As schools in Lagos State resume for the 2018/2019 session, 200 homeless children from Aboki Estate, a slum in Lekki neighbourhood, have received the support of the Destiny Trust to go back to school.
Aboki Estate, as the slum is called, is predominantly populated by children and families displaced from the North East in the rise of insurgency.
The beneficiaries were profiled under three categories to provide for children of school age who have never been to school, school drop-outs and indigent children who are in school but may not have essential materials needed to go back to school.
Annually, hundreds of children get the opportunity of education through the initiatives of the Destiny Trust, and the focus has been on children in homeless settlements around Lagos. The organisation provides essential school needs such as school kits and uniforms, and adopts a nearby school where the children are enrolled for support.
Speaking on the initiative, Seun Abimbola, Programmes Manager, said: “we are happy to complement government’s free education initiative by creating awareness among hard-to-reach children in slums and poor communities. We lead them into the classrooms and provide essential school needs that parents normally provide. This is necessary because extreme poor families are still unable to afford basic school needs and some do not even know about free education policy in Lagos State.
"That is why children are kept away from school. We are encouraging homeless families to reintegrate their children back into schools regardless of the challenges posed by homelessness. Often times, they are reluctant to enrol children in school because they do not have a stable home environment to guarantee children’s consistent attendance after being registered in school."
Ambimbola added that “increased school enrolment alone may not have drastic effect in reducing Nigeria’s illiterate children’s statistics of over 11 million children without wider government drive to address a whole range of issues including: family planning, housing for the poor, rural development and creating inclusive and sustainable cities".
"One of the biggest problems of access to education that we know is displacement of children from the environment of the school," he said. "This occurs mostly when families living in squatter settlements are evicted and when families flee their homestead due to insecurity."
The school enrolment and back-to-school initiative is central to the Foundation’s work of providing care, education and empowerment to homeless children.
In addition to the education initiative, the Destiny Trust runs a care programme for children who are either orphaned or are homeless and without any responsible guardian. The Foundation provides shelter, daily feeding, healthcare and equips children with skills, especially in the use of technology. This programme is operated from a learning and rehabilitation centre for street children located at Bogije, Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos.