When Salimot Akintomide’s husband, 42, died four years ago, she was left with the burden of caring for her four children on her own. Her husband’s death was a blow to her and her children’s education was threatened because there was no one to help her.
The death of the husband
Indeed, Akintomide was a housewife during the period of her husband’s sudden death. To get by, she pulled her children out of school and engaged them in hawking goods to make ends meet. “There was no one to help me and my children’s education suffered. We struggled to survive and my children took up street vending, begging and other odd jobs to help us make ends meet. “It forced me to take them out of school because I couldn’t pay their school fees. Although I know the importance of education in a child’s life, I had no choice. “Life was very hard for us, but God sent help through Anfela Oluwaseun Tolulope, the founder of the Sought-after Creative Academy,” Akintomide explained.
Anfela, owner of the Sought-after Creative Academy, a tuition-free school in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, took Akintomide children and others like them off the streets and enrolled them in his school, offering a free education. She not only took Akintomide’s children off the streets, she also employed her as a cleaning lady at the school. The school, which started in 2017 with only 25 students, now has more than 80 students in the primary and secondary sections. According to Anfela, the school is solely funded by her with the help of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), religious bodies, philanthropists and other well-meaning Nigerians. Funding for the school has been very difficult for Anfela, a science laboratory technology graduate from Lagos State Polytechnic. “Currently, I have more than 10 employees and their salary averages 200,000 naira per month. “I engage in the production of works of art as a source of income to raise funds for the operation of the school. Every time I make an artwork, I take it to people who I think have had enough, they buy the artwork from me and use the proceeds to fund the school. “Some people because of what I tell them that we use the proceeds to make, they buy the artworks for more than the actual price. So that has been helping us for a few years. It hasn’t been encouraging because there’s so much we want to do, that the product of artwork isn’t enough to do and it’s been really discouraging for a while now. “For example, I owe my staff their salaries and that’s because I haven’t been able to sell art so far and that’s been disheartening especially for my staff, but we still have hard to see how far we can still go,” Anfela lamented. The school provides free books, uniforms and other learning materials to students, which Anfela says aims to make learning appealing to students and to ease the burden on parents.
Recounting how the idea for the school was conceived, Anfela said, “The Soughtafter Creative Academy was born out of an encounter I had with a young boy. I just ran into a seven year old boy at the time and the boy was wandering down the street and I had the opportunity to talk with him. “I asked him why he wasn’t at school and I also met his mother. And from my discussion with them I realized that they could not afford to send this boy to school and so at that time I wished to have a school for these people where they can learn and have their normal education like all the other children. “That’s where this passion comes from. So after a few years I decided to do it, I know I don’t have the financial means to do it, but I felt I could do it by contacting people who have the financial capacity to do it. ‘to help. That’s how I got the idea and started school.
She added: “For the students who come from far away, we have reserved a taxi for them which takes them to school and brings them back home in the afternoon. This is because they often cannot afford the transportation costs; it’s as bad as that. Sometimes, after the school closed, my staff and I had to fundraise to pay the taxi driver who took the students home. We used to pay the taxi driver N10,000 every week but we had to stop when we couldn’t afford it anymore and some kids stopped coming to school because of it. “We also realized that even after getting the kids through primary school, their parents still couldn’t afford to send them to secondary school, this prompted us to start high school because of the challenge . “Now we already have students in secondary school because we don’t want a situation where the work we are doing will stop halfway if we don’t get them to secondary school. Now we have JSS 1 and 2.” Anfela lamented the huge financial burden she was under to keep the school running, hinting that it might force her to close the school over her inability to pay the salary regularly Staff. His words: “I try to encourage my staff, to tell them about my passion and they believe in me and they do that with me and it’s not like I pay them so much, it’s a pledge that they’re winning to work here.” Sometimes when I’m looking for help and people aren’t open, I feel discouraged, I feel like people aren’t even interested in what I’m doing.
“The idea of closing the school is something that I don’t really like. The fact that I even say that we could close is not something that gives me joy because it is something that I have put so much energy into, especially when I see these children succeeding, it makes me gives joy.
“I can’t run the school on my own, I can’t teach all these kids on my own, if that’s something I can do I wouldn’t mind doing it, but I have staff who also have families and I have to pay them I can’t keep holding them back and having them believe in my vision and not giving them something to move them forward I really wish I didn’t have to do that. “If we close the school, most children will go back to where we chose them.
Some children even come to school without food. It’s the truth. Is it the school, which is struggling to even pay the salaries, which would now say that we want to start feeding the children? The situation is so bad. If the school ends up closing, I’m afraid what will happen to the children?