Update May 2012

The following is a recent insight of everyday village life in Akpap Okoyong by Christine Adolf, Volunteer Services Officer.

Mary Slessor Foundation Vocational Training Center: School is in Session May 7, 2012 Akpap Okoyong, Cross River State

As you stroll down the green grassy field of the Center when school is in session, you’ll get a glimpse of student life as they practice what they’re learning each day here in Akpap Okoyong.

Students can choose to pursue careers in Carpentry, Fashion and Design, or Mechanical Engineering and Metal Welding. Most of our students are from one of about 40 surrounding communities in the Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State, Nigeria. Many of them struggle to pay for their own education (a modest school fee of NGN 800-1000/month is charged), seeing this as the path to a better future economically and otherwise, while the families of some students financially support their training in the hopes that a skilled child will bring in additional income for the family. Most of the students are college aged youth, though we do have some adults, and we train both men and women. Our courses comprise of both theoretical and practical training, with lots of individual attention from trainers who are incredibly dedicated to preparing their students. It is inspiring to watch the enthusiasm that the trainers bring to the school and pass on to their students. More than half of the current trainers were part of the first graduating class of the Center, and they take great pride in the Foundation and everything it has enabled them to learn and do. This month, students in each of the three departments are keeping busy, as we’ve been able to purchase materials for them to work with from Calabar town. We also recently hosted an MSF student and staff appreciation celebration, honoring a ‘Student of the Month’ in each department and enjoying an afternoon of fun after yet another month of hard work.

Students each have a unique story leading up to their enrollment at the school, but the opportunity to learn a skill that will help them generate income is what ultimately leads them to register for the program. What prompts them to stay month after month is the fun they have with trainers and classmates, the wonderful environment of the school, and the progress they see in their own skill level, which clearly gives them a great sense of pride (as it should).

On a typical day on campus in Akpap Okoyong, you’ll hear lots of students laughing, trainers patiently guiding trainees, and the generator running loudly in the background. There is something truly special about this place. Maybe it is the hope you can feel in the air, or the peacefulness of its surrounding landscape of palm, banana, and plantain trees, and cassava and pineapple farms, and of course, the perennially majestic sky.