Emmanuel Agunze is the Founder of The Makoko Dream, an initiative which provides children of the Makoko community with access to education and life skills for a more productive and financially independent life. He spoke recently to the Editor of www.devcomradar.org ADEZE OJUKWU, about his passion to continue to provide basic amenities, as part of efforts to ameliorate the sufferings of children and residents of Makoko, a riverine settlement in Lagos State. Read excerpts below.
‘Makoko is a slum, located, below the Third Mainland Bridge. Some dwellers live, in stilt houses, while others occupy, areas bordering, the lagoon. The waterfront site, is mainly inhabited by Egun natives, who migrated from Badagry and Republic of Benin. The community, one of the largest poor settlements, in the metropolitan city, is popularly known as ‘the largest floating slum in Africa.’
Popularly known as the Makoko Prince, his passion to provide resources and services that will transform the lives of the indigent especially slum kids is fervent and remarkable.
‘I am passionate about the poor, as enjoined by the Holy bible. It is both natural and intentional to seek ways to help the poor and vulnerable people around me, as a humanitarian cause.
I feel, their parents and the society has made a great injustice to the Makoko children, but I can do my part by either being a source of hope or a bridge to the source for hope.
The Makoko Prince, Emma Agunze, with the Makoko Dream children, during a Solar Light project to help children in Makoko in Lagos State to have sustainable power supply, which will aid the pupils and residents in their academic, domestic and economic activities. Picture shows team members and partners, the Liter of Light Nigeria, who trained Makoko youths on the Solar Light Installation.
‘No child chooses his or her parents and as such should not be made to suffer the consequences of the parental decisions. The Makoko Dream is a reminder to every child in Makoko to dream big. Their dreams are valid and are free to seek and achieve greatness.’
His organization has reached about 8000 Makoko indigenes via various intervention programs, including the Solar Light project
The initiative has provided the beneficiaries to access sustainable power supply, which will aid the pupils and residents in their academic, domestic and economic activities.
Meanwhile over 640 children have been placed in schools via tuition-free Nursery and Primary Schools in Makoko, set up and run by The Makoko Dream Team.
He created a ‘Water School Bus’ which is a custom-made canoe, that transports children of the Makoko Waterside to and from school, free of charge.’
Recently, the foundation offered scholarships and vocational skills, to over 800 children from, the community.
According to him, the major objective of the mission, is to provide tuition-free education for the indigent.
‘The charitable project is to ensure that no child is left behind. Till date, we have rehabilitated and placed, over 800 children from Makoko slum in tuition-free institutions. Sadly we still have over 30,000 children, that are excluded from studying. We want to bridge this gap.’
‘We are, currently, focusing, on primary education and facilitating, the enrollment of successful pupils, in government secondary schools.’
‘This feat has been largely achieved, through the generous support of philanthropists and corporate organizations, notably, OOLU Solar company, Keystone Bank, Zenith Bank, Union Bank, US Embassy, St Raphael Catholic School, Louisville Kentucky, United States(USA), Louisville Slugger Museum among others.
‘Our vision, is fundamentally, to enable indigent children to access qualitative tutelage and vocational expertise. We believe that no child is left behind.’
The programme provides a veritable platform, for young residents, who cannot afford academic costs. We are committed to bridge this gap, for these under-privileged children. Government may not be able to adequately provide essential amenities for all citizens, hence the need to assist these under-reached populations, to access formal education, vocational and health services, for a more productive life.’
‘To sustain the project, we have commenced an entrepreneurship venture, for volunteer teachers and pupils too. Additionally, we plan to engage in crop farming, in order, to expand our feeding programmes and financial capacity.
Agunze who, has for the past four years, successfully rehabilitated hundreds of Makoko slum kids, stressed the need for more volunteers and resources to scale-up the initiative and other socio-economic projects in the community.
This humanitarian service, is undoubtedly, a commendable undertaking, worthy of emulation and support.
His career profile is quite inspirational and formidable.
Mr. Agunze is a 2017 Nelson Mandela Graca-Machel Innovation Awards Youth Activist Finalist for his role in creating change in his local community. He is also a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow and a 2018 Ashoka Africa Changemaker Fellow (CXC GHANA).
An alumnus of Civic Leadership from Indiana University, Indianapolis and Bloomington, Indiana, USA, Agunze is also a product of the Kelley School of Business, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.
He is also a Lily Family School of Philanthropy 2018 Certified Fund Raiser and Negotiator, in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.
In July, 2019, Mr. Agunze became a certified graduate of the Non-Profit Leadership Management Program from the prestigious Lagos Business School, Ajah-Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria.
He is currently an Executive Member of The United States Government Exchange Alumni Association (USGEAA) Lagos, Nigeria, that is comprised of over 20 Alumni Associations of the US Government. The list includes Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, Fulbright Scholarship, International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) and Mandela Washington Fellowship, amongst others.
In this capacity, he serves as the Secretary of Finance, where he advises the association on funding strategies.