My days of Community Service did not begin with so much enthusiasm. Initially, I thought it was a total waste of time, a scheme that University administrators developed in order to ensure some kind of control over our weekends; truth be told, that very thought is what got me out of bed one particular Saturday morning.
Perhaps that same thought brought about a feeling of relief when I found out that my GEN instructor wasn’t going to base my grade on my involvement in community outreach. Unfortunately, that feeling of relief didn’t last long. Soon, the class curriculum required 10 hours of Community Service and all the pressure was on me – no Community Service meant a bad grade.
The disadvantage of attending a school like AUN is that once you pass through the gates you can be shielded from the real world. Its grand architecture, beautiful surroundings, and healthy atmosphere delude you into thinking that the world revolves around you. It’s not hard to forget that not everyone can afford a good education, or have access to resources that enhance their learning. Our little haven is one of the very few great institutions in the country. We are lucky to be students here. But here we are not shielded from the world. Community Service sees to that.
My first trip to Wisdom Academy, Wuro Hausa, was an eye-opener. Its dilapidated buildings, most of which have never seen a paint job, cater to an entire local government area. This made me wonder what the job of the local government is. The days of teaching under trees and canopies should be over by now! My very first students were women, most of them married, and some nursing their little ones. It was odd to me that these women knew very little English. I realized gradually that it was not their fault. They had no hand in choosing the kind of family they were born into or where they grew up. It just happened. Their eagerness to learn inspired me. Here was a group of women who decided to abandon their homes and families so that they could learn. Their united stand against illiteracy was overwhelming. I cannot refuse this call to change future generations for the good.
One day, out of curiosity, I opted to go for Community Service on Wednesday. That trip took me to Aliyu Mustafa Primary School, Yola. When we arrived, the students were on break so we had a chance to experience what break period really means to them. With no swings to amuse or entertain them, they whiled away time by playing chase and screaming at the top of their voices. They welcomed us like missionaries from another planet. Once again, their eagerness to learn and practice what they learned surpassed my greatest expectations. The class I taught wanted to learn mathematics, and only calmed down when it was time to learn computer skills. The comfort of my bed and my treasured “me” time couldn’t compare to the beauty of hope I could see radiating deep inside of them. This was service to the community, to humanity. When the day was over, some of them – my new friends – walked me to the bus telling me their seemingly impossible dreams and I could not help but wonder; it is not their fault that they are less privileged. Too many things have gone wrong in this country.
It could have been me not knowing how to spell my name at the age of 20, or sitting shoeless in a class with no desks while the sun heats the naked asbestos sheets. It’s no wonder why I am in a hurry to catch up with the bus whenever I can because, whether I like it or not, problems are out there and it is up to me to provide solutions to them. I owe it to my country, I owe it to my community, and I owe it to AUN. But, most of all, I owe it to myself to have a positive impact on future generations. I don’t need to wait to make a change. I can do it now… no matter how small it may be. Commentary by Melody Abia Anthony, a first-year student of Telecommunications & Wireless Technology