Last summer, Ibironke Otusile (Wesleyan ’15) received a Summer Service Grant to contribute to both the research and grassroots education sides of the water crisis in Lagos, Nigeria.
This past summer I traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, with so many expectations, but no idea how they would be fulfilled. I knew that there is a water crisis in Lagos, Nigeria, amongst other looming issues, and I was going there to contribute to finding a lasting solution. As part of my plans, I was going to lecture about water sanitation at a local school, while also working at the Lagos State Water Corporation and the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency.
I had to start work immediately when I arrived to Nigeria. I had written my lesson plans and edited them over and over throughout my thirteen-hour flight, since I could not fall asleep anyway. I met with the school officials of Opebi Senior Grammar School in Ikeja, Lagos, the day after my arrival and prepared everything to start teaching the pupils and begin the construction of the water filtration system in the school compound.
Teaching the students was my favorite part of the whole work experience. I lectured about water sanitation – the pollution, sanitation, and retention of water. There were over 100 students in the general assembly ranging from tenth to twelfth grade. They were so attentive and unbelievably respectful. I have never seen such focus before. The students followed along, even though the teachers said the topic was out of the scope of what they were learning. One of my favorite parts of teaching was hearing the students’ ideas when I asked questions about how we could resolve the water issue at-hand, and how to possibly prevent a future water crisis in Lagos.
When the vice principal announced that I would be installing a water filtration system in the school
compound, there was a loud applause and a sea of smiles. The architect explained to me that they could now save money instead of buying sachet and bottled water before coming to the school, since they had clean water in their own compound now. Construction of the system started immediately and took about three weeks to complete.
Although I was the teacher, I also got taught a few things myself. I worked at the Lagos State Water Corporation and at the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency with surface water and groundwater. While at the corporation, I visited different water work sites at Adiyan, Iju, Iponri, and Ijora to see where the water was sourced, how it was filtered, treated, and distributed to Lagosians. At the Protection Agency, I sat in on lab sessions during sample evaluations checking for fecal coliform in water from different sources and sitting in on microbiology classes about water pollution and sanitation. At the end of my time with both organizations, I felt like a trained water inspector, and a teacher as well.
This experience was rewarding because it helped me apply what I learned in school and received a degree in – Molecular Biology & Biochemistry. This project also helped reinforce my role in life; I am a servant to my neighbors. I plan to continue my clean water projects around Lagos and hope to branch out into other cities, states, and countries.