All through my formative years, my parents, like most other parents, always had lessons to teach to me. I’d say I preferred my dad’s method of teaching because most times, my mom’s methods almost always left me with lacerations all over my back, my bums and the back of my legs.
While my dad was practical and to me, more logical, my mom was rather direct and disciplinary! Anytime she had to send me on an errand, she would beat me upfront just in case I returned late.
At a time, I thought I was going to lose my ears: she would pull, twist, pinch my ears and lift me off the ground with them if she felt I wasn’t understanding her message (oò kín gbóràn, oò kín gbóràn).
Needless to say, all of her lessons were engraved permanently into my brain.
But my dad, he was more subtle, more methodical…he would make me learn most times not by reading, not by watching, not by listening, but by doing. And like he’d say “you may read to know, but you must do to understand.”
I usually wouldn’t even realize he was trying to pass a message across until I was well into the activity…one of those times, way back in 1997, I was in SSS2 and he wanted me to attempt the General Certificate Examination (the one we called October/November…I’m sure you remember). His reason was that it was going to prepare me for SSCE the following year. Now he did something interesting: he didn’t buy the form when other parents were buying, he waited till it was almost late. I still don’t know if it was his plan, but by the time he bought the form, my exam center turned out to be at the other end of the city.
I was supposed to locate the center ahead of time but the location was so remote, it took us, my mom and I, more than a week to locate it. And that was after extensive research and consultation with those who claimed to have the geography of Ibadan in the google maps of their heads.
When the examinations started, daily commuting was hellish. I had to make three stops, and then ride in old, rickety excuses for commercial buses to reach my destination. I caught the lesson my dad was trying to teach: he was trying to prepare me for the tough life still ahead.
But I learnt some more a few days into the examinations.
It was the morning of Biology (alternative to practicals). While I was busy studying my specimen diagrams and the questions, my concentration was broken by this hoarse, gruff and croaky voice:
“Sefiu, Sefiu…wón ní kí ni specimen K? (Meaning, literally: Sefiu, Sefiu…they said what is specimen K?)
Sefiu: is a tick…Sefiu answered with such assured confidence.
Voice: Sefiu, Sefiu…jòó bá mi spelli è, bá mi spelli è (Sefiu, please help me spell it)
Now, this seemed to me like I was on the set of a Nollywood production, but it was for real! I indeed just heard what I thought I heard! And before I could process the situation, the voice came again:
Voice: Sefiu, Sefiu…wón ní “what are the sharacteristic of specimen K?”
Sefiu: is a living tins
Apparently, this was the regular practice in the school but because this was a practical examination, it was difficult to ask and answer questions with sign languages (if you know what I mean).
But apart from the malpractice going on so brazenly, how on earth is this guy a student? I asked myself. Isn’t he supposed to be making a much more judicious use of his voice at a bus park?
Alas, to my utmost shock, not only was he a student, there were several more like him from that community also writing the exam. Butchers, furniture makers, mechanics, bus drivers, street hawkers and many more!
It was then I realized how fortunate I have been. These people had no parents or guardians responsible or privileged enough to put them through school; they’ve had to hustle hard to be able to pay school fees, buy uniforms, buy stationery and buy exam forms.
It was not as if I was an ungrateful child, but there was no way I would have appreciated the privilege I have been enjoying if I didn’t see, first hand, this other side of life.
The bat thinks it is the right of every bird to fly. But until she sees that flight is a feat unachievable for the ostrich even with her winged gown of feathers, she does not know what privilege she is lucky to be blessed with.