Kogi NUJ Chairman’s Kind Heart Restores Hope of Teenage Scavenger

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Matshona Dhliwayo, a philosopher said, “If you want to know a person’s true character, observe how he treats those who don’t matter.”

This perhaps best describes Alhaji Momoh Jimoh Adeiza, Chairman Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Kogi State chapter and his colleague, Alhaji Kola Adeyemi, Head, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) as they pulled resources together to restore the hope of 14-year-old Mathew Azubuike John, a scavenger, as he returned to school.

The calamity that befell little Mathew John began for him, other two siblings and his mother shortly after death sneaked in to snatch the father away after a visit his country home in 2012 when he was barely three months old.

Thus, the upkeep of young Mathew fell on the shoulders of the mother as she toiled day and night to feed, clothe and provide shelter for her helpless children.

The death of the breadwinner, his father, altered the hope of Matthew joining his mates to celebrate the 2019 Children’s day. For many years, little Matthew instead of celebrating the day in school would rather scavenge for empty plastic bottles, used metals or walk up and down the streets and corners hawking groundnut or eggs.

Matthew’s mother, Franca John’s concerted efforts to seek help from the husband’s in-laws was met with brick walls. In the face of hunger and uncertainty, she relocated from Lagos where they lived with the late husband until his death to Kogi with high hopes of a new beginning.

Without education, Franca jumps from one menial job to the other in order to make a living and cater for her three children as the family lived a nomadic life moving from one abandoned building to a dilapidated or others under construction for shelter.

Two of the children, females were forced into child labour as domestic servants through which the family was able to rent a room apartment.

Going to school was a luxury for Matthew and his two sisters. They often alternate going to schools, as some will stay behind to generate income for another to be in school. That was the story of Mathew Azubuike as fate smiled on him while scavenging for disused pet bottles as fate brought in contact with the duo of Adeiza and Adeyemi whose hearts and compassion fell for his plight after listening to him.

According to Mattew, It was well with the family before his father travelled to his village Izam in Ibaji Local government Area of Kogi, a border town with Anambra state where he inspected his building after the 2012 flood that ravaged the state.

Unfortunately, the visit marked the beginning of sufferings for his mother and his sisters as a Bat was alleged to have slapped the father in the face with its wing which later culminated into a prolonged sickness he never recovered from.

“My sisters were enrolled in secondary schools and me in primary school. I have to engage in scavenging and hawking just as my sisters also work in restaurants as stewards after school. Mother on her part worked as a hired labourer in construction sites and I was able to complete my primary school education,” he said.

However, luck shone on him at the premises of Museum of Colonial History where he stopped to collect disused pet bottles as usual. He was spotted by NUJ Chairman and his colleague at NAN who were out to eat. They queried him for being out of school when others are learning.

This led to a meeting with his mother, Franca as the duo agreed and enrolled him into Crowther Memorial College, one of the foremost schools in Kogi State.

Matthew, who commended the philanthropic gesture of the Chairman, was elated donning a complete uniform of the school for the first time in many years as he said, “the Chairman was a God sent to my family to have me learn side by side in a class with children of the rich.”

In an interview, Comrade Adeiza told Daily Independent that his attention and that of his colleague, Alhaji Adeyemi was drawn to the young boy as he bent down to pick the empty plastic bottle.

According to the chairman, “Looking at his age, he is supposed to be in school and we interrogated him on what he was doing with the empty water bottles.

“I became more interested in his situation and asked him to come with his mother for confirmation which he did and we took up the matter.”

According to him, the initial challenge of securing enrolment mid-way into the third term of the session was resolved by the Commissioner for Education, Rosemary Osikoya who intervened.

He urged every privileged individual to lend a helping hand to the needy in order to make the society a better place for everybody.

Credit: Daily Independent

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