For 18 internally displaced inmates at the Home for the Needy Foundation, Uhogua in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State, who have just graduated from different universities in and outside the state, it has been a mixture of sadness and excitement. Mixed feelings Sadness because they have been displaced from homes, with many of them even losing their loved ones, and excitement because many have achieved what they may never have attained had they remained back home in Borno State. Some of the graduates even bagged first class and others second class upper division.
But the most excited of them all was Pastor Solomon Folorunsho, Coordinator, Home for the Needy Foundation, a Christian based, non-governmental, non-profit making organisation, engaged in giving meaning to the lives of widows, the oppressed and internally displaced persons across Nigeria. Folorunsho, speaking recently in Benin City, reeled out his joy and challenges of having to cater for over 3, 000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) from Borno State and other insurgency infested states in the northern part of the nation. Challenges He enumerated some of them to include the biting economic situation in Nigeria, which has pushed the cost of living up; two, the naysayers, whom he said never saw anything good in his efforts to better the lives of the rejects of the society and three, the effort in controlling, coordinating and finding schools for the over 3000 affect persons. But undeterred and clearly basking in the euphoria of the moment, Folorunsho said, he has never held anything against those who blackmailed him and even labelled him a human trafficker; calling on them to join hands with him so that they can improve the accommodation for the inmates. Appeal According to him: “We are using this medium to appreciate those that have supported us and as well to call on governments (both at federal and state levels) and other kind-hearted people to come and invest in the lives of these affected persons. We are ready to do more; we take people off the streets. We are changing lives! We don’t do anything that is illegal here; we are turning illiterates to become literates, those in sorrow to become medical doctors. .
“We need food, we need scholarships, and we have over 300 of them in school.” Speaking further he explained: “The Home for the Needy Foundation has been in existence since 1992. It is a place where the homeless and vulnerable children are taken care of; women that are oppressed or abused come here to find solace. In 2012 we started working with Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) from the north. People, who never went to school or who were lightly educated; today, we have good results coming out of here.” Best student One of the 18 fresh graduates was Amos Ishaku, who despite all the odds not only bagged a first class in Chemical Engineering from the Edo State University, Uzairue, but was also the best graduating student in his faculty with a cumulative GPA of 4.80. Speaking he said: “I was in SS11 when I dropped out of school. That was the first time I experienced a Boko Haram attack, since then our school had been closed, that was why I never went back to school until 2014 when I first heard about the Home for the Needy.
“I heard about it through my headmaster who knew me in primary school. We were displaced from one place to another. My parents went their way and the last time I heard about my parents, I was told that my mother was in Cameroon. “When I was in Michika Local government Area of Adamawa State I used to go to people’s farms to work and at the end of the day, I would be given food and N200. “When my former headmaster heard about this place, he reached me and that was how he brought me and his daughter there in 2014. When I got here my daddy (Coordinator) here encouraged us to go back to school and forget about our bad previous experiences with the insurgents. We were having classes under a tree. “We will hang our chalkboard on the tree with which the teacher used for our classes.
However, when it rains we run back to our houses and when the rain stops, we’ll come out and continue our classes. We never had textbooks then. All we did was that the few ones we had we shared. “The first time I sat down to write WAEC was in 2016 – something I never thought was possible. I wrote WAEC and he has been the one sponsoring me from SS11 till now. Feeding, shelter and everything till now he has taken care of. “The first time I wrote the exam I failed. I almost gave up, but the Coordinator did not give up. He kept encouraging us that we can make it. That the society still needs us and that was how I sat for the exams again in 2017, this time it was WAEC, NECO and NABTEB and again I didn’t make it. The following year I wrote them again but this time around I only passed NECO. Luckily it was good enough for me to gain admission into the Edo State University, Uzairue to study Chemical Engineering. School fees “That was where I encountered another challenge.
I was thinking about the challenges we faced before and now I am going to university. Not even a public school, where the school fees are cheap. Where do I get money? I was thinking, so the school started telling us, if you don’t pay your fees, you will not write exams. I was thinking about dropping out of school. We wrote a letter to plead with the school to allow us write exams, while our Coordinator worked to pay the school fees.
“That was how it has been from the day I entered university to today that I have graduated. And what I saw from the day I entered this place made me love my education again. My only aim was to make my Coordinator happy, since he has made me happy by bringing me back to school. All I had on my mind was to make a first class. “We were just determined to give our Coordinator the best. When I saw my first results, I got all ‘As’ and that encouraged me a lot.” Losing hope Miss Rifkatu Ali, a law graduate of the same university and who made 4.06 GPA, also narrated her story. “I came here in 2014 as a result of insurgency. It all started in 2013, when we began to hear rumours that Boko Haram would attack our school. So that was how we stop going to school. During our JSS exams, they just came and called us to come and write our exams. “After that we lost hope of going to school, not long the insurgency really started, they started burning houses, killing people. They killed our neighbours, burnt our houses. We lost everything. We were stranded, no place to go to. We kept staying in the house they burnt, but then those insurgents continue to attack and attack. It got to a level nobody could stay there again.
“At that point, we had to escape in the night, because you cannot move in the day. We escaped from our village to Adamawa State. When we got there, we thought that the place was a safe place, but we soon realised that it wasn’t safe, as the Boko Haram insurgents continued to attack there. “The day they attacked where we in Maraba Mubi, I was on my way to the farm. I heard gunshots and thought maybe soldiers were having their training only to realise that it was a Boko Haram attack. Because of this, I couldn’t go back home. The only thing I had on were the clothes I wore to the farm. “I searched around looking for my parents, it was while moving around that I met my uncle, he was also looking for his children. I now joined him to move to Yola. But Yola was not safe. We were now looking for where could be safer, that was how we heard about Home for the Needy Foundation. And we moved to Benin in November 2014.”