Nigeria abounds with the story of unknown and unsung women making impact and creating change in their respective communities and spheres of influence. With little or no resources, they are taking the initiatives to illuminate the lives of others despite being engulfed in darkness. This is what women of rubies is about. It’s about telling the tales of unsung Nigerian heroines.
Today, we bring to you the story of Regoe Alfredo Durugo popularly called Mama Makoko. This woman with a heart of gold goes from house to house in Makoko community, a slum located in Lagos recruiting less privileged children to get an education. Every day she paddles her canoe with stubborn determination, taking children who hitherto are uneducated and illuminating their minds with formal education. For more than 25 years, she has been able to send more than 5000 children to school in the riverine Makoko converting the townhall into a makeshift classroom, employing and paying young teachers with the little she makes from her catering job. Going to Makoko wasn’t an easy journey, but Easy Taxi made it convenient and comfortable
This is her story!
I came into this community called Oko Agbon for evangelism not with the intention to educate the children. When I got here, I realized the level of education here is poor; this made me decide to start teaching these kids. This was around 1990. I have made some previous mistakes, I did not start here, I started in Bariga waterfront that was 1987, before I moved to this place. Getting here, I realized they need me here because the problems were just too much. As a result of my work, I get called different names like Mama Makoko, the light of Makoko, Mama Yaba, and Mama Nigeria.
Her driving force
What will make a woman take residence in Makoko where she is a stranger? She doesn’t know anyone, nor does she get paid for what she does.
“Education is the key to success and without education; one cannot move forward .This is my driving force. Somebody taught me and I believe that I need to teach another person. Since I have started this initiative, I have trained a lot of individuals. Some of them are married, some are in the university, some have graduated, and others gained informal education like hairdressing, tailoring, vulcanizing and so on. “The burden of providing education to these kids hasn’t been without its difficulties. Mama Makoko finds it difficult to sustain her initiative partly because she doesn’t have her own canoe and a school of her own.
Due to the fact that it’s a riverine area, the challenges are more. I don’t have a canoe of my own; we don’t have a school of our own. The places we use as schools are community halls. Sometimes when we want to teach these children and there is a need for the community hall to be used, we have no choice than to take the children out for recreational activities. Another challenge is that parents don’t allow some of their kids to get education. Imagine a situation whereby a child will be in primary 3 or 4 and a parent will come and pick that child saying that child needs to hawk. It’s a herculean task for her to convince the parents of these children to give her the permission to educate them. Sometimes, she has to go as far as knocking from door to door, telling them the importance of getting their kids educated.
Convincing the parents of the kids
It’s not easy .Sometimes I go to their parents to convince them about the importance of education. Even if they have to eventually learn a trade, they still need to be educated.
Mama Makoko was honored last year at the 100 Unsung Heroes Project for her contributions to the Makoko community. She wasn’t exactly prepared for what she got at the epoch making event.
“I wasn’t prepared for the award I got that day. The organizers told me they were directed by Dr. Obi Ezekwesili to come and capture our activities here. He said there will be a programme at a particular time and he will like to invite me. He didn’t tell me that I was going to be honored. When I got there, I was shocked and short of words.
Her testimony of impact: “Edu Slum”
Edu Slum has taken me far. I have gone round Nigeria through this initiative. People from America and all over the world write me that they want to come and teach along with me .Most of them don’t know that I am inside the slum .Sometimes, I tell them I am not ready, that when I am ready I will inform them. We just had to give the initiative a name so we called it Edu Slum, we are in the slum it’s a slum school.
Sustaining Edu Slum
People and families support me as I said earlier. John Walter, alumni of Unilag helped us with some items when he was graduating. He came with his team in a Coaster bus and organized an event for Edu Slum. They went from house to house sharing gifts items. A lot people came. Thank God I have gotten help. I have publishers who are backing me up, like Straightway Gate Publishers in Ibadan. When I went to Ibadan for a wedding, I was at their office. They gave me textbooks for the kids.
Reaching out to parents
This woman of rubies with a heart of gold doesn’t just teach the kids, she also extends it to their parents. Bearing in mind that it takes educated parents to allow their kids get an education.
I teach the parents too. I do afternoon sessions and evening session’s .I teach the fishermen and the fish sellers. I don’t get any support from the community; I was only given a hall. Sometimes, God will touch some of them to give us fresh fish, shrimps and crabs.
Just like an evangelist, she goes from one place in Makoko to another looking for kids to take to school.
“I see them on the road selling and tell them, “You are not selling anymore, now you are going to school. Join me in school tomorrow.
Counting on the Government
We need the government to help us build a hall, somewhere we can use as a school. I am also pleading with the government to provide us a land where we can build a proper school so these children can be more comfortable with what they are being taught. We need help. I am the one supporting them financially and providing them lunch. I am the one who also pays the teachers. It’s not been easy.
Being a woman of rubies
When I came to Makoko, I wasn’t as glamorous as this. Helping these kids has made me glamorous. Whenever these kids see me, they will start reciting the alphabets. They know me for what I do. My presence here makes them better. I am fulfilled.
Women of Rubies
…Telling the tales of every day women to inspire hope and transformation
cc Guardian Woman