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28.08.2021 Feature A Couple was Teaching Plateau Schoolchildren to Read and Write for Free. Now, they Have been Displaced

Published 28th Aug, 2021

By Gabriel Ogunjobi

In mid-2019, Kangyang and Bitrus Gana were transferred from Jos, the capital of Plateau State, to agrarian Miango community by the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA). It was a hard decision to make back then but their obedience gave hope to hundreds of children who could not read and write.

Outside their daily jobs, the couple’s passion to reduce the number of out-of-school children led to the construction of a community library and a resource centre. The multi-million naira edifice is yet to be completed, thanks to the Fulani militias that invaded the Jebbu-Miango on August 2.

FIRST, IT WAS ABSENTEEISM IN PARENTING 

Jebbu-Miango is one of the over 15 towns in Miango community and most of its people are peasant farmers. Sometimes, parents leave homes to cultivate the farm for a week or more, leaving their kids to fend for themselves among other extended relatives.

“These children would usually roam the neighbourhood with no one to take care of them, so I began calling them to our house to watch movies that taught morals,” Kangyang said.

“After a while, I saw there was a parenting need to be met. Most of them in primary classes could not even identify the English alphabet. From that point, I decided to teach them literacy.”

“It is not as if I set out to be a teacher but what would be my testimony as a christian if my own children can read and write but these young ones around them cannot do so because their parents are not available to monitor their education?”

With the careless attitude of farmer-parents to their children’s education and the poor standard of public schools in rural areas, Kangyang’s weekend moral and literary classes soon blew up and she would need more volunteers to assist her ready-to-learn children. From 15 children, the figure rose to 150 and then 250 but it took innovation to make this happen.

ROOM TO PARTY, THE IDEA THAT ENTICED MIANGO CHILDREN

To familiarise with their new neighbours, Kangyang and Bitrus hosted a party for the community children on Christmas day in 2019. Skilled as a puppeteer, Bitrus wrote Christmas stories that enticed the children at the party.

She said, “With the help of friends and family members, on and off social media, we shared clothes and gave food to about 300 children. What the party later meant was an increase in the literacy class by January.”

When the number of attendees multiplied, Kangyang could not teach all of them, as she used to, on Sundays. Fifteen volunteers, some of who were undergraduates at the University of Jos (UNIJOS), supported the couple’s vision.

Nehemiah Nenkinan, a final year student of History and International Relations at UNIJOS, was one of the volunteers.

“These people have the heart to impact children,” Nenkinan told FIJ. “In a volatile area like ours, they opened their house for children to learn. It’s mind blowing.”

As of June, an average of 250 children learned in three class divisions at the Ganas’ yard. The divisions include alphabet identification, English consonants and vowel sounds, and reading and writing.

The volunteering programme has developed into ‘Jebbu-Miango Reads’, with classes held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

HUNGER TO LEARN

‘I like this photo because it tells my story’ – Kangyang

Kefa Ravo, an indigene of Jebbu-Miango and father of five, acknowledged the couple’s impacts.

“Beyond what his children learn in school,” he noted, “there has been a significant improvement in their learning. All of them can now read, write and even draw because of this couple’s free service.”

As the free teaching continued, young adults also approached Kangyang for help.

“There was a day two ladies walked up to me to teach them anything. There was another time I was too tired to teach and I just asked the children to. So, even the children were hungry to learn. I could not resist the urge to help.”

Because of this, the Gana couple decided to build a community library and resource centre, where everyone could read on their own and borrow books.

“For us, it is not about starting a school because not all of them would be able to afford the tuition fees,” Kanygang noted. “The problem is usually that their parents withdraw them from school when they notice the children are not performing well, assuming that they are not intelligent.”

“But, if we can assist them with literacy at home, it is as if we are correcting all the deficiencies they may have in class.”

The centre will also train parents on how to safeguard their children’s mental health in a crisis-prone environment.

JEBBU-MIANGO READS’ NEEDS A MIRACLE

‘Jebbu-Miango Reads’ library in the making

As of June, the library was 80percent completed but work has been suspended because of the invasion by Fulani militants. 

On August 2, the Ganas were not spared from the attack that displaced over 30,000 in the entire Miango. The couple, alongside their two children, temporarily moved to their missionary residence in Jos town.

“There is no assurance that most of these children will go to school because the schools are shut. Nobody is left in the community,” said Kanygang. “If not for the crisis, we would have started using the library. We have roofed the building and we have a lot of donated books to equip it.”

Asked if the dream of empowering the children has not become a mirage, she answered, “No! We will return as soon as they calm the situation.”

“This crisis has drawn us back but we believe God will restore peace.”

Published 28th Aug, 2021

By Gabriel Ogunjobi

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