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this nigerian dance troupe changes lives of street & underserved children

March 5, 2019
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Local humanitarian, choreographer and scriptwriter Seyi Oluyole began dance group Dream Catchers in an effort to help Nigerian street kids find their way back to the classroom. According to the UN children agency, UNICEF, 10.5 million children ranging from age five to 14 are not in school in Nigeria and only 61 percent of children from ages six to 11 “regularly attend” primary school. An apparent issue, Oluyole, who moved to a slum in Ebute-Metta in Lagos, after her former-banker father lost his job decided to do create a pathway to change. 

Lack of government funding for public schools and expensive private schools have removed the option of school for many parents, often leaving children with no education at all. These children either remain at home or find work in the streets. As chronicled by Al Jazeera, about 21 million children between the ages of five and 14 are involved in child labor. 

Oluyole created a dance group to place incentive to get these children educated. The requirement to join the ensemble was that the children must attend school. After heading to the US with a plan to pursue her Master’s degree, Oluyole returned to Nigeria to formally continue her dance classes in spite of those who advised her otherwise. Although she had informal classes, the group Dream Catchers officially formed when she returned to Nigeria and twenty kids attended the first class. 

A true hero; after landing a script-writing job on Nigerian soap opera, Tinsel, Oluyole used her first paycheck to enroll one of her 10-year-old students in private school. As gracious as this was, it was not a sustainable approach to funding the education of all her students. She then had the idea to film the students dancing as a way to bring awareness to her cause. These videos did not garner much traction, leading Oluyole to make the tough decision of giving herself one more year to see if this dream could become a reality. 

“I just told myself I was going to give this whole thing one more year and if nothing works out I was going to drop it and move,” she recalls.

Often using dance to distract from hunger, one day in March 2008, Oluyole asked her students to film a dance video to new song “Nowo” by popular disc jockey and singer DJ Spinall and Afrobeats superstar Wizkid. 

Almost like a script, the video went viral. On March 10th, Naomi Campbell posted the dancers to her Instagram in a post receiving almost 1 million likes. The video then reached Rihanna, who shared, garnering 3 million likes and 50,000+ comments and another share by P Diddy. While this was a huge boost of encouragement and even led to an opportunity to perform at a local TEDx conference to celebrate Children’s Day, the Dream Catchers are not yet where they need to be. They still struggle to find stable financial support to ensure the education, housing and nourishment for children. With more eyes on them, the local community now understands the good Oluyole and her troupe are doing. 

In an update from Al Jazeera we learned: 

Today, 10 children, including Blessing, live with Oluyole in a three-bedroom apartment in a gated estate. Their school fees in private primary and secondary schools range from $215 to $315  for each child every school term, which usually runs for about three months.

Please follow this incredible journey and support as you can!

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