developed through series of training courses.

Community Primary School in Amumara village, Mbaise, Imo State is one of the schools Airtel Nigeria has adopted in Nigeria. From the capital city of Owerri, getting to remote Amumara village takes about one hour drive through very few neatly tarred roads. The common means of transportation for most of the villagers are motorcycles and bicycles. Commercial transportation is done by buses and taxis that convey people into far villages through clayey undulating roads and many village squares. Very few structures are made of clay while some houses are just like those found in urban cities. Trees surround almost every house in the villages as pathways can easily be used to determine where villagers walk to and fro. Sign posts indicating some schools and churches dot the roadsides.

Today, a total number of 300 pupils and 16 teachers are in the school, but the situation has changed from an abysmal condition to an enviable state. Teachers and pupils in the school are delighted to see the turnaround the school has undergone after Airtel Nigeria adopted it.

2 blocks of 10 classrooms were upgraded in the school, with furniture such as whiteboards, desks, tables, ceiling fans and fluorescent tubes. Hundreds of school uniforms, bags, notebooks, exercise books and pens were donated to the school. The offices of the teachers were also renovated, providing them with necessary furniture and appliances.

Pupils no longer have to laboriously weed the grassy compound as Airtel also provided a mower for the school. The Telco in addition, provided a borehole which gives potable water to the teachers and pupils. So, this brings an end to the rigorous task of coming to school with filled water bottles. The pupils and teachers now have sufficient water for use.

Being a rural area not frequently visited by many cars, the Amumara village came alive on the 28th of November when the Community Primary school was commissioned by Airtel Nigeria amidst joy and excitement by teachers, pupils, parents, traditional leaders and members of the community.

Among those present were the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Mr. Segun Ogunsanya; Commissioner of Education, Imo State, Dr. Uche Ejiogu; Sole Administrator, Ezinihitte Local Government, Dr. Kelechi Osuagwu; His Royal Highness, Eze Ositadinma Beneth Nwokocha; Chairman, Imo State Universal Basic Education Board, Mrs. Getrude Oduka; executives of Imo State National Union of Teachers (NUT); Dipo Jolaosho, Regional Marketing Manager, South, Airtel Nigeria; Chinda Manjor, CSR Manager, Airtel Nigeria and Erhumu Bayagbon, Media Relations Manager, Airtel Nigeria.

The Airtel boss who was represented by the company's Regional Operations Director, South Region, Godfrey Efeurhobo said, Airtel was “extremely delighted to partner with the government and people of Imo State in our quest to chart a new course for the development of education sector in Nigeria in general and Imo State in particular.

“As we make progress towards achieving Education for All, attention is being given to those children who are still out of school, who are particularly hard to reach and who are at risk of being excluded, marginalized or otherwise disadvantaged in relation to education. Even when children attend school, they may not complete the full cycle of primary education and may not experience or achieve learning of good quality.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that quality education offers children the best opportunity in life to realise their dreams and become the leaders of tomorrow. It is also important to note that a good environment is crucial to the development of a sound mind.

“It is therefore, in recognition of the importance of education and as part of our corporate Social Responsibility and vision; that we have committed to the adoption of public primary schools across Nigeria called Adopt-a-School programme.

“Under the programme, we are adopting government-owned primary schools located in underserved rural and semi-urban, providing them with requisite infrastructure including classrooms, textbooks, furniture, school uniforms and school bags. Training the teachers is also part of the programme.

“Let me state categorically that for us this is a long-term commitment as we will remain part of this school well into the future providing the necessary support and care. As a matter of fact, some of our employees have volunteered to come in occasionally to support the teachers with teaching, mentoring and other academic and physical development programmes.

“Today, in Imo State, we commence the journey to start giving back to the people of Nigeria through sustained support for education at the most important level.

“I want to specially thank the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, for his visionary leadership and commitment to transforming the living conditions of the people of Imo State. The strides being made by the government in the area of education are second to none and we are proud to be associated with them.

“May I use this opportunity to congratulate the indefatigable Commissioner for Primary, Secondary, Adult and Non-formal education in the state Dr. Mrs. Uche Ejiogu, who has been exhibiting high level of commitment in ensuring effective institutionalization of qualitative and comprehensive education in the state. Dr. Mrs. Uche Ejiogu`s unflinching support dates back to her days as Imo SUBEB Chairperson, during which the success we are witnessing today started.

“Also special thanks go to the Imo State Universal Basic Education Board which is championing the development of primary education in the state. The Board has been very wonderful in its support for our initiative. We also thank the authorities of Ezinihitte-Mbaise Local Government Council for its hospitality and support.

“Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, permit me to appreciate your unalloyed support for this programme, both physical and moral, most importantly for your presence in spite of your busy schedule. Let me reiterate the point I made earlier that we are not just here to build a physical structure but we are here to stay in full support of this school and others which we are going to adopt in other parts of the country. The good people of this great Community and the pupils of Community Primary School, Amumara will remain ever green in our heart. This is our School. We will continue to look after the school and our children.”

