Blog 10: Off to school…

Early start leaving Uyo to drive to Eket. 

What a contrast from yesterday, the roads are in a much better condition here in Akwa Ibom. I'm told the previous governor made decent roads a priority and it shows. 

We're further inland now and in stunning tropical countryside with thick bush, palm trees and plenty of birds of prey circling.  We see more vultures at the roadside gathered near the open butchery…. 

We find our hotel in Eket and check in before heading to the SSMS school 20 minutes out of town. 

We're given an amazing welcome, quite overwhelming actually. The children perform a traditional welcome ceremony of dancing and drumming before we're formally introduced and welcomed to the school with songs performed in sweltering heat.  

The smiles and excitement on the children's faces are incredible. There are lots of questions as we tour the classes, listening to special performances and presentations of their work. 

Grace, one of our trustees joins us with her partner Tom. Grace has a house in a local village and was raised here but now lives in Manchester after retiring from nursing in London. We are given a tour of the school and see the progress being made on the new school hall. 

It's part of our Better Schools, Brighter Futures project and funded by the Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission to help the school become more sustainable. We've got big plans to build a hall, computer centre as well as develop teaching capacity. The project will also introduce snail and fish farming to the schools we support as a means of generating income: there is a big market for the protein that the livestock will produce.  

Farming has been devastated by the oil industry pollution: just this week I've seen the news story that 2 local communities in the delta have been granted the right to sue Shell for pollution.

We tour the perimeter and hear of the need to erect good fencing to protect the children in the school. I don't need a reminder: earlier this week national news carried a story of 3 schoolgirls abducted from their school due to a broken fence. We need to find the money to do this: although the area feels safe at the moment, unrest, armed conflict and abductions have taken place here. 

The children are happy here.

Our supporters ensure that children ordinarily denied access to education because they're orphaned, from the streets or have disabilities that other schools can't or won't accommodate are educated and have hope for the future. 

It's a happy place with lots of songs, laughter and possibilities! 

We return to Eket, stopping off at Grace and Tom's house for fresh mangoes and water. After drinking and eating the fresh coconut picked off the tree for me at the school I'm having healthy day! 

Tomorrow we're meeting the school's head teacher, another Grace and Chief Victor Ikot, a local traditional leader and one of the school's trustees to re-launch our Better Schools, Brighter Futures project, check the objectives and get some feedback on our strategy for the future.