Lagos, Nigeria; 1st March, 2017: Airtel, Nigeria’s leading telecommunications services provider, has joined in the effort to rehabilitate destitute children who are currently roaming the streets of Lagos.
In the third episode of its Touching Lives Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, which aired on television at the weekend, the telecom giant awarded a scholarship worth one million naira to a promising teenage boy whose continued stay in school had become uncertain.
Having lost his father and with no one else to raise him, Rotimi Azeez had hustled his way to the country’s commercial capital in a desperate move to raise money for his education.
However, a few months after his arrival, he became homeless and at the mercy of the city’s caprices. “You never know when it’s going to rain on you all night because you can never predict the rain,” he said.
But he was soon rescued by the Street Child Care and Welfare Initiative (SCCWI), a non-governmental organisation devoted to vagrant children.
Speaking to Airtel Touching Lives, Comfort Alli, president of SCCWI, said the problem of destitute children had become a public emergency. She noted that more than 250,000 minors are currently drifting around in the metropolis. “The problem is bigger than the government of Lagos State,” she said. “Everybody has to be on ground to make sure that they fight this problem.”
This is why, according to her, the charity elected to focus on bringing relief to runaway and abandoned kids. Some of the wandering youths had become “fathers of street children” and many were exposed to drugs, homosexuality, and life-threatening diseases such as HIV.
Before the 16 year old was rescued, he was “very wild, shattered, and malnourished; he probably would have become an armed robber or pickpocket,” said Folake Shittu, a senior counsellor at the aid organisation.
Now, three years later, “his attitude has changed, he has better self esteem, and improved academic performance,” said Victor Adejunle, who had been Azeez’s mentor at SCCWI for more than two years.
But since the economy slid into recession in 2016, donations to the NGO have dwindled significantly. For this reason, Alli explained, paying for Azeez’s schooling would no longer be as easy as it used to be. Although the boy had always hoped to become a lawyer, “if he doesn’t get help, he’ll be back to square one,” she said.
While accepting the Airtel intervention, Azeez said the grant would change his life. “I don’t think anyone in my family has ever received a scholarship of one million naira. I’m happy today. It’s a good thing,” he said.
Touching Lives will be back this weekend to its regular schedule on local and international television networks, Airtel has said.
On Saturday, the fourth episode of season three will premiere on Africa Magic Urban at 6:30pm and on Africa Magic Family at 7pm. It will later air on RaveTV from 9-9:30pm.
The next day, Africa Magic World will show a rerun of the episode from 6-6:30pm. NTA Network and ArewaTV will do the same from 6:00-6.30pm and from 7-7:30pm, respectively.