My Ikota Journey

Before I visited Bethesda Nursery and Primary school Ikota, I had a different view about orphaned and disadvantaged children and the world which they lived in. “Lagos is a big city” you often hear people say but when you compare the land area; it is actually the smallest of the 36 Nigerian states. I often wondered then, why most people referred to Lagos as the “Largest City” in Nigeria when as a matter of fact its land area was the smallest. Well it’s because even though Lagos has the smallest land area, it is the place where most financial activities are carried out in Nigeria and West Africa which makes it the Largest City in West Africa! Lagos is the Nigerian definition of the “Big Apple” and who doesn’t want a bite of a big green apple?! Nigeria consists of a lot of rural areas and less-developed communities and Lagos is no exception. Even though Lagos boasts of beautiful urban areas and plays host to almost every big company in Africa; it still has its muddy and murky parts with hut houses and thatched roofs but those places I had never visited. From my own world, I looked down on such places and couldn’t bear the thought of interacting with the people that lived there. In my mind I had imagined that robbers, drug dealers, sex workers and the lot were the only kind of people that emerged from such places. I had viewed their world as dark and evil with no purpose or future ambitions. So you can imagine when I came into contact with Bethesda and I had to visit a poor community embedded in the inner parts of Ilaje, a small community called “Gede gede”. We were to leave from Lekki Phase 1, a place considered to house some of the best real estates in the State and most likely the Country. I had expected it would be a long drive but to my surprise it took not more than 40 minutes. When we arrived at Ilaje, I was immediately put off by the number of bikes (Okada) and tricycles (Keke) that called for passengers going into the street. We drove in and I noticed there were houses and estates along the road and suddenly the hut houses with thatched roofs began to appear, we had arrived at Gede Gede. There were no roads, only path ways as the houses were built closely together. The surrounding was dirty with clothes hanging over the door way of houses, water on the path ways made them murky and more than one occasion we had to jump over puddles just to keep moving to our destination. When we began navigating the path ways of Gede Gede, I kept my eyes on the ground, mostly because of the murky waters on the floor but also because I didn’t want to look at the people in the eyes. The people I had feared were robbers and drug dealers. We finally reached our destination and for the first time I looked up. We were at the front of the gate to the school and in my mind I had imagined the scene I would see beyond the gates would be sad and lonely. I had pictured that the children would be dirty, angry, and represent everything Gede Gede seemed to be. The gates finally opened and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was nothing like I had imagined. The school was made of bamboo which made it feel warm and safe. The children were happy, full of life and the sound of laughter rang in the air. Looking at the children my opinion changed, no child this happy and well cared for could end up becoming a robber, a drug dealer or the sort. The children without saying a word began to change the way I saw poor communities, the children made me see HOPE!
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