On February 24th, 2012, while establishing the Toby Okechukwu Foundation as a vehicle for charity and philanthropy from him and his family, Rt. Hon. Toby Okechukwu, Deputy Minority Leader, Federal House of Representatives and member representing Aninri/ Awgu/ Oji River Federal Constituency was motivated by one of his inspirational quotes; “No nation makes progress beyond the quality of its educational system”
As a son of school teachers, Toby personally owes everything he has achieved in life to the solid foundation he received from his parents and from the schools he attended in his formative years namely his Primary and Secondary education.
That informed his decision to make educational empowerment of his constituents, in all ramifications, a top priority of his foundation. Besides educational empowerment, the foundation also focuses on the areas of healthcare, vocational training and poverty alleviation.
Accordingly, the Toby Okechukwu Foundation is dedicated to a continuous and sustainable approach to the development of his constituents through education, taking a cue from the immortal words of Malcolm X; “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it”.
As such, he views education as the foundation for national development and as well the pivotal determinant of the prosperity of any society or nation.
According to a UNESCO Global Monitoring/Education Commission Generation Report, there is empirical evidence on the impact of education on individual’s earnings and economic growth. According to the report, 171 million people could be lifted out of extreme poverty if all children left school with basic reading skills. That will be 12 per cent drop in the world total. Also, the absolute poverty could be reduced by 30 per cent from learning improvements outlined by the Education Commission.
Furthermore, the report shows that education reduces economic inequalities. It shows that if workers from poor and rich backgrounds received the same education, disparity between the two could decrease by 39 per cent.
“Human progress can only come through the mastery of every operating environment; and I am supremely confident that education provides the right of way to that path.
In its ten years of existence, the Toby Okechukwu Foundation has continued to make a difference by giving back to the society in the areas of education, healthcare, and vocational training, and poverty alleviation. It has devoted ample resources to capacity building of teachers, infrastructural interventions, provision of instructional materials, and ensuring that most indigent children obtain at least a Senior Secondary School Certificate.
Specifically, the Foundation has contributed immensely to the educational empowerment of Greater Awgu people through the following programs:
WASCE REGISTRATION: About three thousand students have benefitted from the foundation’s education grants, enabling them to register for the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE).
Precisely 600 students benefited from the 2021 education grant.
According to Dr Godwin Udeuhele, former Commissioner for Information, Enugu State the program coordinator “Toby was supposed to pay for everybody, but because resources are scarce, he said he could only pay for 600 students from his constituency.
“What we did is that in every school we get to, we do simple random sampling by having a piece of paper wrap that will tally with the number of the entire students. In all the 60 secondary schools, we randomly selected 10 students. That was how we got the 600 beneficiary students gathered here today”.
He further emphasised that Nigeria’s future depended on the ability to educate the citizens. “The difference between someone who is roaming about in the village and the person who has gone to school is education. Sometimes, people think that the best way to overcome poverty is to have education. It is not only the best way to overcome it, but it is the best way to fight it. So, you must always take education very seriously”.
The principal of Rosary High School Awgu, the host school, Rev. Sister Aniekwe, recalled: “The day I was told that I would host this year’s educational empowerment programme, I was so happy and excited because it is the bridge to the future of so many students. So, I thank God for today”.
On her part, the principal, Girls High School Ihe, Awgu LGA, Mrs. Felicia Onyeazo, described it as a miracle that despite the random selection process, the indigent students were usually the lucky beneficiaries. “We usually hope on it as the last hope for students, who have no way of paying their fees. And the surprising thing is that God helped those students who don’t have hope of paying their fees because most of them were the ones who picked the yes”, she narrated.
Miss Chioma Ude, a student of Rosary High School Awgu, said: “I’m really excited and I pray that God will grant him his heart desires. I will try my best to pay him back by reading my books and passing all my exams”.
DONATION OF INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS: The Foundation has donated instructional materials to public schools in the three Local Government Areas of Toby’s constituency namely; Aninri, Awgu and Oji River. Some of the instructional materials donated include; students’ desks, books, magic boards, etc.
in 2019, the Federal legislator ensured that there was something for everyone and every school in Greater Awgu as he, through the Foundation, handed out 24,000 exercise books to public schools in the federal constituency, with each getting 400 pieces in addition to magic boards and other instructional materials.
INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT: The Foundation has also contributed to the improvement of infrastructure in schools in Greater Awgu by the construction of classroom blocks and as well renovation of school buildings.
Some of the secondary schools that benefitted from construction of classroom blocks include; St Vincent College, Agbogugu, Community Secondary School, Ogbaku, Technical College, Amoli, Girls High School, Ugwuoba and Awgu High School, Nenwe.
