I knew a man once, a father of 4 kids. I still know him, because I talk to him often. He was a man that amazed me in many ways. Yet in one spectacular way, because of his background, he was a wonder. He was a man who loved books, cherished education and doggedly pursued a University degree, despite having a family at the time.. Mr K was well admired in my neighbourhood and I had always thought I would write about him in my autobiography. However at the request of Rolayo, I’m doing that years early. As I lived with his family for a while, I have first-hand experience of my accounts..
My earliest recollection of Mr K’s home was his brown chairs and several boxes of books. I could not fathom how Mr K could have so many books. He was not rich enough to have a library but he was serious enough about his books to get several big boxes to pack them into. The boxes were too numerous to count: there were 3 in the living room, 4 in the room I shared with his 2 other kids, 3 boxes in his own room and several in the guest room. His books included novels, Bibles, engineering books, his wife’s nursing textbooks, random books, and they were a haven for my young and budding mind whenever I was with his kids
Until 1998, my holidays were spent attending summer school and reading at Mr K’s house. Mr K was always either tweaking with television circuits or reading, and I wanted to be like him. By the age of 12, I had finished all the books in his boxes. I mostly did not understand what I was reading but I was bored enough that I just kept reading. I was also competing with Mr K in reading. When my mother reported me to Mr K for my only account of public theft, I thought I would be beaten black and blue. When Mr K learnt it was an Enid Blyton novel I stole to read, he laughed so hard that my mother and I had to laugh with him.
Mr K came home upset one day. He had been passed over for a promotion because he did not have a B.Sc degree. He was the most competent of his peers and had the best knowledge of the machines but the lack of a certificate had made him lose a significant rise in pay and social status. He called the children together and, for the umpteenth time, drummed the importance of education into our ears.
Mr K had first lost the chance of a university education to the sickness of his young mother. His father, a rich cocoa farmer, spent all he had on the sickness, but the wife died. His father was not himself educated, but was crazy about education and promised his young son that in 2 years, he would recover and then send him to the University of Ibadan. Mr K agreed, but followed his love for electronics and became an apprentice to an electrician in Ibadan. His father never did recover financially, and 2 years later, Mr Kay’s younger brother was also through with grammar school. In what would be many of such decisions, Mr K decided to sponsor his brother’s education and put his on hold.
While Mr K was working in the University College Hospital, Ibadan and building his own family, he saw his brother through school while running a part- time diploma at the Polytechnic Ibadan himself. With that diploma, he became employed at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). His diligence, brilliance and ingenuity gained him recognition until he reached the ceiling his Ordinary National Diploma could carry him. I remember him studying for ‘City and Guilds’ examinations on several occasions. He took the exam, passed, submitted the final certificate and was expecting an upgrade in his file. The he submitted the certificate was the week CBN issued an internal memorandum that it now considered the ‘City and Guilds’ certificate to be equivalent to an OND. He was devastated..
When I was in SS1, Mr K went to a bookstore and bought Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Further Mathematics textbooks. To say I was confused was an understatement. What was Mr K doing with books I was studying? He was reading topics I had dusted, calculating, doing recalls on A4 paper and going for lessons and coming back from work late in the night. He had a wife, 4 kids, (the first doing A- levels for entry into the university), he was more than 43 years old at this time, yet he had already registered as a part-time degree student at the Federal University Of Technology (FUT), Minna. He was bent on getting a degree, and despite the British curriculum he was familiar with, via City and Guilds, he wanted to have a solid grasp of the Nigerian curriculum and had to go back to the basics. He was not only screaming education into our ears, he was living it. He wanted the degree and went after it.
The children around him learnt from him. His first daughter passed ICAN and became a chartered accountant the same year she became a graduate. His first son was the best student of his department and faculty when he was graduating from the University of Ibadan in 2008..
Not every story has a good ending. Mr K never did graduate with that degree. When he was about to resume as a 400L part-time student, the government issued an order: All federal universities were ordered to scrap part-time programmes. The part-time students were to be offered full-time student’s status. That ended Mr K’s effort to get that degree. He could not be a full-time student with his job. While it still irks him that he never had that degree, he says he now has 3 degrees through his kids. (His second daughter became a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University recently). He told his first son, “If my efforts were what spurred my kids to take their education seriously, then I’m fulfilled. I didn’t get that degree but I got that degree.”
Mr K is the writer’s father.
The writer is that first son.
I am @blessedmouth