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.