For Victoria Oga, life has always been challenging and hard. The 19 year-old girl dropped out of school at age nine after her parent couldn’t continue sponsoring her education.

Oga just like many female teenagers in Makoko drop out of school before reaching age 13.

Whilst parent tries to get their child past nursery and primary, few get lucky crossing to secondary.

Most parents would prefer they learn trade, tailoring or join them in the old family business of fishing.

“I dropped out of school at a tender age. Initially I stayed at home for some years and also join my mum in the fish business, but three years ago I was brought here to learn tailoring,” Oga said.

Marshalling through the murky water leading to the community in a canoe paddled by young boy, the smell from excretes and the dirty water pervades the airwaves, as this reporter venture into Makoko, a Lagos suburban area.

Meandering through the community on a hot Thursday morning, a child was spotted atop a makeshift shack toilet, with an old woman across calmly sitting at the frontage of a celestial church which views welcomes visitor, surrounded by children in an attentive manner to the tales of the woman.

With a population now estimated to be 250000, Makoko according to World Population Review, detailing World Bank statistics, is said to be amongst identified 9 of the largest slum in Lagos.

With Education at its lowest ebb in Nigeria, Makoko is not immune from the alarming number of out-school children in the country, with non-availability of government schools in the community contributing to the problem.

Located in Lagos mainland Lagos, the waterfront part of the community is largely harboured by the Egun people who migrated from Badagry and Republic of Benin and whose main occupation is fishing

Mostly known as Makoko to outsiders, it is a six separated villages spread across land and water: Oko Agbon, Adogbo, Migbewhe, Yanshiwhe, Sogunro and Apollo. The first four are the floating communities, known as Makoko waterfront; the rest are based on land.

The Lagos State Government and both local and international NGOs epithet is Makoko-Iwaya Waterfront. Both united by the water, upon which a larger percentage of the community population depend for livelihood, as well as the Yoruba language, which serves as a lingua franca in a settlement where multiple languages are spoken: French, English, Yoruba and Egun.

In 2012 under the administration of the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, the State government declared Makoko illegal and unsuccessful tried to evict it residents in order to raze the entire slum, arguing that the living conditions were unsanitary and that it violated environmental legislation.

Education in Nigeria

According to the UNICEF, Nigeria has 10.5 million out-of-school children-the world’s highest number. Sixty per cent of those children are in northern Nigeria.

About 60 per cent of out-of-school children are girls. Many of those who do enrol drop out early. Low perceptions of the value of education for girls and early marriages are among the reasons. Some northern States have laws requiring education of girls and prohibiting their withdrawal from school. Girls’ primary school attendance has been improving, but this has not been the case for girls from the poorest households.

With children under 15 years of age accounting for 45 per cent of the 171 million populations, the burden on education has become overwhelming for the nation currently facing numerous social challenges.

Many of those who struggle to enrol in school, drop out early, UNESCO says.

Education in Makoko

The riverine community boast of no government schools, but have some poorly run private schools across the community.

The only outside school ever to be situated in the area, was the now collapsed Makoko Floating School. A steep three-storey with a triangular roof, built and designed by Nigerian architect Kunle Adeyemi of NLE Works — in partnership with organisation including the Heinrich Boll Foundation, United Nation Development Project (UNDP), the Federal Ministry of Environment Africa Adaptation Programme, Yaba Local Council Development Area (LCDA) and the Makoko waterfront.

A makeshift private primary school visited by this correspondent, houses more than 100 pupils. The school, crammed in the midst of residential houses, is situated in an obscure area, boast of three badly built slum-shack classes.

Pupils are being taught in French

When asked why the pupils are being taught French in an Anglophone country, Vice-Principal John Abraham said paucity of funds is reason they haven’t been able to employ an English teacher to teach the pupils.

Also adjoining schools situated in the community are poorly built, understaffed and having half-lettered teachers with a school having not more than three five teachers or three teachers sharing more than 8 subjects amongst themselves.

