New Kuchingoro, a village just 200 meters from the popular and wealthy Games Village, is typical of a slum settlement, lacking in all the basic amenities required for decent, modern living.
But in spite of its shortcomings, the village is host to one of the camps where the more than five million Nigerians who have been displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency are taking refuge in Abuja.
Apart from persons from Gwoza Local Government Area (LGA) of Borno State who have been displaced by the Boko Haram sect, the camp has also provided refuge for people rendered homeless through clashes between by Fulani herdsmen and indigenous people of various areas in Kaduna and Nasarawa State.
The internally displaced persons, or IDPs, live in batches in the camp, with as many as nine persons in a group.
Typical of such IDPs camps in other parts of the country, the youths are jobless and cannot even find menial jobs, while the children stay at home with no school to attend.
To politicians in the fast-paced capital city, the IDPs are no more than statistics—the city of Abuja does not recognize them. They had hope, but it was shattered; they had shelter, but it was taken away.
While public-spirited individuals and altruistic groups have taken over the task of helping the IDPs meet their basic needs through various forms of humanitarian assistance, the lack of education for children and the joblessness of youths in the camp remained a big challenge until the intervention of Sanwo Olatunji and his medical doctor wife, Folake.
The couple now spends over N480,000 monthly to fund the education of 300 hundred children in the camp.
Mr. Olatunji, founder of the NGO Life Builders Initiative, said he got involved in the education for children at the camp when he arrived one weekday morning. “I felt bad,” he said. “I observed the children were roaming and I asked the parents why children were not at school. With one tale after the other they made me realize their financial plight, the non-availability of a government school within a five kilometer radius from their settlement, and the hazard of sending little children who are complete strangers in the city to a school 5 km away. Most significantly, the conditions for admission in the schools were impossible for them to meet.”
This led him to establish a school without walls right inside the camp, where about 300 children are now being provided an education and meals.
Mr. Olatunji said the school cannot have a permanent structure because the IDPs are frequently being displaced from one location to the other, which explains why it currently operates out of tents. For example, the New Kuchingoro camp is the sixth location the IDPs are occupying, he said. As they are displaced, the school is able to follow the IDPs to their new location.