By Babajide Okeowo
Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State on Thursday, promised to personally take up the responsibility for the education and upbringing of two out-of-school girls.
Sanwo-Olu made the promise at the Anthony Village area of the state, while on his way to an official function.
His journey to the function was momentarily halted by a disturbing situation of two underage girls on an errand for a bean cake vendor during school hours, at about 11.00 a.m.
Amarachi Chinedu, 9, and Suwebat Husseini, 12, were forced to skip school by their parents, in order to serve some domestic assistance.
The girls were going to deliver buckets of peeled beans and pepper to a grinder, when the governor sighted them and stopped his convoy, to find out the reason the girls were not in school.
Chinedu narrated that her mother was a teacher, but she could not go to school because her parents could not afford the current session’s tuition fees.
Husseini’s mother is the bean cake seller for whom the girls were running an errand. Her parents, who are Jigawa indigenes, relocated to Lagos some months ago.
Husseni’s four male siblings were all in school at the time she was stopped on the road by the governor, but her parents preferred she stayed back home to help with some chores.
Sanwo-Olu said the decisions taken by the girls’ parents could rob them of their innocence, future and put them at a disadvantage among their peers.
”This morning, I had a first-hand experience of what many vulnerable children may be going through in our society. I saw something that made my heart bleed on my way to this function.
”My encounter with them gave me the opportunity to hear their stories and I have taken it upon myself to ensure that these girls never suffer such fate again. I am not going to leave them alone.
”Amarachi and Suwebat will go back to school. This is a classic example of what we need to do differently as a society. It is needless to ask what brought their parents to Lagos. We must ensure they are not robbed of their future.
”These two girls will be under my care and that of the First Lady. There are several Amarachi and several Suwebat out there, who will not have this kind of opportunity. Everyone of us can take the same decision and listen to stories of kids who may be vulnerable.
”If we choose to take up this responsibility as a people, and give a voice to the vulnerable, we all can make a difference. There is no better kindness to be done to mankind than giving them a lifetime opportunity,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu urged parents not to break their backs to send their wards to expensive schools, as there were many government-run basic and secondary schools doing better in imparting quality education, than many private schools in Lagos.
The governor said that his encounter with the girls brought the need to bolster government’s support to public schools and raise the standards.
”If as a parent you cannot afford to put your children in private school, know that there are public schools that are doing great things.
”Why will a parent deny a nine-year-old girl access to education? Yes, we are doing so much in education, but the story of these two little girls shows that there is more to be done.
”Amarachi and Suwebat didn’t ask to be in the circumstance they found themselves
”It is our responsibility to be able to give them the future they deserve; the opportunity that will make them better children to their family and better citizens of this country,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu called for partnership with development agencies, to ensure all vulnerable persons in the state, including children of school age, got adequate attention needed for their care.