The Primary Schools that benefitted include; Central School, Awgunta, Central School, Nkwe, Ugwuoba Cattle Market Primary School, Community Primary School, Azunkwo, Ndiagbor, Central School, Mgbidi, Community Primary School, Ngelelator, Mgbowo, Community Primary School, Umulagu, Amoji-Nenwe and Umuchime Primary School, Inyi.
School buildings were also renovated in the following primary schools; Awono Owelli Primary School, Central School, Agbogugu, Community Primary School, Onoli Awgu, Community Primary School, Ugbonabo, Central School, Mmaku, Community Primary School, Obeagu, Uhueze-Nenwe and Central School, Umuome, Inyi.
The following Secondary Schools also benefitted; Community Secondary School, Okpanku, Boys Secondary School, Awgu, Mmaku High School, Mmaku, Community Secondary School, Ugbo Okpala, Girls High School, Ugwuoba, St. Vincent College, Agbogugu and Community Secondary School, Obeagu (Reconstruction of Intro Tech Workshop and Examination Hall).
TRAINING OF SCIENCE TEACHERS AND DISTRIBUTION SCIENCE KITS:
“You cannot give what you don’t have”. This dictum necessitated the training of science teachers from Greater Awgu at a week-long training held at the Science Equipment Development Institute (SEDI), Enugu in 2018.
Thereafter, the teachers were better equipped and motivated to impact knowledge to their students in Chemistry, Physics and Biology, using modern teaching techniques and equipment. This was followed up by the distribution of science kits to various secondary schools in the Federal constituency such as Girls High School, Nenwe.
STUDY TOURS: The Foundation also organized study tours in 2020 for secondary school students from Greater Awgu. It was aimed at providing the students with real life experiences of the workings of some of the places they read about or only hear of in the news so as to inspire them to greatness and as well encourage them in making the right career choices based on their capabilities and intellectual abilities. Some of the places visited include Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu and Innoson Technical and industrial Company, both in Emene, Enugu.
The secondary schools that participated include; Boys Secondary School, Mmaku, Boys Secondary School, Awgu, St. Vincent Secondary School, Agbogugu, Community Secondary School, Isu Awaa, Community Secondary School, Ngene Ugbo, Girls High School, Nenwe, Model Secondary School, Mpu, Kings Secondary School, Oduma, Model Secondary School, Isikwe Achi, Urban Secondary School, Oji River and Awlaw High Secondary School, Awlaw.
TRAINING IN COOKERY AND HOSPITALITY: From 6th to 27th November, 2021 the Foundation in collaboration with the National Institute For Hospitality And Tourism (NIHOTOUR) organized a three weeks training in Cookery and Hospitality Management with the theme “Skill Gap Improvement”
The empowerment program which had the theme ‘skill gap improvement’ was geared towards teaching the participants cooking and hospitality management. Teachers from NIHOTOUR were available in full strength to guide participants through all aspects of the training.
The empowerment program was held for a week in each Local Government in the constituency; taking place in Awgu, Aninri and in and Oji River, respectively, with fifty trainees participating in each center.
Alhaji Nura Kangiwa, the Director General of NIHOTOUR, who was represented by Ibrahim Baba at the grand finale held at Oji River expressed satisfaction over the success of the program, saying “We’ve run this program in Aninri, Awgu and Oji River and am happy that over 70% component of this training program was hands on, and we have successfully delivered skills in the areas of cooking, baking, confectionaries and a list of others.We are giving them starters pack which include electric cooker, cooking spoons, fry pan and some amount of money so that they can buy things which they learned and practice it”.
SKILLS ACQUISITION TRAINING:
A craftmanship training for a group of thirty persons from his constituency at the Scientific Equipment Development institute, SEDI Enugu covering a diverse range of crafts which includes
Welding technology and fabrication of Agro machines, ICT (programming), plastic moulding, Lens making, Glass Blowing, Recycling waste to Wealth, Electrical Installation, wiring and maintenance etc
Similarly, Fifty persons had undergone a fish value chain training, under the Federal college of Fishery and Marine technology. A training that earned them a certification from the citadel of learning, hence making them alumni of the School, as well as a fully equipped fish farm to launch a fish farming business.
No fewer than two hundred youths had also benefited gainfully from several quite sought after skills, which include, Welding technology and fabrication of Agro machines, ICT (programming), plastic moulding, Lens making, Glass Blowing, Recycling waste to Wealth, Electrical Installation, wiring and maintenance, welding, mechatronics, electrical and computer training, 3D epoxy floor and wall furnishing at the Cooperative College, Oji River, A 21st century skill in house beautification, These ones have become employers of labour among their ranks.