#Impact365: Goldfish Initiative is providing education to children in the poorest parts of Nigeria

There’s an increasingly large population of Nigerian children who do not have access to education and are constantly being ignored by the government and until recently, most parts of the society. This NGO set up barely 5 months ago has taken its goodwill to 4 states in the country, handing out educational materials to public school children and already has plans to expand its work throughout the 36 states of the country.

Chimanma Rushworth-Moore is the founder of Goldfish Initiative for Illiteracy and Poverty Alleviation. In this interview with YNaija, she shares with us the inspiration behind the NGO and the extent of impact that has been made since the journey began.

Please tell us more about Goldfish Initiative

The Goldfish Initiative for Illiteracy and Poverty Alleviation is a registered Non-Governmental Organisation officially launched on the 10th of September 2016. The Goldfish Initiative as it is called for short, is extremely passionate and dedicated to making sure poverty is alleviated through education and talent, ensuring no child is left behind in getting the basic education of being able to read and write, especially for children from the poorest parts of our society in Nigeria, and in the nearest future across Africa.

What inspired the decision to set up the NGO?

Emphatically, a couple of things. Firstly, I share a similar background with some of the children I am giving a voice to via the NGO. For me it’s a way of giving a ladder to children whose parents live on less than a dollar a day, who are struggling with life and living, and giving them that opportunity via education to step up in life and step out of poverty. When you are poor, it is one thing but when you are illiterate and poor, believe me, it’s a whole new ball game, especially in this present day 21st century. Imagine not being able to read and understand a leaflet or a book, or a medication instruction, not being able to send a text, or not being able to use the internet – WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, blogs, news the list is endless. That automatically puts you in the lowest of the low without question. You are unable to make your own choices or an informed choice. You are constantly in darkness, oblivious of the world around you, you cannot even fit in anywhere without being helped. In the end, frustration, anger, and depression set in, the result of that often never a happy ending. One might argue that they do not exist in Nigeria, but believe me, I have done my research and the results are alarming. These children are usually the forgotten, the voiceless, the unspoken for, children who have fallen through the cracks of the Nigerian educational system. We all know how big Nigeria is, hmmm… Let me explain this with the grandiose of a Theatrical Undertone – The Federal Republic of Nigeria, situated in the West of Africa, popularly called the GIANT of Africa, with 184 million man strong in population, the 7th most populous country in the world, a country that can brag to be a staunch member of international communities like the Commonwealth, the African Union, OPEC and the United Nations, Number 1 oil producer in Africa, ranking 12th place in oil production in the world. A country rich in mineral resources like Coal, Iron ore, name it…yet, children are seen every day hawking by the road side, begging for alms on the roads, some unable to afford exam fees, basic educational necessities like books, uniforms & pencils, it is appalling and disheartening to say the least! Without a doubt, this sets them on a path to getting exploited and abused. While I reel out the pump and pageantry of our great nation, you can see why I am saying that the poor can be EASILY forgotten and unheard in this accolade – just because.

So my aim is to give these children a voice. They have a right to education. It’s a human right, not a privilege. To speak up for them where necessary and when needed, because I believe the education of every Nigerian child, poor or rich is very essential to nation building.

Tell us about your most recent projects and the success of those projects?

I have recently toured four states randomly. Lagos, Kwara, Ogun and Cross Rivers State. In these states, we have spread hope by giving motivational speeches, and provided support (in the form of reading and writing materials, school fees, school uniforms, lunch box fillers like biscuits etc) for some children in these parts. We have also identified pupils who are struggling more than most, and have offered scholarships to some of the students. Notice I use the “WE” word a lot, it’s because I could not have achieved all this by myself. I was supported by a group of beautiful minded Nigerians who responded to my call for volunteers, and brought out their time and energy to help out across these states.

How do you raise funds to keep the NGO going?

The NGO is still self-funded for now, as we have just recently been given the certification by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to open an official bank account for the NGO. However, there are well-meaning individuals, corporate bodies and organisations we are looking at working closely with as the year progresses.

What are your thoughts on child illiteracy in Nigeria? b

Child illiteracy in Nigeria is high. Child labour too is high. Most children who hawk on the streets and main roads or do things like cleaning car windows on busy roads when they are supposed to be in school have become a regular sight on our roads. There is no system in place where parents are questioned by the government or even convicted if need be when their ward is being denied this essential human right. Now at this point, I must stress that education is a human right, not a privilege for only the rich. As a nation, we must work closely and together to eradicate illiteracy, until it is seen as a real problem… i’m afraid it’s all around us. I am also aware that a lot of people will cite poverty as a reason for not sending their children to school, but help can be sought, help can be rendered. The truth is the government cannot solve every problem on its own, which is why non-governmental bodies like the Goldfish Initiative for Illiteracy and Poverty Alleviation is trying to help bridge that gap as much as possible.

What are the challenges this NGO has faced?

There are so many people who need help, so many. Identifying the people who really need the help is the easy part. One of the many challenges is in making sure that there is support from their parents to keep their own side of the bargain by encouraging their kids to go school after we set them on the right path. Funding is also a challenge and we are calling on people who have the means, or come from similar backgrounds and have become successful and are moved by their experiences growing up to join us. Lastly Nigeria is a pretty big country, majority of the children who need this help are in rural areas, some of these areas do not even have electricity or a good access road, but ain’t no mountain high enough, we are dedicated to reaching out hence our motto – No hiding place for the African Child. In the 21st century, poverty caused by illiteracy is an unacceptable reason for any child to fail.

Any future projects?

Oh yes, lots! We hope to increase the number of states where children have been given scholarships under the Goldfish Initiative Umbrella. We intend to start a “Recommend a child’’ per scheme. This is going to be a major project across the 36 states including the Federal Capital Territory. We also want the state governments through the Ministry of Education to invest more in our public schools; some of these schools are death traps and are in appalling conditions. We hope that through the help of the Federal Government and State Governments we can work closely in making a difference. With their support and the support of good citizens, we can help reform some of the learning environments through volunteering and sponsorships.

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