Did you watch that video in which a Nigerian private school teacher was weeping over the difficulties he and his colleagues were going through as a result of Covid-19? In that video, which went viral on social media, the teacher, Mr. Akindele Oluwasheun Oladipupo begged kind-hearted individuals to help private school teachers survive the pandemic.
In this report, Kenyan journalist JOSEPH WARUNGU looks at how kind-hearted individuals did help Akindele and Co. in what has been described as “acts of generosity helping ordinary people through desperately trying times.”
When Covid-19 hit Africa, the effects were devastating – but some people have been crushed more than others, by the illness but also by the measures to deal with it.
Private-school teachers, who make up a significant part of the education workforce, have been particularly hard hit by school closures as they have no safety net and in most cases no firm return date either.
Many have turned to farming, cleaning and street hawking in the meantime.
‘Don’t cry, it’s ok’
The strain has become unbearable, moving many to tears – among them Akindele Oluwasheun Oladipupo in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
He and other teachers were full of hope in July when the Nigerian government said it would allow schools to reopen for exams. But when that decision was reversed, the pain was too much.
Akindele, who is married with three children under eight years, told me in a telephone interview that he just sat in shock digesting the news, before tears ran down his face.
“My wife said to me, ‘Don’t cry, it’s ok, we’ll manage, somehow.’ But I was thinking of the many teachers who have nothing to feed their families. In many cases, both wife and husband are teachers. That’s the entire family income gone – indefinitely.”
Akindele Oluwasheun Oladipupo
It was really difficult seeing elderly teachers who had given many years of service to the profession pleading for food”
Akindele Oluwasheun Oladipupo
Unable to bear his own and other teachers’ burdens, he turned to his mobile phone and poured out his sorrow.
A friend saw the video recording and urged him to post it online. It went viral, earning him the nickname of “the crying teacher”.
Akindele says he filmed it in the hope of encouraging people to help other private-school teachers in need.
Nigerian journalist Lara Wise launched a Facebook campaign to find Akindele and urged him to post a second clip with his account details. Donations poured in from around the world.
Overwhelmed by the generosity, Akindele decided to re-direct the more than 1.2m naira ($3,100; £2,400) to dozens of needy teachers.
“I said to myself – now that God has tested me and has opened a way for the money to come in, if I should sit on that money, it means I’m sitting on the destiny of my children.
“That’s how we started looking for teachers who were struggling. We reached out to more than 200 teachers and gave them enough foodstuff including rice, spaghetti. We also put some money in envelopes and gave it them.”
It is only when Akindele started to distribute relief packages that he realised the scale of the problem. Many teachers from different parts of Nigeria sought help from him.
“It was really difficult seeing elderly teachers who had given many years of service to the profession pleading for food.”
Facebook was full of comments lauding the crying teacher while also castigating the government for ignoring the plight of private-school teachers.
‘God bless Akindele’
One Nigerian said: “Shame on the politicians who eat this country dry. If a man who receives grace from God can do all this, all those men in agbadas (flowing robes) and those women hiding under [social media] filters, should bury their faces in shame.”
“God bless Akindele immensely,” wrote another. “May God remember and help many who are ashamed to cry out publicly… who are dying in silence.”
Apart from the selfless acts of frontline workers, especially health professionals who are saving lives during the pandemic, many people across the continent are coping through the generosity of ordinary Africans. WATCH THE VIDEO :