At the recent event of Evolve, a non-profit organisation (NGO)’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), of Pacegate Limited, which focuses on girl-child education, and its lead partner, Polaris Bank, in Lagos, the programme, launched in 2020 to address the global challenge of climate change through the education of underprivileged girls, was the cynosure of all participants from all walks of life as the venerability plights of underprivileged girls in various government’s secondary schools came to the front burner. Particularly, the programme was supposed to be a platform to impact over 50,000 direct beneficiaries and 200,000 indirect beneficiaries in the next five years, but it turned out to be a day of emotions and reflections for participants while listening to the tales of struggling underprivileged girls in various government secondary schools on what they are passing through to be educated at all means because of their poor backgrounds.
Genesis of the programme
Speaking on the impact of the project at a media briefing in Lagos recently, the Managing Director, Pacegate Limited, Mr. Umesh Amarnani, began by saying that the NGO’s CSR programme was born out of necessity for the underprivileged girls in a bid to promote girl-child education in various secondary schools in the country, not only Lagos. According to him, he was privileged to have attended a United Nations (UN) programme on global warming in California, US meant to curb climate change globally. He pointed out that at the UN event, there was a study called: ‘Project Drawdown Report”, a study established online where hundreds of scientists were studying on how they can curb global warming on the planet. In addition, he noted that these scientists are also studying research on giving girl-child education, entrenchment of family planning, reducing population growth and building women’s empowerment in the society. However, the Pacegate Limited MD admitted that what moved him emotionally was when the issue of Nigeria’s growing population cropped up during the research study, especially the Northern region on the way young girls are giving birth at a tender age, amid lack of education exposure and proper welfare management. Umesh said: “Today, women in Northern Nigeria are giving birth to six kids and more and the point is how does she train them all? That’s why the need for family planning. Today, if you educate a girl, she already has a good future career; she cannot get pregnant at a tender age and in addition, she can plan her life properly. But it’s very unfortunate that today’s girls are getting babies when they are in that age brackets of 14 and 15 years old. Whereas, if they have good careers in education, by pursuing it vigorously, then they may properly get kids at the age of 30 and above. That is the mature thing to do.” Umesh added: “At Pacegate, we are committed to building a more sustainable and responsible environment where every girl-child feels valued, empowered, and can contribute to the society at large. We strongly believe that through the schools’ supplies provided, value-based education being taught to school teachers and support received from our sponsors, the girl-child will have access to a higher level of educational opportunities.”
Family planning campaigns
While speaking on the urgent need to advocate for family planning, the Evolve NGO’s initiator said that the rising population growth in Nigeria is worrisome as it is becoming a critical topic at the international scene, with the prediction that Nigeria’s population will hit 500 million by 2050. He, therefore, alluded to the fact that there is a need to intensify family planning campaigns in the communities and societies at large on the danger of unwarranted pregnancies.
In his own submission on the Evolve CSR on girl-child education, the General Manager, Operation of Pacegate Limited, Godwin Ejeh, said that it was a clarion call and the CSR is now a national project that kicked off in Lagos. Thus, reaffirming the company’s commitment to the promotion of girl-child education in Nigeria. Ejeh explained: “We started this initiative in Nigeria in 2020. We went to six schools in Ilupeju, where Pacegate operates from. We gave about 1,200 girls in Ilupeju. “So what we did was we brought tailors to go to these schools and we got the young students and measured them and we made uniforms for them to wear. So they were all tailored made. So, we did that and we got a success story from what we did in 2020.” He continued: “By 2021, with the help of Polaris Bank, we scaled up to four, five states nationally and we catered for 4,500 of them. Again, the same structure, we go to those schools physically for we get tailors within their communities to measure their measurements and make uniforms for them. And last year, of course, we went to over nine states over 32 schools with over 5,000 girl-children we provided for.”
Polaris Bank’s roles
Also commenting on the initiative, Polaris Bank’s Group Head, Customer Experience Management & Sustainability, Bukola Oluyadi, recalled the bank’s management’s meeting with Umesh, when he briefed them on the outcome of that meeting he participated in the climate change programme in California. She said that the management later discussed it and on what it could do to empower the girl-child to impact global warming and climate change.
A principal’s ordeal
Mrs. Omolara Amusan, the Principal, Ilupeju Junior Grammar School, in her assertion, stated that when the Evolve NGO visited her school to explain to her their intentions to support the girl child education, she was like “wow, am I dreaming and is this a reality?” The principal said: “Firstly, I just want to thank Mr. Umesh and the people in this girl-child education project for the impact it has recorded since its existence.” Speaking further she said: “About the programme I don’t know what to say because it came as a surprise and it is something I have been longing for. I want to quickly tell a story from the girls that I picked up in my area. I think they came from the other side of the country. I don’t want to mention the place. “The father of these girls has eight girls. If you hear the way they speak English, you will think they have been to school before. But none of them had ever attended school before. “When I met one of the girls and spoke to her on the phone, I asked her,’ (name withheld), have you ever been to school before?’ She replied: ‘No?’ And when I asked if she would like to go to school, she said: ‘Our dad won’t allow us ma’. “So many girls like that are in our school. My school is the kind of school where you have the elites and most of the children there, they are house helps. So when they come, the people that bring them to Lagos, they don’t really take good care of them. “Personally, I have sewn uniforms for them to wear and I also buy them sandals. I give them school bags and so on. If you call their guardians, they will tell you: ‘No, I just want to help them’. But when Evolve NGO came, I was happy they had changed a lot of things in my school. Before you will see students coming to school with poly bags. You see them coming with different bathroom slippers.
A female student’s tale
Speaking the Head Girl, Omole Junior Grammar School, Bamidele Esther, said: “It has been difficult to learn because we have a lot of students in schools from different backgrounds and it is awesome that we can be giving school uniform clothes to wear by this organisation. When I was called upon as one of the beneficiaries of the organisation’s school uniform, bags and others, I was so happy and on getting home, my parents too were so happy about the gesture. I thank the organisation for given us a new school uniforms to help us, and this has helped our parents not to spend extra money over us. Now, as a beneficiary of the organisation’s school uniform and other educational tools, it has made me to focus more on my studies.” On what she hopes to be in future: “I will like to be a neurosurgeon. Once again, I thank Pacegate for helping us with these school uniforms to make us look good.”