Our Sisters work to serve the poor across the globe and especially in the area of education. Recently, we spoke with Sr Micheline and Sr Angela about the education ministry in Bomadi, Nigeria. A small town in Nigeria’s Delta State, Bomadi is located on the Forcados River. The Nigerian Regional leader Sr Micheline O’Donnell has been based in Nigeria for 35 years while Sr Angela is head teacher at Our Lady of the Waters Nursery/Primary School, Bomadi.
School in Bomadi
In Nigeria, universal primary and secondary education is freely available. In recent years, however, the quality and standard of state schools has deteriorated. In response, our Sisters stepped in to ensure high quality education is available. Our Lady of the Waters Nursery/Primary school was founded by the Religious Sisters over fifteen years ago with the assistance of Misean Cara, an international and Irish faith-based missionary organisation. There are currently 568 students in attendance, ageing from three to twelve, and nine staff members – including two of our Sisters. Many teachers have been with the school since its foundation. Sr Angela first arrived in 2016 and took over the running of the school in 2018. She is passionate about education and regularly holds parent-teacher meetings, working with parents to help them understand that educating their children is a joint-effort between school and the home.
Challenges facing the Sisters’ work in Education in Bomadi
Chief among the challenges facing our Sisters’ education mission is helping the poorest children of the community stay in education. The school fee of 4,500 Nigerian Naira (€10) covers books and uniforms. However, as Our Lady of the Waters is a private school, fees also go towards paying the teacher salaries. Often, parents may struggle to pay but Sr Angela works with them to facilitate paying in instalments where necessary. Community solidarity plays a huge role in keeping children in school, and Sr Angela and her team encourage local families to sponsor children who otherwise would be unable to pay fees. This initiative has been very successful to date. Meanwhile, last year, the official children’s charity of the Catholic Church, Children Helping Children, helped to buy a wheelchair for a child with cerebral palsy, allowing her to attend school for the very first time.
Impact of the coronavirus pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic negatively impacted children and their education internationally. In Bomadi, government lockdowns greatly affected family finances with many struggling to pay school fees. Our Lady of the Waters Nursery/Primary School also struggled to pay staff but, where possible, our Sisters shared food parcels with teachers and families who were most in need.
Since returning to the classroom, the school has worked hard to implement Covid-19 safety protocols, and children are regularly reminded of the continued importance of basic measures such as regularly washing their hands and wearing face coverings. In an effort to reduce large gatherings of students, the Christmas party for children was cancelled last year.
Looking to the future
The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to challenging times for Our Lady of the Water Nursery/Primary School but our Sisters, the staff and students look forward to a brighter 2022. Care of the poor is central to what the Sisters do and we continue our education mission in Bomadi.