By Segun Adeleye, Abeokuta
Beholding the smile, warmth and disposition of these children, one cannot guess the pains they have gone through before they found succor in their present abode. Rendered homeless and parentless by the evil hearts of those they once perceived as friends and neighbours, an experience that could have made these children lose hope in life and the human race generally, the gesture of one person, Isaac Oluwole Newton-Wusu is helping to give them a reason to trust again.
Cocooned in the cool ambiance of the ancient town of Obantoko, (the settlement for the indigenes of Itoko in Abeokuta ); Stephen Center International Schools is home to over 314 children from the Northern part of Nigeria whose parents were killed by religious violence in that section of the country.
The story of Stephen Center International Schools, Obantoko, Abeokuta, cannot be told without reference to the person of Isaac Oluwole Newton-Wusu, who hails from Ado-Odo Local Government area, Ogun State.
A pure charity school, which started as a Library and Computer center a little before the outbreak of Sharia riots in some parts of Northern Nigeria, especially Kaduna
“I came to the final and most important realization that a life lived for self is useless but a life lived for others is more important and that is why we brought the first set of eight children whose parents were killed during the strike to our facilities here in Abeokuta, in year 2000,” the affable and humble man said soberly.
The center, which has grown from its original eight to 311 children of persecuted Christians from Gombe, Jos, Kaduna, Kano and Bauchi, have received help and support from the Alake and Paramount ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, Olori Yetunde Gbadebo, the late Wakilu Musulumi of Yorubaland and Chief Imam of Gbagura, Sheik Sodirudeen Bamidele Biobaku, the Governor of Ogun State and his wife, Senator and Mrs Ibikunle Amosun, Churches in Abeokuta as well as Lagos.
“Stephen was the disciple to be persecuted in the Bible. The Church recognizes him as the first martyr. By his act, Stephen presents us as children of persecution; I actually don’t look for the people who are persecuted; instead they come to us,” he said when asked how he came about the name for the centre as well as the pupils.
Receiving a delegation of twenty-three persons from the United States of America based Save Our Soul (SOS) Ministry, who came to dig two boreholes in remote areas of Odeda Local Government area of the State, Newton-Wusu revealed that 12 out of the 44 graduates the school has so far produced, still have bullets lodged in different parts of their bodies.
The altruistic founder and promoter of the center commended the giving spirit and show of love of the visiting Americans, most of whom have visited the center for more than three times to treat people and donate eye glasses to the school and host community.
The SOS team also visited the initiator of the UPLIFTing the aged and youth, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Mrs. Olufunso Amosun, to see areas of collaboration by the two organizations.
The wife of the Governor told her visitors how she has been encouraging school children to study hard to excel and how the first batch of students with best results in their WAEC/NECO examinations, were sponsored to the United Kingdom (UK) as part of enlarging their coast educationally.
“At intervals too, we give helping hands to the elderly in our midst, by handing out medications, clothing and beverages as part of our social responsibilities to them,” the Governor’s wife said.
She was delighted at her visitors who all wore the traditional adire attire given them by the Stephen Center.
Earlier, leader of the SOS Ministry, Michael Schadt while addressing select journalists at the premises of the school in Obantoko area of the town, emphasized the desire of the group to touch more lives across Africa, starting from Nigeria.
Quoting copiously from the Bible, he described members of the Ministry, drawn from different parts of the United States as Ambassadors of Jesus. He went on to say the sinking of borehole at Akonkon village and one other place in Odeda Local Government was part of the Ministry’s social responsibilities.
Schadt, like the Elderly Matron, who is a Nurse amongst them, Juanita Motsinger, said they have given eye glasses to the people of the host community of the schools, among other medical needs in time past.
“This is my fourth time in this center, the last time we visited; we administered medications and eye glasses to the people of this community as well as the students. This year, we are doing more and more,” Motsinger said.