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KEEPING DREAM ALIVE: How 17-year-old daughter of blind woman sells firewood to remain in school



KEEPING DREAM ALIVE: How 17-year-old daughter of blind woman sells firewood to remain in school

She is 17 years old, and in SSI, but presently out of school because of N5000 fees. She is not relenting however as she now sells firewood to keep her dream of becoming a banker alive. This is the story of Chinaecherem as told by ISIOMA MADIKE


Chinaecherem Umeokoli is 17 years old. She is an SS1 student of Ezinifite High School, and hails from Ononaku, a rusty and sleepy village in Ezinifite-Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. She is the fourth child in a family of five. Her village is about an hour drive from Amawbia, Awka, which is not only the capital city but harbours the notable, wealthy individuals of this unique state.
But, in the midst of this affluence, however, Chinaecherem is fighting what could be described as the worst poverty in modern times. She is presently out of school because she could not pay the N5,000 school fees. Her father is old and poor while her mother is blind.
“My mother, Ogoamaka, has been blind since I was five years old. My father, Ogbonna, is not only old but poor and helpless and unable to take care of us as he would have loved to. He doesn’t work anymore, and life has really been tough. My aim, however, is to work hard to reduce my limitations,” she said.
Chinaecherem’s strong will, energetic attitude, unbreakable spirit, and unwavering courage are her staying power. She could melt hearts with her flawless English, beautiful smile and a charming personality. With the innocence of a teen and the spirit of a warrior, Chinaecherem is fighting poverty with all of her might. She is, indeed, an epitome of strength, determination and bravery.
To keep her ambition of becoming a banker alive, Chinaecherem sells firewood to support her family, and to pay her school fees. She has indirectly assumed the responsibility of the breadwinner in her family. Some of her siblings are either through with their schooling without jobs or out of school for lack of funding.
She said: “My blind mother sells Bambara nuts in the market, which is used in making Okpa, one of the local delicacies of my people. She also helps in the selling of the firewood, which has become the major source of the family income, and to fund our education. My ambition is to be a banker and when I become one I’d like to help those who are poor because there are a lot of poor people here. But I want to specifically take care of those who are blind as a way of immortalising my hardworking and lovely mother.”
Chinaecherem did not stop there but added: “My people are wealthy; I mean my Anambra State people. I am using this medium to appeal for help to enable me to finish my education and achieve my life ambition. I’d also appreciate if my governor could come to my aid.”
Her situation, however, would have been a bit worse if not for the generosity of the European Union and the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which provided her community with potable drinking water. UNICEF, with the funding of the EU, had sunk a borehole that serves Ononaku and the neighbouring villages.
Before now the people used to travel far to get water for all their needs as potable water had been a scarce commodity for most people in the state. Aside the few rich individuals, many homes had depended on either surface or well water, which is usually contaminated. Although there is water everywhere in Anambra State but none to drink. To get clean drinkable water, Saturday Telegraph gathered, one has to dig up to 650 feet above sea level. Only the rich could afford to undertake such venture.
“Sometimes, we travelled for about four kilometres before we could get clean water to drink. That equally disturbed my educational pursuit as that made it almost impossible for me, like many others in this community, to meet up with our school activities. The provision of the potable water has changed the ugly story of my community as it has also reduced the high cases of ailments like cholera and other waterborne diseases.
“This partly explains why I’m still in SS1 at 17. It is not that I’m unintelligent but because of the hard blow fate had dealt me. But, I am not relenting, as I see my present situation as a temporary setback. It can never be enough to dim my hope; I am destined to succeed in life and nothing will stop me from succeeding by God’s grace,” Chinaecherem said with a conviction of a firm resolve to make it in life.

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