In her address, the Commissioner of Education, Imo State, commended Airtel for its “high powered show of patriotism” which has brought development to the school. She said the government has therefore opened the doors to Airtel more than ever before “for more business relations geared towards expanding your reach to the benefit of Imo people.

“More so, like Oliver Twist, we are asking that you extend your 'Adopt-a-School' project to other schools in the remote villages and communities in Imo State.' She said.

Commenting on the Adopt-a-School initiative of the telecom operator, Head Teacher of Community Primary School, Mrs. Felly Wulotu, said the teachers and pupils are very happy to see the impact of Airtel on the school. She praised Airtel for transforming the school and providing the pupils with needed learning materials, borehole and furnished classrooms.

“Parents now feel happy to bring their children to this school because of the development they see here. There are good classrooms, text books, note books, uniforms, school bags and borehole for clean water. We appreciate Airtel for this generous contribution to our school,' she said.

Some members of Amumara community who also attended the commissioning praised Airtel for transforming the school to an enviable state, providing borehole for clean water, good classrooms with furniture, text books, uniform, school bags and other educational materials to pupils of the school.

An elder in the community, Mr. Patrick Chukwuma, noted that conditions in Community Primary School which was founded in 1934 had worsen over time, but “ we thank God today that immediately Airtel adopted it things have changed for the better.”

Another parent pointed out the School has suddenly become one of the schools that parents now want to enroll their children due to the development going on. “There are now good classrooms, available text books, note books, uniforms and clean water. All of these attract pupils to the school.”

As part of its Adopt-a-School programme, Airtel has renovated and commissioned schools in Lagos, Ogun and Cross Rivers states and also donated educational materials and other facilities such as borehole and generating sets.

At the handing over of borehole and donation of educational materials to St. John's Primary School, Oke-Agbo, Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State, on 21st of November, the Commissioner of Education, Ogun State, Barr. John Olusegun Odubela, said the gesture by Airtel made an indelible impression on the school, pupils and the community.

He said, “The Ogun State Government cannot but continue to appreciate Airtel for the adoption of one of the schools in the state under her CSR initiatives. This shows the degree of love Airtel has for Ogun State. This complimentary effort of Airtel in the field of education will indeed go a long way to assist in the delivery of a qualitative education in this community.”

The commissioner commended Airtel in bringing public and primary school, especially those in remote locations at par with the best run private schools in terms of infrastructure and academic performance, for the benefit of the less privileged children.

Odubela had said, “I sincerely appreciate the management of Airtel for deeming it fit to provide a borehole for the school and also presenting book, writing materials and uniforms to the pupils of St John's Anglican Primary School, Oke Agbo, Ijebi- Igbo under its CSR programme.”

He also implored the pupils to justify the huge financial investment by making the best use of the opportunity afforded them through this unique gesture and by aspiring to greater academic excellence and good behaviour. He also implored all stakeholders to team up in ensuring that the school is taken to higher pedestal thus becoming a pride to the community and the state.

Airtel's Adopt-a-School programme is a robust initiative that offers underprivileged children access to quality education in a conducive environment. It also provides them with all the materials for learning and study. As part of the programme, Airtel organizes trainings for teachers of its adopted schools to ensure that a high teaching quality is always maintained.

Other schools adopted under the Airtel's CSR-driven initiative include Oremeji Primary School, Ajegunle, Lagos; St. John's Primary School, Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State and Presbyterian Primary School, Ediba, Cross River State. All the schools equally received materials such as school uniforms, furniture, text books, school bags etc.

Indeed, the support Airtel Nigeria is rendering to state governments by collaborating with them to provide adequate facilities for schools in less privileged areas has contributed significantly to the development of education in Nigeria. Some of the Airtel adopted schools were hitherto considered by parents as unworthy to enroll their kids, but now they have become schools parents yearn to put their wards in due to the huge support Airtel is giving to its adopted schools.

Apart from turning the despair of these children to bright hopes and giving them encouragement to study hard, parents are also relived of the cost of some learning materials.

Community Primary School, Amumara, Mbaise, Ezinihitte, L.G, Imo State during the commissioning.

(L-R) HRH, Amara III of Amumara, Chairman Ezinihitte Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Ositadinma Beneth Nwokocha; Airtel's Regional Operations Director, South Region, Godfrey Efeurhobo and Hon. Commissioner of Education, Imo State, Dr. Uche Ejiogu during the commissioning of Airtel adopted Community Primary School, Amumara, Ezinihitte, LGA, Imo State recently.

From Left, HRH, Amara III of Amumara, Chairman Ezinihitte Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Ositadinma Beneth Nwokocha; Airtel's Regional Operations Director, South Region, Godfrey Efeurhobo; Hon. Commissioner of Education, Imo State, Dr. Uche Ejiogu and CSR Manager, Airtel, Chinda Manjor during the unveiling of plaque at the commissioning of Airtel adopted Community Primary School, Amumara, Ezinihitte, LGA, Imo State recently.