Fellow Since 1991
Community Child Education and Development
This profile was prepared when Omolara Otujo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991.
The New Idea
Molara is striving to upgrade the standard of care offered by the large number of "mushroom" child-care facilities springing up in low-income areas as a result of worsening economic conditions. She plans to reach the children through parents and child caretakers. She is vigorously working to break down the apathetic attitudes of low-income parents towards pre-school care–an attitude typified by giving such child-care facilities the nickname "jeleosimi", meaning "peace at home."Jeleosimis are informal child care centers formed in homes, backyards, sheds or any place where there is available space. Those who operate these centers are most often untrained and their primary motive is to make a living. Parents will pay as little as fifty Kobo ($5) a week for a child to stay at one of these centers. They are overcrowded and do not have any particular curriculum planning. Since none of these centers provide meals, the children bring whatever they eat from home. Many of them come from homes where there is no extra food to give them, or the parents leave earlier than the children so there is no one to make sure that the little ones take food to eat at the center. The hygienic conditions at many of the centers are questionable. Yet the alternative is to lock the child in the house until a parent comes home or an older sibling returns from school.Molara recognizes that there are no alternatives to these substandard child-care centers, but believes that the caretakers and parents have the potential for improving the standards of the centers at a minimum cost in both time and resources. She focuses on low-income urban communities because of her perception that they have been virtually ignored in all other pre-school and early childhood development projects. She insists, "There is not much difference between the deplorable condition of children in the slums and those in the village." When no other organization took up the challenge to improve conditions, Molara stepped forward and decided to do something herself.