Mama Alfredo-Durugo Regoe, popularly called Mama Makoko, has been tagged by many as a true heroine. She moved into Oko Agbom, Makoko, in the year 1990 on an evangelical outreach mission. On getting there, she discovered that the state of education was poor, as a matter of fact, the people did not have schools. Although she started out her evangelical mission at the Bariga waterfront in 1987, after getting to Oko Agbon and experiencing the challenges, she decided to settle there.
Taking on the responsibility of providing education to the children in the community did not come without its own challenges. Some of those challenges are; refusal of parents to let their children go to school, unavailability of a canoe to transport the children to school, lack of infrastructure for the school, and other financial challenges.
Mama Makoko goes door to door to convince the parents to let their children attend the school. The parents in the community would rather have their young children hawk, and learn a trade when they are much older. She deals with cases of parents who come to forcefully retrieve their children from the school and send them to the streets to hawk. Sometimes, they have to leave the community hall which is used as a make-shift school whenever important meetings or events have to hold there. On such days, they resort to recreational activities. However, none of these challenges has deterred Mama Makoko from pursuing her dream of seeing the children educated.
Mama Makoko believes that education is the key to success and to forward movement in life, so the education she provides comes at no cost on the part of the children and/or parents. Rather she pays the teachers and provides the children with lunch from her own money. In addition, she teaches the parents too with the rationale that the parents will be more willing to release their children to be educated if they themselves are educated.
For about 28 years, ‘Edu Slum’, the name she gave the initiative, has successfully trained over 8,000 children in Oko Agbon, some of whom are now either married, graduates of universities or still pursuing a degree. Whereas some others are entrepreneurs working in their various enterprises.
Her initiative now gets some support from people within and outside Nigeria who support what she does. Some of these people even offer to come and teach with her in the slum. She also gets support from Straightway Gate Publishers, Ibadan who provide her with educational materials for the children.
Mama Regeo was awarded at the 100 Unsung Heroines Project led by Bayo Omoboriowo and launched by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili in Lagos on March 7, 2014. In 2018, she was also awarded at the Cussons Baby Moments event under the ‘Cussons Baby Inspiration Award’.
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This article was first published on 21st June 2018