Mokoko Slum , listed as one of the top 10 slums in Africa and regarded as the world’s biggest floating city.I was going to just visit some schools there ,doing some reports to see if I could do something to help with ‘Free Lunch’ program, but the situation of the slum still shocked me .
Mokoko is a big community located on the third bridge of mainland Lagos,it took me a hard time to get through the traffic with my bike,it was only 5 kms from where I live but it took 1 hour to get there.The community has shops,hospitals ,barbers,restaurants just like any other streets, but also, trashes. I stopped and inquired the nearby private school,the guy showed me to go all the way straight. At the end of the street,two teenage girls kindly asked if I need any help and then said, follow me.
The access of the school is a big dump, a little boy was washing something with only a ragged underwear on ,his mom ,was standing in front of their house,staring at him,obviously,that dump was their front yard. The girls sensed my hesitation and said,come, this is the access to the school.
The school gate was just at the corner of the dump.The children were having music class, they had nice uniforms on and was about to have lunch.I talked to one of the director, she said, they got some sponsors for this school so they could have classroom and textbooks for the kids, but there are still a lot of children there who can’t afford to pay for the school.
I asked the girls about the schools in the slum, they said ‘are you giving me money ? I can take you there if you do ‘.
I thanked for them and decided to find it myself, I know it was just nearby,at the across of the dump, a teacher was having class inside a dilapidated wooden house,some small hands was sticking out from the crack of the wood.
After knowing what am I looking for, the teacher dropped his work and told me the slum was built on the water,I have to take the canoe there, he could have a local accompanying me there for my security ,of course, its paid, but it would be a better choice than going alone. I parked my bike inside of his classroom and walked a few hundred meters by the sewer ,the Makoko slum was at the end of the sewer.
It is a crowded community that sits on a fetid lagoon, colored in sepia and greyscale.Wooden stilts are tucked deep inside its brackish waters with amounts of rubbish adorning its surface and a tangle of boats impatiently slithering through the labyrinth of its waterways. Just above it is, in a fitting contrast is, colored in all shades of commerce, the most travelled bridge on the West African continent. Like everyone who travels the bridge, the skies of the slum dwellers are blue and bright, but their waters are not, and certainly, not their health.
Surrounded by the foul-smelling ,trash fully covered water, I couldn’t even breath. When the canoe drifted through the reed huts built on stilts,I noticed that the trashed was already piled underneath the houses,the lake was not deep,or,it was deep before but now its totally filled with trashes ! Sometimes the little boy who was sitting on the bow had to stand in the lake pushing our boat in order to get it through ,the water was just above his knees.
A week ago ,I was visiting Ghana’s ‘African Venice’,the same like here,those people are fled from Ghana and built the same water village,but its not scenery and attracting anymore, it became the oldest slums in Nigeria, or the biggest dump on water.
I asked the local how many people live there,they had no idea.
I did the research online, it says the area has an estimated population of about 86, 000 people !!!It is even scarier when one considers that Nigeria has over a thousand of these kind of slums, with a bulk of them being in Lagos. And with climate change wreaking havoc on the health of communities, these slum dwellers are at high risk of diseases, major epidemics and even death.
With low hygiene and sanitary conditions, lack of toilets and constant exposure to vectors and extreme weather conditions, these 86, 000 people are sitting ducks for climate change and its rancid effects on human health. With the extreme rising temperature and floods, the water becomes an easy breeding ground for mosquitoes, leading to malaria for most of the population which has little access to medical supplies without a standard hospital, facilities, equipment and available health personnel in the area. And with the surrounding saturated with dirt of various dimensions including human waste, the flood drags all the dirt and waste into the water which the slum dwellers still drink, making them susceptible to water-borne diseases. The children too, another set of people more vulnerable to climate change effects, run around barefooted and unclad, exposing them to mosquitoes and other vector carriers, and to sharp objects that the flood brings along with it to the settlement.
I visited one of the schools ,you can not call it a ‘school’,it is just a dilapidated wooden constructure consists of two floors.When I was standing on the first floor,I could feel the huge shaking and the sand falling down from above. There are three classes of different age group, about 30-50 children at each class.
I asked if most of the children here have classes here, the teacher said,no,most of the family couldn’t even afford to pay for the school.
‘How much do they pay per year ?’ I said.
‘A year ? No ,they pay by day, 50 Naira per day ‘
50 Naira =0.14 dollars.
Its also very common that the kids drops off the class,they tuition depends on how many fishes their parents can sell per day.
‘Why the government not taking care of it ? Who pay you the salary ?’
‘The government ?’He shrugged,’They never care.’ ‘Our salary is depends on the number of students,one teacher in charge of one class, so we get paid daily directly from the parents.’
They don’t even have any textbook, but only the blackboard-writing from the teacher.
I climbed the ladders up to the class,,the children all stood up singing a lovely welcome song in French to me,then ,the silence, they were just staring at me, with excitedly but confusion.
The teacher said,do you want to say something to them ?
Say something ,what should I say, facing those innocence children in such a horrible situation, but what can I say to make them better ?
‘ You are awesome !’ I looked at their eyes holding my tears back.
‘Trust me, I have cycled more than 33 countries from far America, I have seen many many beautiful things and many different people, but believe me, You Are Awesome ! You are born different ! Each of you presented here today, is gonna make a difference ! The place where you live, the situation what you have,is NOT your future !
One day ,you will walk out from here ,you will go to college, go to university, you will see the real world,and you will back, to change everything here !
No more trashes,no more diseases,no more poverty,You Gonna Change everything here ! The water is gonna be clear again, you can even see the blue,yellow,red ,all kinds of fishes swimming in the water,you can jump in and catch some for the dinner;
Your houses will be well built, it has toilet,shower inside, you can fetch the clean water from your house,when the rainstorms comes,your houses are not gonna be shaking anymore,your family can just sitting at home watching TV,no more worrying about the weather.
Oh, you will have a playground for your brothers and sisters,they play on the swing, the see-saw, you can hear their laugh from inside of your bedroom;
The flies and bugs will not be seen anymore,because they couldn’t find their suitable situation here, nobody would catch the malaria;
You will have three meals everyday, with vegetables,meats,beans,oh,and fufu,you can go to work or school without empty stomach.’
Tears streamed down their faces, I choked back tears and said,’ God is watching ,you are all his beloved children,the reason why he puts you here is because he knows you are different, you can make a difference, and it must be by you ! Study as hard as you can and God will use you one day !’
I know that’s not just their goal,but also our goal.
I said, I will be back.
0.14 *300=42.25 dollars (The tuition for cover one kid per year )
100*42.25 =4225 dollars (Helping 100 children go to school for free )
We are changing their destiny by working together.