Programme Director SOS Children's Villages in Nigeria
photo: © 2018 Stefan Lechner Photography
Lead up. Successful engagement in the work with the Government
SOS Children’s Village Programme Lagos, Nigeria recently concluded a partnership with the Lagos State government to organize a stakeholder’s engagement and capacity building on alternative child care. The event was collaboration towards strengthening alternative care practice and policy in the spirit of the United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children. The 3-day event was a success and created other opportunities for the movement in Lagos state on alternative child care.
This relationship with the state however, had not always been rosy; in fact, some three years prior, the Lagos state government had threatened to shut down the SOS Children’s Village Isolo and had given a 3-months’ notice to that effect. I recall that afternoon in my office when I heard the siren of a police vehicle in the SOS Children’s Village and shortly a knock on my door. As the door sprang open a stern looking woman walked into my office ignoring my greeting while demanding ‘’Are you the director here?’’. I calmly replied in the affirmative and no sooner had I replied than she gave me an envelope. ‘’Please acknowledge receipt!’’. Not knowing what was contained in the letter I did as she requested and before I could say a word, she warned that we had better complied otherwise the state would not hesitate to do the needful! The letter was from the state government requesting SOS Children’s Villages to regularize it’s registration with the state or risk shut down in three months! I had no doubt about the resolve of the state to shut down SOS Children’s Village Isolo going by the melodrama I just witnessed. Later, I got to know that the woman who had delivered the letter was a deputy director – just to show the seriousness of the matter.
Continuous efforts to explain what SOS Children’s Villages really does
The relationship between SOS and the state government began on a good note with the state government providing a 22,000 square meters (5.4 acres) land for the construction of the first SOS Children’s Village at Isolo in 1973. However at some point there was a gap in the relationship, which worsened when the state government signed the Child’s Right Law in 2007. The state developed a not so good perception towards the SOS Children’s Villages model of long term care and aversion to adoption. It subsequently labelled the organization an institution. Furthermore, the state required us to register as an orphanage, which was in conflict with our rights based approach to child care. Unfortunately, all alternative care providers were perceived as orphanages by the state. It was so challenging that in one of the visits to the state for consultation it became apparent that top government personnel might never step into an SOS Children’s Village, a sign of apathy for the model of care of the organization. SOS was not on the government list of alternative care providers in the state albeit after 42 years of operation in the state. The state had tolerated our operation for so long but no longer.
To address this challenge the national management gave all necessary support to engage with the state. We provided all required documents and paid all required fees. We also met other conditions and eventually SOS Children’s Village Isolo was given full approval and all motion to close down the facility was aborted. To keep up a good relationship means work.
Our operations were opened up to government supervision and monitoring. This began a new chapter in our relationship with the state. Again, SOS received referrals from the state for short-term care and all appeared to be well again.
The relationship however witnessed another twist when a child was brought to the SOS Children’s Village Isolo without a care order or a letter from the director at the ministry. Admission of children into care requires legal document of care order or a letter from the ministry directing a home to take in a child for care and protection. We politely declined admission on legal grounds. A phone call was also received from the state officials requesting we take the child in with assurances that authorizing document will be sent in at a later date. We continued to decline stating the legal requirement as the reason. The child was later brought to the village after two weeks with the necessary document. This brought a little strain to the relationship at the time but we continued to manage the situation through engagement and open communication.
New opportunities grounded in mutual respect
Today, the relationship is that of mutual respect between SOS Children’s Villages Nigeria and the state government. SOS has continued to engage with the state to review its laws on alternative childcare to reflect the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC) and The United Nations Guideline on the Alternative Care of Children (UNGAC). SOS in partnership with the state government and other stakeholders has agreed to set up a technical working group towards repositioning alternative childcare practice in Lagos State. Also SOS Children’s Villages has sent in a position paper to the state on expanding the options of care in the Lagos state. These ongoing partnership and discussions indicates a good outcome and in the best interest of children in Lagos state.
Ayodeji Augustus Adelopo,
Programme Director, SOS Children's Villages Nigeria, Lagos Programme, Nigeria
His role gives him the opportunity to work with different persons from varied backgrounds. He appreciates the different perspectives that exist in society and sees it as enrichment. His role as Programme Director requires him to see to the overall development and often serve as a connector between different teams.
Ayo is a father to three children and through this experience learned to appreciate the efforts of his parents. Despite their low income, they gave him a very good education. He is convinced that allowing individual difference and uniqueness is important. In his leisure he enjoys taking walks and watching films.
Ayo love Lagos, the city where he was born and still lives. Lagos never sleeps! It is the economic hub of West Africa and one of the fastest growing and most populated cities in the world, estimated to be about 21 million. Lagos has rich coastal lines and beaches. The greatest resource in Lagos and indeed Nigeria are its people; diverse, creative, and resourceful.
Video Harvesting Workshop 2018