The national coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign, Hassan Soweto, on Wednesday called on the government to make funding of the education a priority.
Mr Soweto spoke at the closing ceremony of the ERC Free Holiday Coaching in Ajegunle, a popular Lagos suburb.
“We are here today at NUD Primary School with dilapidated buildings and not enough equipment,” Mr Soweto said.
“When we say free education, we mean well equipped and furnished schools with well-trained teachers for everyone. If what they provide here is free education why can’t these politicians bring their children here? ”
“Ajegunle is bustling with talents, resilience and the kind of energy that can build a nation if properly channelled and harnessed but what we have is a community abandoned by the government.
“If you have a community that can be this desolate and still succeed in producing talents in times past now bustling with unrest, the blame is on the government because they have provided no outlet for youthful energy through proper engagement and majority resorts to crime.”
The free coaching programme was initiated in 2005 in Ajegunle to impact the lives of youth who are from poor backgrounds.
More than 7,000 young people have benefited from the free tutorial classes, according to the organisers.
Mr Soweto appealed for support to enable the programme widen its reach.
“Our appeal to people is to look at projects like this as something they can adopt personally so as to widen its reach and impact,” he said.
“For example, through the help of some people this year, we were able to not just educate these students for free all through the summer break, but we were also able to provide them with some educational materials to aid their studies in the new session.”
A former student of the programme, who now volunteers as a teacher, said the major challenge facing the programme is inadequate resources.
“This centre lacks resources to enable it do more and volunteer teachers have to make a lot of sacrifices to make sure the project is possible every year.
“This initiative is a welcome one in Ajegunle because this community has a lot of intelligent people that can shape the world but are covered by the environment and this can be improved through projects like this.
“My story cannot be narrated without the impact of this coaching centre because apart from the fact that it inspired me to take up the teaching profession, it has greatly helped me to develop my talent.
“I am a professional poet now and the first time I came in contact with poetry in the real sense was at this centre and they helped develop my interest and talent to what it is now. ”
Adeola Adeolu, assistant secretary of the Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU) Lagos State chapter, commended the organisers of the programme.
“This program is domiciled in an environment that is known to be hostile to raising children and when you see people trying to mould young ones in the right path, you should laud their efforts even if it seems like a drop in the ocean because little drops make an ocean,” Mr Adeolu said.
“In the absence of responsible government, what they are doing here is laudable and I hope people-centric organisations and philanthropists can partner with them to upgrade the program.”
A student at the centre, Aluhuge Emmanuel, 17, said he had been attending the coaching centre since 2015 when he was in Junior Secondary School 2 except for 2017 when lessons were not held due to government’s directive that no lesson should hold for that year.
“Academically, this lesson has helped my life,” he said.
“The teachers take their time to explain till you understand and pay attention to your individual needs unlike in school. Through the Friday career motivation session, I am assured now that picking up one or two vocational training doesn’t have to mean the end of your academic career, I can continue to pursue my Law ambitions and still acquire one or two skills as a side development.”