I was 9 years old in primary 5, and it was my school’s end-of-session prize-giving day. Traditionally, pupils entertained guests which included parents, with assorted performances- cultural dance, poetry recital, singing, acting- and it was usually a well-attended event.
That year, I was amongst eight pupils who were making a recital. Even though I had no idea what I was talking about, I loved my recital because it was adequately laced with many big words my young mind did not understand. In my daydreams, I gave a flawless rendition and the audience applauded me, very impressed. I could even see my mum’s rivals green with envy!
If I loved my recital, my mum loved it more. On a large cardboard, she had clearly written it out in its entirety, and proudly hung it in the sitting room. She recited it many times herself, gesticulating just as I had done on stage.
Many many years have passed since I was 9, but I remember a few lines here and there of the recital, and they strike a true chord. It was titled:
Why do people hold on to life?
Why do societies hold on to cycles of existence, even when everything suggests that pessimism is a reasonable option?
The reason lies in man’s innate ability to hope.
In his curiosity to reach the next bend…
Where succour may well be in spite of doubts and travails of all kinds.
Hope indeed is a tonic…
You can find it in man’s face and his raised head…
Even when he slides into unconsciousness, HOPE does not desert him.
My mum was my very first teacher, and I haven’t forgotten the strict routine that was a major part of my upbringing. “Catch them young” was her watchword, and hardly any weekday nor Saturday passed by without her daily dishing us Maths and English or Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning. Every other subject was understandably ‘less important’! And you see, every time we were asked in school to write a composition on ‘My Favourite Subject’, it was imperative we wrote on Mathematics. That was an unwritten rule. It’s little wonder we all tended to Science fields. We didn’t need any prodding at all.
I enjoyed a wonderful primary education, and I think every one of the teachers of the now defunct Central Bank of Nigeria primary school was remarkable. I remember the passion even as a child with which teachers taught. Every pupil of that school sincerely believed it was the best as our anthem boasted.
In secondary school, my English and Literature teachers were my favourite. I got along pretty well with them and they made the more impart on me.
Even though the dictionary simply defines a lecturer as ‘a university teacher’, I have cause to believe many lecturers do not know this. Worthy of mention of the numerous lecturers I passed through at the university is Dr. Ajala whom I have immense respect for. He exudes such intelligence, passion and charisma that is lacking amongst his contemporaries and colleagues alike, especially in a field where beef is paramount. He rarely had to call for silence during lectures as every student listened in awe, even though not everyone understood all he was saying all the time. He never made it to class with as much as a piece of paper, yet delivered up to ten pages worth of notes effortlessly. To cap it all up, he believed in us, and we believed him too.
I reckon that a major aspect of teaching is imparting. This attribute is lost on many Nigerian universities and sadly in many primary and secondary schools too. Teaching is gradually losing its relevance in our society. It’s becoming a career people fall back on when other options have fallen through.
I don’t think this is what teaching was perceived as when Abraham Lincoln wrote to his son’s teacher that remarkable letter, charging him to impart his son.
Today is teachers’ day, and this is for teachers that matter… HAPPY TEACHERS’ DAY!!!