Early Dec 2015, I came across a sensational news about a 14 year old Chineye Kenneth Agwu aka ‘Groundnut Girl’ whose photo was taken one evening around Apapa, Lagos doing her school homework under streetlight while tending her ware of groundnut.
The lady who took the photo was touched deeply, she thought every school child deserves better learning experience than what she saw – she took Chineye’s case to social media, people wanted to help, they wanted someone to search for Chineye so her story could be told to larger audience for bigger impact.
Here is what I read of the Groundnut Girl story:
- She is one of six in the family and they all share one room
- Father passed away
- Family lives in one room
- Mother sells roasted groundnut to stay afloat
- Three of her siblings were not in school, Chineye attends public school in Lagos
A page was promptly set up to help fund Chineye education and financial help for her family. People donated generously to lift the family up and a few donors promised to fund Chineye and siblings education up to university level.
Lucky Chineye. I wish Chineye and family all the very best.
The lady who took the photo, Mosopefoluwa Odeseye’s action is commendable – sometimes it takes one person to be mindful, to see through the eye of a struggling child around.
I found many comments on this case very interesting, many read as if the commenters have been driving/walking around Lagos or indeed anywhere in Nigeria blindfolded given their surprise to the case of this young lady.
Why is this Groundnut Girl case so special that she attracted lots of sympathy from Nigerians? Chineye was lucky to be there at that time.
School children hawking in itself is a way of life in Nigeria for the 60% folks we rarely talk about, millions of school children do this daily.
Most of our mothers are traders, self-employed and indeed many are jack-of-all-trade (this is especially true of village women; they sell whatever is in season). Many city dwellers have shops in front of their own home to save on shop rent. Those who have shops outside of home expect their children to return after school to help with tending to customers.
Is hawking such a terrible chore for school children?
It all depends on how it is structured.
In my family the only persons hawking was one of my sisters and I because we are in the middle, that is our main chore on the weekend or during the week after school. We were exempted from other household chores the day we had to hawk around.
We never hawked at night, nor ever sat at a carpark. However, I know that a walk down any of our main road such as Mayfair – Idi Omo – Lagere and all the way to Sabo would provide anyone more than enough Groundnut Girls/Boys.
This is the reality of Nigeria.
It is this same Groundnut Girls and their family that are stuck in the rotten schools, our public schools. Not to be deceived, some of our private schools are not fit for humans but they are open regardless as they have their customers too.
But Chineye’s case was beyond lack of good school alone, she was outside late evening doing her homework because she probably had to be outside selling groundnut therefore killing two birds with one stone so to speak. Perhaps lack of electricity at home?
My intention isn’t to take away from the fact that Chineye deserved all the help and sympathy she had received, rather to highlight that as much as many of us are willing to help and many are doing this everyday, there is something fundamentally wrong that must be corrected.
It goes beyond one problem of family being poor, or lack of quality education alone – it is a web of several social issues tangled together.
This is a good template for people who had problems with ongoing investigation of corrupt public officials to munch on – even if it takes a whole presidential term to do thorough investigation, it is worth it to make sure stolen fund is returned so all the Groundnuts Girls/Boys in the land could get the best head start they deserve.