By Sister Jacinta Ojilimmobe, SNDdeN
In 2004, the Sisters rang the first school bell in Awkunanaw, Enugu State, Nigeria. Opening with only a few pupils, Notre Dame Nursery and Primary School has grown in numbers, like a mustard seed grows into the biggest shrub. To the joy of parents, we educate now 1,130 pupils in our school. As Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) around the world, the Nigeria Province gives priority to educating little children and students on the elementary level. We focus on children living in poverty. With our Co-workers, five Sisters serve in this school: Sisters Francisca Aneke (Head Teacher), Saratu Barko (Religion Teacher), Maria Umeh (Bursar), Lucy Anaele (Assistant Bursar), and Jacinta Ojilimmobe (Head of Nursery).
In 2008, the Sisters, recognizing the necessity of teaching girls, expanded the school to include a Secondary Level, now known as Notre Dame Academy, Awkunanaw. A total of ten Sisters serve in both schools.
Our Nursery and Primary School aims at quality education to children, from babies to 11 years-old. We form the whole person for life: spiritually, academically and socially. Parents, valuing this full education and excellent teaching, send their children to our school, for early and ongoing formation. These little children grow and develop as persons, in relating with each other and their teachers, as we nurture their different qualities, talents and attitudes. With joy, these little ones identify letters, numbers, objects, play with toys, recite rhymes, colour art works, watch some educative videos, play in the recreation park, eat their food and even take a siesta.
Studies and Religious Formation
In Primary classes (elementary level), besides the regular program of studies in languages (English, Igbo, and French), history and mathematics, subjects include: Christian Religious Knowledge, Music, Cultural and Creative Arts, Social Studies, Home Economics, Basic Science, Geography, Agricultural Science, Computer Instruction. Parents expect success in examinations for admission into secondary schools. We teach catechesis to prepare the children for First Holy Communion and Confirmation. At the morning assembly, the pupils read and meditate on the Scripture of the day. On feasts, the children reflect on lessons they learn from the stories in Scripture for their spiritual and moral formation. During the Advent season, elementary students have a retreat day. At the beginning and close of the term, the children’s choir sings at Eucharistic liturgies. Some children have also demonstrated artistic talent in special art projects. In practical Home Economics, children learn to cook and bake different kinds of food, as another skill for life. A computer company provides instruction in technology for the children. Without many books, children are able to access varied subjects on the Internet!
Care of Creation and Whole Person
Our pupils learn to care for the earth by avoiding any kind of environmental pollution, by disposing properly of any waste materials. They are conscious of protecting and nurturing our environment. Our school discovers and encourages children who are gifted in athletics, dancing and public speaking. The school organizes biannual inter-house sports competitions and also inter-school sports competitions. They have won many trophies in past matches for the whole metropolitan city of Enugu. At times the dancing group entertains at school functions. Students enjoy and benefit from educational excursions. Students learn assertiveness and self-confidence. Most pupils are able to stand up in the public arena and deliver messages or read without anxiety. We see the beautiful development of our children.
Many challenges face us today in attempting to accommodate the increased number of children requesting entrance to our school. We teach also a few children with special needs, since there is not any education for them in the area. Another challenge springs from families, living with limited resources, even food and shelter. We do not deny an education to children living in poverty who have no other options. We thank our Religious Congregation and donors who contribute to SNDdeN Mission Support and enable us to reach out to give priority to children in need.
“Let the children come to ME…” Matthew 19:14