"There's only one thing more heartbreaking..."
There’s only one thing more heartbreaking, says Sister Veronica, than the face of child who can’t go to school. It’s the face of the parent.
Sister Veronica is principal of Our Lady’s Catholic Nursery and Primary in Ilorin, Nigeria.
She sees lots of these children. And lots of these parents.
Shola is in third grade, or was. Frank, her father and a street vendor, was able to pay the $500-a-year tuition.
It was a stretch, but he did it. Sometimes you saw him on the sidewalk with a bicycle stand; sometimes in stopped traffic selling window to window. He worked dawn to dusk, his wife beside him. It put food on their table, and it paid Shola’s tuition.
And Shola is a bright girl...
but then came her father's stroke.
For many months, Frank could not speak. He lost the feeling on his left side. The strength was there, but not the control. If you put a cup in his hand, he was as likely to crush it.
Sister Veronica visited Frank in the dirt-floored house where he, his wife and little Shola live. She arranged for medical help, food, and helped notify friends and family. But there was the question of tuition.
In a perfect world, Sister Veronica could say to Shola’s parents the tuition no longer mattered. She could say to Shola to do her homework, pack her book bag, and be at her desk first thing in the morning.
But it’s not a perfect world. It’s a hard-knock world. There are bills to meet. The $500 Frank paid went into the salary of a teacher. And if the teacher didn’t receive the $500, his or her family might not eat, or his or her child might have to drop out of school also.
So Sister Veronica did what Sisters of Notre Dame have always done, what they did in France and Belgium, what they did in Cincinnati and Chicago and Dayton and Arizona – she wrote friends, former students, relatives, anyone she could think of asking for help to welcome these children into her classrooms.
Nigeria is a war-wracked country, and poor, sometimes desperately so. So is Ilorin. Thousands live in its slums, or in homeless camps pitched at major intersections.
There is little extra income, even less to give to children who aren’t your own.
So – with this message – we want to ask your support for little Shola, and for the other children who cannot come back to Our Lady’s School, not because they don’t want to, but because family tragedy, or violence, or economic disruption are preventing it. Shola is only one example. But there are so many others.
Our Lady’s School teaches the children of farmers, artisans, police officers. It sits within the compound of our Sisters’ convent. The convent’s library is also the school’s library. Any resources the Sisters have, the school has also. We do all that we can. We’ve started a special class for students with learning disabilities, the only one in Kwara state.
The children who go to Our Lady’s School will learn what they need for life. And with this knowledge, and with the moral and Christian grounding they receive, will make their city and country a better place.
In this time of Lent, please consider sending a gift to help Shola and children like her receive an education that could change their lives. It’s what we want for these children. It’s what their parents want too.