By Yakubu Mohammed
Amidst the aquatic challenges faced by the residents of Makoko Waterfront, an initiative has emerged to combat illiteracy and transform the lives of children in this unique community. Whanyinna, a floating primary school founded in 2009, has become a beacon of hope for young minds in a neighborhood where fishing has traditionally overshadowed education. Despite the daunting journey through polluted waters and limited resources, this school, run by dedicated volunteers, has made a significant impact on the lives of over 300 pupils.
Journey to Whanyinna: Overcoming Obstacles
Nestled on a sand-filled portion of the murky water, Whanyinna stands as a testament to the determination of its students and teachers. Accessing the school requires navigating narrow waterways, risking collisions among boats. However, the voyage is rewarded with the sight of a one-story building adorned in shades of blue and yellow, signaling a place of learning and possibility amidst adversity.
As one gazes from the shore of Yondoro, also known as the Adekunle river bank, an internal battle ensues: to forge ahead with the adventure or retreat to the safety of home. The daunting sight of the dark, odorous water could deter even the most courageous souls. Social Voices observed, the water has become a repository for debris from connecting canals, contributing to its pollution. Additionally, the slum’s makeshift shanties act as makeshift toilets, further contaminating the water with fecal matter.
In the face of its unsuitability for human use, one peculiar aspect emerges—children fearlessly dive into its depths, embracing the water that would make others recoil. Even adults, aware of the availability of potable water through pipes extended from neighboring communities on land, choose to rinse their torsos with this murky alternative. Amongst this watery landscape, a multitude of wooden shacks stand tall, their foundations precariously rooted in the unstable sand-filled areas.
Yet, amidst the hardships, the people of Makoko persevere. They have built a community of wooden shacks that rise above the very waters that both sustain and threaten them. Life here is an intricate dance, where every step requires caution and resourcefulness.
A Commitment to Education
Noah Shemede, the founder and proprietor of Whanyinna, was born and raised in Makoko. Recognizing the transformative power of education, Noah took it upon himself to establish the school, driven by a vision to uplift the community. Supported by a group of passionate volunteer teachers, Whanyinna grants children in Makoko the opportunity to break free from the cycle of limited prospects.
For Papa Genesis, a 12-year-old student, attending Whanyinna has instilled hope and self-belief, even in an environment where fishing dominates. Parents, such as Mrs. Mehunu, share in the excitement, witnessing positive changes in their children’s demeanor since joining the school. Graduates like Abigail Albertine, who completed her education at Whanyinna, emphasize the necessity of education for the waterfront community, thanking the support of non-governmental organizations that sustain the school.
Education was once a distant dream for children in Makoko, as the government’s attention remained elsewhere. But through extensive advocacy campaigns and unwavering commitment, Whanyinna has paved the way for children’s rights to education, regardless of their environment. Miss Kamila, the head teacher, acknowledges that while the pupils have limited exposure compared to their counterparts on the land, the impact of the school is undeniable. The relationships formed between teachers and students have been profound, cultivating hope and confidence in these young minds. Since its creation, Whanyinnah has graduated more than 300 pupils among which one is currently studying at Lagos State University of Education (LASUED), according to Shemede.
Weathering the Storm
Makoko waterfront, like other coastal areas, faces the threat of rising sea levels. However, despite periodic flooding of the playground due to high tides, Whanyinna continues to function. The determination of students and teachers ensures that learning persists, undeterred by environmental challenges.
In its dedication to providing a well-rounded education, Whanyinna, the floating school in Makoko Waterfront, teaches all subjects approved by the Lagos State Primary Curriculum. However, the school faces a significant hurdle in effectively delivering computer education due to the absence of an ICT Lab. Teachers at Whanyinna shared their concerns with Social Voices, highlighting the need for improved resources in this critical area.
While Whanyinna follows a conventional curriculum, covering subjects such as English, Mathematics, Basic Science, Home Economics, Religious Studies, Social Studies, Civic Education, Yoruba, and Verbal Reasoning, the lack of an ICT Lab poses challenges in computer education. The absence of dedicated infrastructure prevents students from accessing hands-on learning experiences and inhibits their ability to fully grasp concepts in this increasingly important field.
One of the teachers, Abiodun, expressed the difficulties they face in teaching students due to a language barrier. However, the teachers have found innovative ways to overcome this obstacle. They have discovered that visual representations play a crucial role in enhancing comprehension. To address this, audio-visual aids are incorporated during certain classes, enabling students to better grasp complex ideas when presented with visual cues.
Whanyinna currently boasts a team of 13 trained teachers, comprising 10 females and three males. Their commitment to providing quality education remains unwavering despite the challenges they encounter. The teachers’ resourcefulness and dedication to finding alternative teaching methods demonstrate their determination to ensure every student has an opportunity to learn and thrive.
While the absence of an ICT Lab presents an obstacle, the teachers at Whanyinna continue to make the most of the resources available to them, leveraging visual aids and innovative teaching techniques. By fostering a creative and adaptive learning environment, they aim to equip students with the necessary skills to succeed in an increasingly digital world.
This story was produced in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch through the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.
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