The situation in the community goes beyond lack of quality education, as cases of child abuses are also rampant with some becoming the breadwinner of their family instead of being in school.

A 13-year-old canoe paddler, Dudu Ebince told The Nation that he could not remember if he ever attended school.

Dudu, who upon sighting this reporter, with four of his co-young canoe paddlers rushed to his side in the little English language they could mustered asked with faint smile on their faces, the reporters’ destination.

“I may have gone to school when i was little, but I can’t remember. I am canoe paddler, I ferry people from this bank to anywhere they want to go inside Makoko and make between N1000 and N1500 per-day depending on the day” Dudu said to the reporter conveying him to his destination in his rickety licking canoe.

“While on market day, I make a lot money transporting people who come here for business purpose”.

Effect

While the community has a communal system of administration and management with local chiefs and community leaders, Makoko underdevelopment has greatly affected the community.

45-year-old Avleci Gerard, a community leader who owns a tailoring shop training dropout students on clothes sowing in his main-shack slum building relayed with graphic details of how lack of proper education and healthcare has been affecting Makoko.

Avleci who speaks no English or the Yoruba, the official language of his host community, spoke with The Nation correspondent in Egun and translated to the reporter by, a High School dropout now under the care of Avleci.

“We don’t have government presence in this community. There are no government school in this area and we don’t have government hospitals either. Government should know that we are Nigerians and not outsiders. Saying those in waterfront are not Lagosians is wrong. We have been here for more than 100 years and people currently here where born here and not as if they were brought from somewhere to inhabit this place’’ he said.

“We are suffering here; our major source of livelihood is fishing, which was passed down to us from our fathers and forefathers. We have been here for years and have nowhere to go”.

“They want use to relocate from this area to dry land, but to where exactly and they are asking us to leave. We are only here because we are fishermen and we must feed our family. Our business, everything about us is connected to this place and not just that were just living here for living sake”.

“That’s why you that are closer to government should leave us and not chase us away from here. We feed through the meagre we get from fishing. Because of no hospital here, we have lost so many people to different ailments that could have been easily treated, if we have had a functioning hospital. We want you to help us”.

“Family here without any means of livelihood that depend on the fish business also are also facing eviction from government. You could see small children also engaging in canoe paddling as a means of making money, some use it to even feed their family”.

Avleci on his cloth sowing business said he started it as means to help school dropout so that they don’t fall into wrong hands.

“I started tailoring business 10 years ago and I have trained more than 60 people and in those ten years, I have really not made anything. I only use it to help those children, so that they too can have something doing, it’s not as if I make money from it, but as I just have to do it, it’s my own way of contributing to this community and their life. I also lecture them in our local dialect and we have someone who comes over here to teach them little English and other subjects.

Abu Bukola, a community teacher told The Nation what the community needs is government assistance and not eviction

“What we need is government assistance in our community. What we have here as a houses are slum shack and something that’s good. We all know that a foundation that is not strong crumbles easily”. Those are the kind of houses we have here are part of Lagos and Nigeria and deserve better from the government” he said.

“What I think government can do is to assist people here by maybe establishing businesses for them with an agreement on how they would pay back and maybe also to construct a small building for them. People here just need small government assistance. They are not lazy, but hard working and if government is will to help, I believe they will really appreciate and best use of any assistance rendered”.

Cases of teenage pregnancies also are rampant and getting out of control, with a close direct observation seeing many teenagers in Makoko with children.

Apart from Victoria, more than 15 teenagers are also under the care of Gerard, with more female than boys as all thrive to make meaning of their life and community.

Esther Moses who is billed to finish in August is thinking of prolonging her stay as she has no means setting up her own business.

“I don’t think I will be leaving here. I don’t have money and my parents also don’t have money to even buy me machine not to talk about getting a shop. So I may stay here for a while and maybe when I get money, I will pay for my graduation, get a machine and also shop” she said.

