… Say, they’ve no school uniforms, bags, sandals
BY ISAAC OLAMIKAN
A trip to the camp for the needy situated in Uhogua, Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State from Benin City, the state capital, takes an average of 30 minutes from the two access points to the place , Benin-Lagos Road and Egor-Iguobazuwa Road, with minor traffic holdup and other exigencies taken into consideration.
Students sitting on the floor to learn
Soldiers were stationed at the entrance of the expansive plot of land on which the facility is sited to provide round the clock security for the inmates. Inside the facility, eagle eyed policemen and operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) also mounted guard unobstructively.
The camp in recent times has been in the news on account of the successes recorded by 26 of the students of its Christlike Secondary School who secured admission into different tertiary institutions across the country in the 2018/19 academic session. 30 others had secured admissions in previous years even as the facility has produced three lawyers and many other professionals.
However, all is not as rosy for the camp as many will think. The facility, which has a population of over 3000 people including orphans, vulnerable children, widows, widowers, handicapped and refugees, from all indications need support to stay afloat and maintain the high standards associated with it.
In the beginning
According to Pastor Solomon Folorunsho, the overseer of the International Christian Centre for Missions, who is the brain behind the facility, the whole idea started in 1992 as Home for the Needy which was the charitable arm of the ministry.
“It was set up with the desire to help the poor, orphans and vulnerable children, to get them out of hopelessness and give them education, a better life and future. We started on a small scale with just a few people under our care. Until the end of 2013, all the children were accommodated in several rented apartments within Benin which were soon overfilled as a result of the ever increasing population of the children. Also, the cost of house rents became astronomical. The mission therefore started to build temporary structures on its international centre situated at the present site”, Pastor Folorunsho told Vanguard.
Boko Haram victims admitted
By 2012, the population of the inmates of the Home for the Needy increased many folds when victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East region were admitted into the camp. Majority of them escaped to the Uhogua camp for succour and safety after their houses were burnt and their loved ones killed. Space constraints, astronomical increase in the cost of accommodation for the inmates were some of the factors that necessitated the movement of the camp to the permanent site (Uhogua) in 2013.
Evelyn Omigie, a missionary and caregiver in the camp however have painted a picture of the camp in distress which needs an urgent help. The challenges facing the facility according to her, include accomodation, health, education, feeding and clothings.
Accommodation: She disclosed that “the camp is too congested to the extent that the space meant for not more than 400 people at the initial stage is now occupied by over 3000 people. We will need the support of NGOs, corporate bodies, philanthropists to build more houses in order to ease accommodation challenge we are facing here. We also need beddings, mattresses, pillow cases etc.
Health: “The health centre we have here is quite inadequate. It has just four small rooms. Some times you will be surprised to see a lot of people on admission sleeping on the barefloor. The health centre needs to be expanded with more rooms added. Drugs are in short supply, we need pharmaceutical companies and the likes to donate drugs to us. There is also shortage of medical/laboratory equipment. The camp needs more modern toilet facilities to stem likely outbreak of epidemics.
Feeding: “On a daily basis seven bags of garri (cassava flakes) and 15 bags of rice are prepared for a decent meal. We have not talked about other ingredients needed to be added to ensure that the people have a balanced diet. Five cows are slaughtered to go with the meal. On the average at least over N1million is spent daily on feeding.
Education: “The block of classrooms are uncompleted. Most of the children do not have desks or chairs, they therefore sit on the barefloor to learn. Over 70 percent of the children do not have school uniforms, school bags, school sandals, books and even writing materials are in short supply. We need a well equipped science laboratory for the students offering science courses.
Clothings and others: “Most of the people here are in dire need of clothes, shoes and other apparels. Also needed are toiletries to ensure that they are well protected from communicable diseases and epidemics. We have well qualified teachers in the schools (nursery, primary and secondary) and their salaries run into millions of naira.
Skill Acquisitions: “We have widows, widowers and several others here who desire skills acquisition like carpentry, tailoring, shoe mending, beads making, hairdressing, soap making etc. We appeal to Nigerians to support us in giving such individuals the necessary training needed for them to become self-sustaining when they go back to their places.”
Power Supply: “We are not connected to the national grid. As a result of this we spend enormous amount of money for the fuel we use to power our generating set. We have a borehole which we operate daily to ensure that water is not lacking. We need a bigger generator to serve the whole of the camp.”