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Why I donated school to indigent community — Okafor, youth corps member


Though she hails from Ogbaruru in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State, she made headline news with the construction of a school in Ikorodu, Lagos State, during her service year, which ended last month. Miss Lilian Okafor says she has passion to impact lives, reports SAMUEL AWOYINFA.
It was an American president, John F. Kennedy who admonished, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Though he gave this admonition during his inaugural speech on January 20, 1961, it still holds true for Lilian Okafor, a youth corps member who made a difference during her service year, which ended on June 16, 2011.
Unlike most of her colleagues, she dedicated the entire service year to a project which will continue to impact lives of generations in Agodo Alara, a sleepy community in Ikorodu North Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, for a long time.
She built the first primary school in that rural setting and named it Agodo Alara Community Primary School. The school was inaugurated on June 13, 2011.
For the 24-year -old Okafor, the passion to impact lives has always been her driving force. And her redeployment to Lagos provides her the opportunity to re-enact her passion.
How did she discover that Agodo Alara did not have any school? And she opens up: “Actually, I went to visit a friend at Odo Nla, a community very close to Odogunyan in Ikorodu North LCDA. That was sometime in July last year.
“I was on a bike, and as the journey progressed, I saw a school that was just built to a certain level with blocks, with the roof covered with iron sheets (ex-Governor Lateef Jakande type of schools). This drew my curiosity, because I have not seen such a thing before. So, I thought aloud, and asked what kind of school is this? The commercial motorcyclist responded by saying that I should even congratulate that community for having such a ramshackle school, stressing that there are some communities in the area without any school or health care centre.”
This innocent contribution from the okada rider got her imagination running riot. Immediately she got to her friend’s place at Odo Nla, Okafor asked if indeed it was true that some communities in that area had no primary schools. “My friend confirmed this,” she says. “This was where I began to work on this revelation.”
The Ogbaruru, Imo State-born Okafor who graduated from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, says she chose Agodo Alara and decided to visit the place for on-the -spot assessment.
After she had discovered the community, she discussed with the schedule officer in charge of Millennium Development Goals programme of the National Youth Service Corps, Lagos State, Mrs. Oso, and unveiled her plan to build a school for Agodo Alara community.
“So, I went to the Baale (traditional head) and he told me that the community did not have any school or health centre. I asked him that as a youth corps member in the state, if I decided to facilitate the building of a school in the community, would he provide land? And he said yes. I told him I would get back to him.”
Lilian did make good her promise. She came on one of the Thursdays, which was usually her community development service day. She came to see how the children in this community go to school and where.
Soft-spoken Okafor was moved to tears on the day she visited the community, considering the perceived trauma children went through in order to go to school in another community, Odogunyan, which is 15 kilometres away from Agodo Alara.
“That fateful morning, I arrived at the community very early in the morning. Then I saw these pupils, with their ages ranging from four to five years, jumping into a Datsun pick-up van laden with moulded blocks, heading for Odogunyan community. The school they attended is in Odogunyan, a community that is located almost 15 kilometres away from Agodo Alara.
“I was moved to tears, seeing children going through such hardship from Monday through Friday every week. I was scared, thinking that they could miss their steps and fall. I did not know when tears started dripping from my eyes, and I resolved within me that I was going to carry this project through just to give these children a secured future,” she says.
Starting the erection of the primary school was a Herculean task, it turned out; because she had no personal savings she could draw from. But she hinged her hope on good spirited Nigerians, individuals, corporate organisations and government agencies who share her dream on the project.
The money to clear the bush on the parcel of land provided by the community for the building, and laying the foundation for the project to commence, was not in sight. But Okafor was determined.
“I borrowed the first money, N64,000, which was used for the clearing of the bush and digging of the foundation and buying of the first set of molded blocks. But I promised to pay the lender back as soon as I had raised enough money,” she adds.
Okafor, who did her service year with Wema Bank Plc, Apapa, Lagos branch, tells our correspondent that she invited the management of the bank, which sent representatives for the foundation laying ceremony. The wife of Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Olori Muhibat Oyefusi and community men and women were also present. Companies which have their offices in Ikorodu were also invited. “This was where I appealed to them to assist me in the project and some of them did respond in cash and donation of building materials.
“The work began on January 6, 2011 and it was inaugurated on June 13, 2011. It took five months and some weeks. I can’t quantify the total amount spent on the project because everything was not in cash. Some donated building materials.
“Companies such as Sunflag Steel, Ikorodu, gave me half tonne of 10 mm iron rods for the reinforcement; likewise African Steel, also in Ikorodu, which donated a tonne of 12mm iron rods. The Super Engineering, also a steel company, also gave me iron rods. To convince them to support the project, I went to them with all the approvals from the state government. I approached many companies, but all these ones responded.
“Wema Bank Plc gave me N1million for the project; Olori Oyefusi gave me some money and also wrote letters on my behalf to some well-to-do indigenes of Ikorodu who equally supported me. I could not forget a former commissioner, Mr. Kaoli Olusanya and one Mr. Sofoluwe.
“Flour Mills, Apapa also gave 600 bags of cement, Cabana security, Apapa also gave me money, the chairman, Ikorodu North Local Council Development Area also supported the project. Likewise the legal adviser and secretary, Wema Bank Plc and a lot of others that space will not permit to mention,” she states.
Okafor was full of commendation for the permanent secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Mr. P. O. Bamgbose-Martins who ensured that both the architectural design and Bill of Quantity to build a school were approved within two weeks, free of charge.
“The permanent secretary was impressed when he saw my letter, because it is a community project and for the fact that I am Igbo,” she enthuses.
Her project, when completed, has six classes — primary one to six. There are also two offices —one for the head teacher and a staff room for the rest of the teachers. There is also a library and five toilets. She says that was the standard given to her, concerning a project of that size.
Okafor, who read Geology and Mining, tells our correspondent that she has always had passion to impact lives in her own small way. “I have been doing this. It is just that this is in a bigger way. I don’t really like seeing people suffer. Even as a student, I paid the school fees of some children in the primary school back in Imo State. I paid this money from my meagre pocket money.”
Okafor, who’s the last of her parents’ six children, says that she inherited this milk of human kindness from her late father, Chief Ambrose Ambrose, who her mother says could give the last cloth on his back to a total stranger.
For this community service project initiative, she got an automatic employment with Wema Bank Plc, and a state honours award from the Lagos State Governor, NYSC, (SAN).
Okafor, who says she will resume at Wema Bank this month (July), tells our correspondent that she wants to, later in life, build an orphanage where orphans and other less privileged children will have succour and care. “I want to keep on impacting lives. That’s my passion. That’s my life ambition.”
Source: THE PUNCH NEWSPAPER
3 July 2011

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