By Adekunle Adewunmi
Dr. Bose Durojaiye is the Founder of Touch A Life – A non-government organisation with the sole aim of emancipating poor Nigerians and providing educational opportunities for their children.
The body over the years have helped a lot of poor folks come out of poverty. The body demonstrated this gesture recently when it gave scholarships worth N500,000 each, to nine students who came out best in the Grand Finale of the Touch A Life School Project competition which took place at Ikeja Grammar School, Lagos.
The benefactors had competed with their counterparts on District levels before qualifying for the final stage where one winner emerged from the Public Speaking Contest and eight others from the Mathematics and Science competition. The eight students from the Mathematics and science contest all enjoyed the scholarship programme while a young boy named Eke Emmanuel from Kuje Senior Secondary School was celebrated as the overall winner with a gap of 3 marks beyond his mates.
The public speaking contest was on the other hand, very interesting and filled with talented students which has once again, confirmed the high intelligence level of Nigerian students. The topic of discourse was “Internet: A blessing or a curse to Nigerians” and the winner was Perry Emmanuel, a female from CMS Girls Senior Grammar School. The second and third positions from the Public Speaking angle, were, as the other nine winners, presented with Tablet Phones and Certificates.
Eke Emmanuel was full of gratitude to Touch A Life School Project for giving him the opportunity to further his education noting that his education would give him the opportunity to help his family in the future. He plans to study medicine at the University of Nigeria, NSUKKA. Emmanuela on the other hand also appreciated the organisers of the programme which she described as a sweet ride.
Some orphans who benefitted from the programme last year were present at this year’s competition to help out with the process. Njoku Chibuzor, Raimi Sunday who were among the winners last year described the project as a worthy one which should be supported by well-meaning Nigerians.
Apart from providing scholarship, the body had also distributed educational materials to various schools. Pastor Seyi Ogunbomehin who has been quite close to the organisation describes the gesture of Dr. Durojaiye as quite unique and commendable. He noted that “many rich people give out of their abundance but in the case of Dr. Durojaiye, she gives out of the little she has. She is not super rich but she goes out of her way mobilising funds to help the poor and downtrodden. It is a project rich Nigerians should support. This vision should not be allowed to die.
“I have known Dr. Durojaiye for a while. She needs all the encouragement. Well-meaning Nigerians should help her in the task of helping the poor. A student that is given the opportunity to go to higher school is a generation saved. I am hopeful that through support from Nigerians, Touch A Life should be able to grant scholarship to more indigent folks.”
Dr. Durojaiye however sees the body as God’s own project. In this interview with our correspondent, she gives a run-down of the project so far. Excerpts:
When Was Touch A Life Founded?
Touch A Life was birthed in 2001. We actually started with ‘homeless shelter’ where we accommodate people that are homeless but in helping them, we found out that their children needed more support. As such, we started the Touch A Life School Project. When we started it, we were looking for something that will be more permanent, a sort of help that will make sure the child has a guaranteed future by the grace of God. That was what gave birth to Touch A Life Scholarship. Like I said, we have the ‘homeless shelter’ but it had since, evolved to what we call an intervention which other Nigerians can replicate. We also have Touch A Life pay monthly where we deal with the young adult. We discover that when they graduate, many of them cannot afford to rent houses. We then provided accommodation where they pay only monthly with no agent fee. We hope that also will be replicated all over Nigeria.. Our accommodations are always full because we are the only one doing such for now. What people can do for us, as some well-meaning people did is donate accommodation and it’s not always about donation of funds. We hope to inspire landlords in Nigeria to collect money monthly. We use some of the money from rents to sponsor the school project. Even if people do not want to help, they can come to learn and replicate such so that we can help young Nigerians to live for them not to embezzle from their company’s money since they can easily pay after receiving their salaries and this will also reduce corruption in the country.
Why limit the scholarship scheme to public schools students only?
Well, we realized that the students in Public Schools are those unable to attend even the least private schools in Nigeria. We found out that from doing the project, they need help most. We are trying to help people who are unable to help themselves so they can see Nigeria as a country where they also givers and not only takers.
You know the children are used to hearing that people are embezzling money and other negative stories in Nigeria but we at Touch A Life want to be positive influence in their lives, to show them that Nigerians can give and not just take because we are not taking anything from them and we just hope that they emulate us when God has helped them and, help others as well. And, it is a rule in Touch A Life that the Scholars have a social project in their own schools by offering free teaching, free counseling and encourage others like them so that they also can rise.
We can’t do it all, so, we hope other well-meaning Nigerians and organizations will emulate us and when there are so many organizations such as this, we believe Nigeria will rise from this situation we are presently by offering social works, public service and whatever we can do for our fellow countrymen.
Touch A Life is a Christian-based organization, we believe what we have read in the Bible that it’s better to give than to receive. So, our policy is just to keep giving and giving, and we pray that our children will be greater than us.
Will this only be restricted to Lagos State?
We are extending the Scholarship programme countrywide. Touch A Life is sponsored by well-meaning individuals and each individuals takes one, two or three scholars. We are marketing what we are doing this year among well-meaning people while the aim is to actually have one Touch A Life Scholar in the whole 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria. In the next 3-4 years, our aim that Touch A Life Scholarship will be available to every LGA in Nigeria. This is because we are looking to having a multiplier effect that if we are able to help one from a local government, such goes back to see what he or she can do in that LGA. Then, little by little, as a country, we can move forward. We are not stopping the scholarship at Maths/Science and public Speaking, the overall idea is that a child that is doing well, whether in Maths and Science, Public Speaking, Sports, Drama or Music should not be looking for money to go to the University; we want to extend the scholarship because not all are given academics. Any child that is excelling, we want to encourage them, we want to be an inspiration to them so that anyone that is working hard can be hopeful of winning the scholarship because when the winners are announced in their various schools, they will be willing to work hard so as to be part of the next beneficiaries. Even though they do not win, by the virtue of all their studying, they’d have become a better person. So, we want to encourage, challenge and inspire the less-privileged in a bid to transform their lives.
Right now, I can tell you how amazed I am at the number of good-hearted people who come to support us. We are going into advocacy with the government because of the challenges we are having with admission. A child scored 286 and unable to get admission but the sponsor of the particular child volunteered to support the child for a JUPEB programme of #300,000, and, that’s a story for another day. For these children, sometimes, I cannot sleep, but always looking for admission for them. How can I tell a child who scored 69.5 in Post Jamb and 267 in JAMB that such cannot gain admission?
We need government to recognize what we are doing and support us. After going through public schools, passing their exams but unable to get admission, it’s not a palatable experience because some of these children live in slums. We need Government to recognize that majority of Nigerians are in the government school. What can we do to help them? In terms of support, in terms of increasing the standard of education; in terms of making transparent, the admission process, publish the real criteria for picking students. Those are the kind of things we need. How do you explain to them that people scoring less than them are gaining admission? The government needs to be helpful and accountable to this effect.