(Written with permission, by Emeke Ndego and Ufuoma E-Ashogbon).
Hi my name is Andrew* (this is not my real name, though). I was born on May 26, 1997 and that makes me 16 years old. I am from Kogi State. I learnt about Fair Life Africa Foundation when Uncle Ayo and Aunty Tope met me at Oshodi and invited me to visit the Home.
Oshodi was my home for three months and I felt comfortable staying there, because I met a lot of young boys like myself who were living on the street. The only people I feared were the Task Force people. While in Oshodi, I used to help people carry their load for some money and later I went to work in a food vendor shop where I washed plates. I didn’t know a place like Fair Life Africa existed and I was glad when I was chosen as one of the twelve boys they took in.
I grew up in Ikorodu town, Lagos State, with my parents and siblings. It was not always happy times as my mother and father were always fighting and, sometimes, it would be long before they would settle. What eventually made me leave home was the separation between my parents. I attended a primary school and went to secondary school, though I did not complete my Senior Secondary School education before I ran away from home.
When my parents separated, my mother took us with her. The decision to leave home was not easy for me but I had to leave when I could not stand the constant beatings from my mother. I had not been so well behaved but I don’t think children should be maltreated the way I was. For instance, there was a time I took a phone that my mother promised but refused to give me as a reward for passing my common entrance examination into secondary school. I forgot it with my best friend while I was playing football and when my mother found the phone, she gave me a serious beating and burnt my chest and hands with a pressing iron.
At every little thing I did, I was punished. This made me fond of running away from home and anytime I came back, I regretted my decision to return. One day, I made up my mind and ran very far away from home. I went to Iperu, Ogun State where we normally went for our church convention. At Iperu, I slept in a mosque, and would go to the stream every day. After that I was free to roam around as I wanted, from video game centres to football fields. At weekends, I would look for any party spot and help them to wash plates and they would give me food and sometimes money.
Things were not easy there, though, as I used to pluck fruits from the tree and ate the burnt part of processed cassava (because that was the major business people were doing there). At first, I was happy because there was no beating like there was at home. But after three months, hunger made me run back to Lagos and I went to Yaba and stayed there for one week before leaving for Oshodi.
Things are not the way they used to be, as Fair Life Africa gave me the chance to go back to school and to reconcile with my family. Before entry, I, Peter and Mark, were made to sit a test at the secondary school, to know if we would be able to cope in school after a long time out. I was glad we all passed! I am so grateful that Fair Life Africa Foundation paid my school fees and that of my friends in the Home. In April, the three of us sat for the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WAEC). I studied really hard, and I think I did well. A special friend of the organisation paid for us to have tutorial classes with a private tutorial organisation. I hope to be a chartered accountant one day.
I, Peter and Mark, stay in the same room – the “Green room”. Since we finished our exams, we have been staying back every day. For a while it was boring, but then Uncle Emeke and Uncle Ayo started teaching us Computer Skills, and I now know how to use Microsoft Word, Excel and other programmes. Mummy (Mrs Ashogbon) asked us to help with cleaning the Home as well, since we have time on our hands, and we have been happy to help. I am proud of how clean the Home is because I know that I worked to keep it that way. I didn’t really care before when we had a cleaner, but now I know the value of her work.
My stay at the Home has been great! Even though I have to abide by the rules, I think they are good, and I don’t get punished often because I try to be well behaved. I try to look neat at all times and keep our room clean whenever it’s my turn. In February, I actually won the good behaviour competition and I choose a friend to go with me on an outing, which was my reward. We went to the Palms Shopping Complex and we bought trainers for ourselves. I also bought two clipper sets, one for the boys at the Home and one to take when I finally leave for home. We also had ice cream and bought valentine gifts for our friends in the Home and at school. It was fun!!!
I didn’t think I would say this, but I am looking forward to going home now. Since I’ve been here, my mother, father and siblings have been over to see me many times. I visited my mom for a weekend, and also spent Easter with my whole family later. My father even came around to see me and the whole family then. We are trying to learn from our mistakes, and Aunty Ifeoma has been counselling us.
During my stay in the Home, I have come to learn how to live in peace with people and how to speak politely too. I don’t want to go back to the streets. I want a bright future for myself and my family. Thank you for supporting Fair Life Africa Foundation, so that they can help children like me to have a fair chance at life!