To Invest in People, Prioritize Education
I have been vocal about my father’s early death and how it traumatized me from early childhood. I was only 6 years old when my dad died. I had to drop out of the average primary school I was attending to a poorly managed school three streets away from my home.
The first time someone ever showed interest in my future was when a church member, Mr. Oliver Okeke, called me after church one Tuesday evening. I knew him as my friends’ father so I wasn’t surprised when he asked that I see him after church. As I stood with him at the gate of the church while my mother waited five feet away, I could never imagine that my life was about to change.
Growing up in the slums of Ajegunle with two younger brothers and my mum in a one-room apartment, education was important but survival was most important. We quickly learned the art of locking doors and windows when we heard weird footsteps, running when we saw people running on the street, and laying down flat on the ground when we heard gunshots.
I had a tough but interesting childhood. Now, when I think back I’m not sure if I would have wanted it any other way.
I had to be awake by 4 am to fetch water from our compound well which we shared with more than ten tenants with families, to ensure we had water to bathe to go to school. If you wake up at 5 am, someone else would have beat you to it, fetched the good water, and left the well unsettled.
Even with how poor and cheap my primary school was, my brothers and I would be flogged and sent home almost every term because my mum had not paid our fees on time. I had an elderly neighbor who was always home and when we’d come back home crying, she would drag us back to school, using her grey hairs to intercede on our behalf, stating that she did not mind kneeling to beg. It almost always worked. The following day, my mum would follow us to school and beg the headmaster almost on her knees and in tears, promising to pay before a certain date after which we will be let back into our classes.
Five years later when I visited that school, the headteacher still remembered my mum.