CNN’s African Voices Changemakers meets the founder of Slum2School Africa

Slum2School Africa, CNN’s African Voices Changemakers

CNN International meets Orondaam Otto, Founder, Slum2School Africa, who is dedicated to ensuring underprivileged children in Nigeria can go to school.

In July Orondaam Otto launched Nigeria’s first virtual learning classroom to help underprivileged communities across Nigeria access education during Covid-19 lockdown. So far, his initiative has reached around 1,000 children and the goal is to reach 10,000. He tells CNN, “We believe that every Nigerian child deserves the best. This is what inspires us to do what we do…I work with volunteers across the world to provide access to quality education for children across underserved communities.”

Otto has been devising innovative ways to engage students since visiting slum communities around Lagos in 2012, he explains: “I came to realise that there were a huge number of children in these slums who weren’t going to school or who didn’t have access to education. I asked myself back then what would really give me fulfilment after completing my national youth service.”

He was able to quickly organise and raise money: “I want people to understand that everybody can make a difference if you only believe in yourself. You have all the resources that you need right where you are. In about three months, I was able to get my friends together. We raised funds, and we were able to get 114 children into school for the first time.”

Buoyed by this early success, Otto founded Slum2School, a social initiative that provides education and health services to disadvantaged children.

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The first project was in the Makoko community in Lagos where Otto focused on developing the infrastructure; fully equipping the classrooms and building an innovation lab where kids are learning computer programming and robotics.

CNN hears Otto’s aims for future projects: “Our plan is to primarily ensure that every public primary school across the country has beautiful facilities like this and this is a home economics lab which is also an enterprising development centre where children can learn all kinds of skills from catering, to fashion to bead making and we’re currently working on this and building this in schools across the state.”

The Makoko project is still ongoing and once complete it will become a model which can be replicated nationwide. In order to do this, Slum2School works with the government, big corporations and private donors in order to keep the organization sustainable.

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An annual fundraising campaign involves over 3,000 volunteers in more than 30 different activities including walking across Lekki-Ikoyi bridge in Lagos. CNN meets Omolola Oyewloe, a lawyer who volunteered two years ago and speaks about the importance of raising funds: “The first time I listened to the founder Otto on Instagram I fell in love with the way he projected the mission of the organization. Growing up I had friends who could not afford school tuition and they had to go to government schools which weren’t well equipped and so bringing this initiative in and making sure every child gets the quality education they deserve is something I could easily relate with because of my friends dropping out of school growing up.”

Alero Ayida-Otobo, Chairperson, Slum2School Africa, praises Otto for his vision and achievements in creating change: “Otto in summary has the ability to inspire. He has the ability to get you to do a lot more. He has the ability to execute and is a great strategic thinker and I actually think Slum2School is poised to change the narrative of volunteerism not just in Nigeria but in the continent of Africa.”

New headquarters in Leikki will include a factory to supply uniforms, bags and equipment to local schools. Otto tells CNN more about what this will offer: “It’s an exciting space that’s going to really facilitate innovation, creativity, learning, in all ways. We have various amazing spaces from the innovation lab we have there, to the arts and crafts centre, where kids are going to be learning how to paint and draw and build.”

In addition to the schools Otto and his team recognised that children often miss school due to illness and so they’re supporting those who require medical assistance, he says: “There’s also a huge medical program that’s been put in place to ensure that every child is not just learning but they are learning in a healthy condition. We have lots of children who need urgent medical attention with surgical interventions.”

Speaking about the impact of Slum2School Africa, Otto reflects: “We’ve seen lots of our young learners and teenagers who are in secondary school or university, who started community projects. Who have come together to enroll more children in their community. It’s inspiring seeing that ripple effect that we are creating as a community. And I think it’s fulfilling. It’s extremely fulfilling. And if I were to choose doing something again, I think I would choose this, and I think literally everyone is born to be a change maker.”