For many people across Nigeria, rain is a blessing. But for students and teachers at Igangan High School in the west of the country, they dread it.
That’s because for the last year, their school has been without a roof. And as the rainy season arrived this summer, lessons were cancelled or shortened as rain flooded the classroom.
Now, thanks a partnership between VSO ICS volunteers and community volunteers, much of the badly damaged roof has been repaired – meaning lessons are back on the timetable.
We had to cut lessons in half
Sodiq Olamilekan teaches Economics and Financial Accounting to 16-18 year-olds at the school. Subjects like these are vital for students at this age as they look towards a university education.
He described how when it rained, students had to take shelter on one side of the classroom – and when it was sunny, the beating sun overhead made it impossible for students to concentrate.
“It becomes very crowded. A crowded group is much more difficult to teach and often it means we’re forced to cut lessons from an hour slot to 30 minutes or less,” he said.
Getting community volunteers involved
Clearly the roof was an issue that needed to be fixed to future-proof these students’ education.
As the last ICS volunteers in Igangan, they had already been looking at how VSO projects in the area can carry on making a change even after they leave.
They partnered with Community Citizen Service Volunteers (CCSVs) – local volunteers living in the town – who they knew would be able to see the work through.
Engaging the local community was key to getting the project off the ground, with the CCSVs able to provide the local knowledge and contacts needed to get the community’s backing.
But with all funding for community projects coming from within the town, volunteers decided that with limited funds, the priority should be on repairing the most badly damaged sections of the roof – at a cost of 175,000 Naira (£380).
Raising the money
First stop – running a rally in the town. 100 students turned out alongside school staff and volunteers as a loud and creative march passed through all of Igangan’s 350 houses.
Picking up donations on the way from community members who felt equally passionate, the larger aim was to drum up support from local people to get behind the cause.
With funds still to raise to get the project off the ground, the volunteers turned to crowdfunding – raising the remaining funds in just five weeks from passionate supporters across the world.
Fixing the roof
The group approached local carpenter and host parent Noah Adegbamigbe to take on the work, helping him source the local materials and complete the repairs.
Despite some set-backs – such as a huge storm which shook Igangan, stalling repairs, and a need for diplomacy regarding which part of the school repairs began – everything went smoothly and within three days the roof was fixed.
Bayo Olaniyan, Chairman of FADU, a partner organisation of VSO in the area, praised the group of ICS and community volunteers for their dedication in tackling such an ‘ambitious’ project.
He said: “You have raised money and committed your time and brains to this project. Future generations will be thankful to you for providing a safer and dryer learning space for our students.”
We’re now able to learn
Timothy Damilole, 19, is a prominent CCSV member, as well as a former student.
He described how students like Sundae Adekunle, 15, are now back in class and seeing a huge difference in the quality of their education.
For Timothy, the project was not only a success in getting students a better quality of education, but also in empowering community volunteers to carry out their own projects in future.
“It was very useful to us as CCSVs to raise awareness about who we are and what we are trying to do to help Igangan. We feel more confident now,” he said.
“A lot of us are quite young, so it was good to do a big project that shows we can make a difference, and show the people of Igangan who we are”.
But the work doesn’t stop here for Timothy and the other CCSVs. The group are now looking into fundraising for school materials as well as new desks and chairs.
Their community maternal health clinic is also on the agenda for improvements – with big plans to educate the community on preventable illnesses and diseases.
“More knowledge about diseases, and vaccines and medicines is something that is important to us”.