In Moro, a village located in Ife North, Osun state, there is an orphanage home which houses over 102 children. The 12-room structure is run by Oroyemi Elizabeth Olanike, a retired headmistress whose late husband was also an educationist.
Despite a tight purse and shrinking space, Olanike continues to accept orphans, physically-challenged children and strays who have nowhere else to go and no one to turn to. Since retiring as headmistress of St Judes Primary School, Moro, in December 2012, she has done nothing more than taking care of children who can’t help themselves.
As we conversed, an infant tugged at the hem of her skirt while she perched on a wooden chair in her birth daughter’s tailoring shop, which also doubles as the cloth-making centre for Covenant Orphanage Home.
She occasionally patted the back of the infant as if to tell him to exercise patience till her hosts take their leave. All the children call her ‘mummy’. She is whatever they need her to be; mother one moment and teacher when necessary.
Olanike says her ownership of the orphanage is predestined, stressing that God instructed her, by means of a vision in 2002, to set up the centre. She said her mission is to take care of the children until they attain financial independence.
But it was not until 2004 that she started to cater to helpless children. Covenant Orphanage, she says, accepts children from four months old to age 22. The oldest resident, who joined five years ago, is now in her final year at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU).
To accommodate the growing population of the centre and reduce overcrowding, Olanike says a two-plot land was purchased in 2018.
Since the acquisition, apart from the digging of a water well and clearing the land, not much construction has been done due to the encumbrance of funding. And that is not the only challenge faced by the orphanage. Olanike, an educationist, is particular about the schooling of the children no matter the lean resources available to her.
“The money we are spending on transportation is a lot. We need people to come to our aid to give the children a sound education,” she said.
“The major thing we need is accommodation, transportation and funding for their education,” the retired teacher added.
When asked about the state of the children’s healthcare, Olanike said they patronize nearby clinics whenever they are ill, “but when it is serious, we go to OAU Teaching Hospital”.
The closest primary healthcare centre which is a few miles away is bereft of running water and according to Mrs Oke, the doctor’s assistant, they travel long distances to fetch water for storage.
Oke said apart from the water situation, the PHC also contends with poor electricity while there is no back-up generator. The PHC, she said, often makes use of lanterns to carry out tests and administer treatment to patients.
It is nearing dusk, and back at Covenant Orphanage Home, a group of students has come to donate food items to the children. Olanike is evidently pleased with the intervention. She makes no attempt to mask her gratitude.
Despite taking up the calling of childcare 17 years ago, Olanike said she is just starting to have a clear perspective of why she is in Moro.
“Why I am in this town, I am just understanding it now,” she said.
“My husband was a teacher. He was transferred to this place, I was at Modakeke teaching. We lost him in 1997, and God didn’t allow me to go back ever since that time.”
With great verve, Olanike noted that child-caring is her life’s purpose.