Uncle John of Queens Preparatory Private school, Jos. I will never forget you and what you did to and for me. When Grandma took me to Jos to live with my uncle and his family (Whom eventually became my Mom and Dad) I was enrolled in a small private school in the area where we lived.
I was a complete illiterate. I came from a remote village, our school then they do teach us in our native language. Imagine solving mathematics and reading English language in your native language. Lol. Now, here was I in the city, I couldn’t speak ‘Zo’ in hausa not to talk of ‘come’ in English Language. I could only speak my native language. I use my instincts to understand when someone talks to me in a language I was not familiar with.
I was asked to start from primary one, and uncle John was my teacher. Uncle John accepted me warmly, he would match me with the most brilliant student in class to read out comprehensive passages. He would give me a pencil to be pointing at the words one by one as others read out loud. He would tell them to stop, then say “Lami!! Read that passage for us”The class would burst into laughter. I would feel mocked and discouraged, whenever he noticed that, he’d punish the students who laughed and that would give me the confidence to attempt reading.
During break time, he’d allow me to go buy whatever I wanted to eat, then call me back into class and give me 1-100 to read and write without looking. From 100, he kept increasing to 200 then 1000. Little by little I was catching up.I remember how my mom would stop by the school to ask how I was doing.
I remember clearly one Monday morning after assembly, the teachers had just finished their devotion and preparatory meeting when I was called to the headmistress’s office, Aunty Mary. When I got there, all the school teachers plus the proprietress were there and my Mom was sitting amongst them.My heart started racing, my headmistress then said “Here is your daughter, this girl is too stubborn and always fighting with everyone in the school”Everyone laughed.”She doesn’t know anything, yet her head strong ” another teacher said.”Olodo Rabata” another teacher exclaimed and everyone laughed except my mom and uncle John.
Apparently, my mom came to find out about my performance in school and what she was hearing obviously weren’t pleasant. She said “well, I just came to find out how she was doing and honestly, I don’t intend to keep wasting my money on her, I will talk to my husband, we will just send her back to the village after this term”Bruh! That was the 3rd term already and next term was supposed to be the beginning of primary 2. First term I came position 20/20, second term 19/21, third term wasn’t looking like it would be any different. And now dem wan carry me go back village.
I knew I was putting effort to learn, I was willing but the transition was very difficult. No teacher wanted me in their class, no student wanted to mingle with me as we hardly even understand ourselves, and I was a comic relief to everyone in the school, it was a struggle.
Few weeks later, school closed and our report card was handed to us, my uncle’s children had on their report card Position 1 and 2 respectively mine was 17, remark was “She can do better”Well, no one back home was exactly disappointed as they were not expecting anything better anyway. Everyone was registered for summer lesson except me, that gave me the confirmation that I wasn’t going to resume school, I was truly going back to the village. Was I heartbroken? Nope! Well maybe. But ah! This city life bin taya me sef, let me go back and meet my people, life was smoother jare.
One evening, uncle John came to our house. He had a fascinating vibe with almost all parents and students in school, so when he came to our house, he was welcomed amidst laughter and joy. After exchanging pleasantries with my mom, he asked “where is my girl oh”I was somewhere in the kitchen, ashamed to come out, my mom called and I came out. He asked me to come sit close to him. I did. He asked my mom “I don’t see Lami amongst other kids for the summer lesson, are you really taking her back to the village?” “Yes, we have lots of responsibilities already. We don’t have so much to waste on someone who isn’t picking up oh. Let her go, hopefully when she gets older she may start all over again and would pick up” my mom replied.
Uncle John talked with my mom, he told her I have been trying, it’s slow but I have the potential if given the chance with patience. He challenged my mom to repeat me, let me repeat his class again, that by the end of the academic year, if I don’t improve impressively, he will refund her all she spent on tuition fee and then she can send me back to the village.
Next academic year, everyone started a new class except me, I repeated primary one with uncle John again. This man started teaching me differently and with special attention and patience. First he said “You have 9-12 exercise books, all labelled, stop writing mathematics in your social studies”Whenever he’d teach math, he will boldly write the subject on the board, then tell me to look at it, then pick a note book with that same label.He started teaching me how to read with “A, E, I, O, U” vowel sounds.”Ba, be, bi,Bo bu” down to “Za ze zi zo zu” and that was my breakthrough in reading.He would force me to stand in front of the class to read comprehensive passages and then punish anyone who laughed.
My confidence level started improving. My mates who used to laugh at me now started correcting me when I read wrongly… First term I ranked 10th out of 20 pupils. Second term, 8th out of 20 and Third term 5th out of 20.Then it continued with either 1st or 2nd. Lol.
Before that academic session ended, one afternoon in class, he gathered all the teachers in our class including the headmistress and he asked me to tell them a story in English which I did. He then gave me a newspaper to read, I did. Everyone was shocked yet impressed. Guy, I started teaching people I met in the school how to read and write.
By the time I reached primary 5, I was made the assistant head girl and was representing my school in inter-school and inter-class debates. Guy! Assistant Head girl in a school I started when I couldn’t even say a word in English.
Uncle John invested in my life. He believed in me when no one else did, giving me a chance at growing in life.Uncle John was a teacher by calling and anointing. God bless your soul wherever you are.
He died over 5years ago. Continue to rest in peace and happy teachers’ day to you Sir.
God bless your soul.