Open Fees Education and Aid Foundation, which turned three on Friday, November 20, 2020, is promising to support mentor more indigent students in the Federal Capital Territory get an education by meeting their financial needs.
The chairman of the foundation, Azubuike Ishiekwene, said during a webinar to mark its third-year anniversary that the foundation currently mentors about 140 students in the six Abuja area councils.
He said, “About 140 of them are under our mentorship programmes. This ensures we deepen their experience and understanding of what education is all about. This year of course has been a momentous year for everyone, especially because of COVID-19.
“We found clearly that while a number of students in private schools were able to continue their education remotely by some form, students in public schools were completely shut out of the programme.’
He said, “Our own intervention has been in the form of trying to arrange outreach for a number of them. It was a modest, but largely successful experience and we have all members to thank for that.
“As we move into the fourth year, I am sure there are greater things we need to do. I must also say we have enjoyed partnership of a number NGOs locally and a number of foreign NGOs.
“We have enjoyed their mentorship, enjoyed their inspiration, enjoyed working with them enjoyed their good will. So, I am sure that as we enter the fourth year, we would begin to find even an expression in greater measure of the mission that we have.”
The chairman said, “Hopefully, we will be able to deepen the experience for those who are engaged in the programme. Hopefully, we will be able to broaden the programme for more students to be involved and also, we hope that in the year that we are entering, we will be able to touch more lives and make the programme impact more.
“So once more, on behalf of members of the board and members of the management led especially by the Founder, Elizabeth Okunlola and the team, I would to say a big thank you.”
Narrating how the foundation started, Okunlola said, “Open Fees started three years ago, just like the chairman had said, I was at my workplace; I just looked outside the window and saw some students from Government Secondary School Garki outside.
“Not some; a good number of them. There were a lot of them. And I was curious. I wanted to know why they were outside. I felt something had happened with their school, maybe a fire or something. I went downstairs to go and check what was going on.”
She said, “I was told they were sent out for school fees. And in my head, I was like this number of students were sent out for school fees. But that was not even the story. When I now checked from one of the students how much the fees was, as at then, it was N2500.
“I was scandalised. I know that people are being sent out for school fees, I grew up in Nigeria, so I know this. But I didn’t know that N2500 was a problem for that number of students.”
Okunlola added, “And I told myself that I needed to do something about it. This was how I went straight into the school premises and requested to see the principal. There were a lot of dynamics to the problem of not being able to pay N2500.
“So, I took it a step further looking at how I could pay for 10 of those students. He told me that I couldn’t just come and pay, I needed to to send a formal letter and do a couple of things. With the kind of motivation that day, I decided to go back to the office to go and print letters.”