Otodo Gbeme eviction

Avleci during his interview with The Nation said the Otodo Gbame eviction by the Lagos State government in 2017 was one of the trying times in the community, as most those evicted migrated to Makoko with their properties and families.

The Lagos State government between November 2016 and April 2017, Lagos State authorities forcibly and violently evicted more than 30,000 residents from the Otodo-Gbame community on the outskirts of Lagos city.

In a report by Amnesty International, ‘The Human Cost of a Megacity: Forced Evictions of the Urban Poor in Lagos’ released in November 14 2017, the human right agency details the repeated forced evictions of the Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin communities carried out since March 2016 without any consultation, adequate notice, compensation or alternative housing being offered to those affected”.

Accusing the government of Inconsistent government response, lack of safeguards and a need for investigation.

The report also documents at least three occasions between 9 November 2016 and 9 April 2017, when the residents of Otodo-Gbame were attacked by armed men who they identified as being from the neighbouring Ikate Elegushi community. At least 15 people sustained varying degrees of injuries, while one person died during these attacks. Also, on 16 February 2015, Ilubrin community was attacked by armed men, and two children went missing (bringing the total number of people reported missing by the two communities to 17).

Some evictees drowned as they fled police gunfire, while at least one was shot dead.

“These ruthless forced evictions are just the most recent examples of a practice that has been going on in Nigeria for over a decade in complete defiance of international law,” said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International Nigeria’s Country Director.

“For the residents of these deprived communities, many of whom rely on their daily fish catch to make a living, the waterfront represents home, work and survival. Forced evictions mean they lose everything — their livelihoods, their possessions and in some cases their lives.

“The Lagos state authorities must halt these attacks on poor communities who are being punished for the state’s urban planning failures. The instability and uncertainty created by forced evictions is making their lives a misery as they are left completely destitute.”

Amnesty International spoke to 97 evicted people as part of its research, all of whom told a similar story of being made homeless and losing almost all their possessions.

Communities under attack

Between November 2016 and April 2017, Lagos state authorities forcibly and violently evicted more than 30,000 residents from the Otodo-Gbame community on the outskirts of Lagos city.

In the first eviction, at midnight on November 9, police and unidentified armed men chased out residents with gunfire and teargas, setting homes on fire as bulldozers demolished them.

Panicked residents tried to run to safety amid the chaos, with eyewitnesses reporting that some drowned in the nearby lagoon as they ran from gunfire.

Evictee Celestine Ahinsu told Amnesty International: “After a couple of days we started seeing the bodies floating. I saw three — a man with a backpack and a pregnant woman with a baby on her back. The community youths brought the bodies from the water. The relatives of the pregnant woman and child came to take their bodies.”

Nine people are believed to have drowned during the eviction and another 15 remain unaccounted for.

Of the 4,700 residents who remained in Otodo-Gbame after the eviction, some slept in canoes or out in the open, covering themselves with plastic sheets when it rained.

Four months later, in March 2017, state security forces backed up by unidentified men armed with machetes, guns and axes forcibly evicted residents who had remained.

When residents protested, they came under attack from police. One man, father of two Daniel Aya, was shot in the neck and killed.

The forced evictions were carried out in direct violation of court orders issued on 7 November 2016 and 26 January 2017. In some cases, residents were evicted while they showed police a copy of the court order that was supposed to prevent the government from demolishing their homes.

Meanwhile, 823 residents of the nearby Ilubirin community were forcibly evicted between 19 March 2016 and 22 April 2017.

After being given just 12 days’ written notice of eviction, Lagos state government officials and dozens of police officers chased residents out of their homes, and demolished all the structures in the community using fire and wood cutting tools.

Evictees subsequently returned to the area and rebuilt their structures, but these were demolished six months later with just two days’ oral notice and no consultation.

What happened in Otomo Gbeme is what we don’t want here. That’s why we want to give our children proper education so that they won’t face what we have been facing from government. We have lost a lot of people, Avleci told The Nation with a worried expression on his face.

Originally published at thenationonlineng.net on June 15, 2018.

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