Wusamat At 80:Reaping exceptional mentorship reward from old students, five decades after
A teacher’s reward is in heaven, the saying goes, but Mrs. Wusamat Adedoyin Adegoke got hers on earth, while believing that the second round of rewards will come when she gets to heaven. Recently, her students of about five decades ago honoured her with the commissioning of a refurbished biology laboratory where she used to teach, with lots of wonderful gifts and the sum of N500, 000 to mark her 80th birthday. There is no doubt that this woman of great virtues, who retired from the Lagos State Public Service after a meritorious career that saw her rise to the top of her profession as Grade A Principal, is having a fulfilled retirement as her students both at home and abroad have continued to shower her with gifts. Her unquestionable experience as an educationist and quintessential schoolteacher endeared her to her students, parents and colleagues. Mrs. Adegoke was respected for her care, motherly affection and mentorship towards her students and colleagues, such that years after leaving the school, these qualities have kept her in good stead with her former students who do not miss an opportunity to celebrate her with the accolades of the woman behind each of their successes. But how was the bond consummated at the Ansar-Ud-Deen (AUD) High School?
She smiles: “I joined the school in September 1966 and retired in 1991.” Aside the two years she taught in the United Kingdom, her entire teaching career and experiences were in AUD High School with another brief transfer to another school as the head, but later brought back to AUD after a year. “My entire teaching career was made in AUD High School, I built it here, most of my work was done here, and it was the best part of my life. I was given the unique opportunity by God not only to teach these children but also to grow up with them starting from subject teacher, to Head of Department, and then the Principal. I grew just as the children were growing. So, I had the honour of seeing through the school’s series of sets, which is why I had the opportunity of knowing practically all of them. It was a great time of my life.”
Adegoke reminisces further: “Back in my days as a teacher, though I am still a teacher because once a teacher is always a teacher, the population of school children wasn’t as high as it is now, so I didn’t have overwhelming challenges. The problem was mostly with the parents, trying to convince them to see their children’s education as their responsibility. At the time, education was free; government was responsible for funding so parents looked the other way on the basis that education was free. In fact, any teacher who insisted parents buy as little as the school uniform for their wards was penalised. There were times I got labeled a rebel for going against government policy which kicks against making students or parents take any form of financial responsibility for their wards no matter the odds, but I went the extra miles to inculcate the act of taking responsibility for certain things on both parents and students.”
There was a time one of her students stole a wall clock, unfortunately for the student, she was coming down from her office and saw the student removing it from the wall but she did not see the person’s face. She reveals, “I ran down in an attempt to double cross him but by the time I got there, he had disappeared. There were students who saw him and knew he was the one but they all refused to identify the culprit even after calling a special assembly to persuade them to fish him out. So, I decided they would all contribute money to replace the wall clock, and at the end the money was so much that we ended up buying wall clock for each classroom. Well, of course the government heard and sent their inspectors to nail me for collecting money from the students, which of course their parents were compelled to give them.
When they came and started questioning me, I told them to go to all the classrooms then come back to tell me what they saw. They returned and were impressed at the sight of each classroom having wall clock. When they asked why I had to do that I said I took the money from them to teach a lesson. Thereafter, my children would never steal again and if they saw anyone stealing they would expose them. With that, I was satisfied. I didn’t care what the government said, whether I was called a rebel or not, so long as I was sure and convinced my actions were right for the good of the students and the school, then I went ahead irrespective the odds.”
As a teacher, she realised that no student is irredeemable as there is always a grassroots’ reason for that defect in character. “I go to their homes, pay unscheduled visits to their homes at midweek, Saturday, Sunday, anytime. Sometimes, I even went to their parents’ workplace or shops just to meet with them, to find out what could have led to the unbecoming character of their wards. From listening to them, we were able to fix the loose nuts. Even the children told me things they would never tell their parents at home,” Adegoke confesses.
What is her impression of the honour bestowed on her by the old students? She laughs. She draws a deep breath and says, “I feel really blessed. People say I look good and younger than 80 and I tell them it is not money that makes me look this good. As a Muslim, I believe that the Almighty Allah is paying me for looking after all those children. My job was to ensure that they all learnt, be well behaved and come out in flying colours at their Secondary Certificate Exams. I just did my job the way I felt was appropriate till I retired.” She believes commissioning the laboratory in her honour, and giving her wonderful gifts and cash of N500, 000 was a pleasant surprise. “It is not only the 1977 set; other sets before and after them have been showering me with so much love, gifts and appreciation both in kind and cash. So, I am very happy and my take home in all they have done for me is: Life is good and you take out what you put in it. So, whatsoever we chose to do in life, we should do well. If there is a second coming in life, when I come again, I will still choose teaching as my career.”
She does not think that the country has invested well in the education sector. “We should all recognise that a good educational system is built by the government, parents and the students themselves. The parents are a very important stakeholder and must be given the chance to participate in the decision making of what happens to their children. Yes, the government has a responsibility to footing a crucial part of the bill but not all, as parents have a responsibility to foot their children’s education bill too as major stakeholder.” She reiterates that government is not doing enough for the sector. According to her, inadequate investment in education has brought about little opportunity for training and retraining which must happen from primary to tertiary level so that teachers meet up to international standard and are up to date in the education sector worldwide.
“Research is non-existing in the tertiary level where there should be constant research. The money for the research engagements should come from government but they are not investing in the sector. Some parents too are not investing enough in their children’s educational development and I cannot really blame them because things are really hard in the country now. In other homes where parents invest financially, they become absent parents who leave early in the morning and come back late night, their children barely see them, they don’t know what they learnt in school or their behavioral development, the children are left with the teachers in the school, the house-help at home and perhaps the private teacher at home, these people decide what happens to their lives and the parents practically have no say in it.”
Commenting on the high rate of out-of-school children in the country, ‘Mama’ as her students used to call her, points out that poverty has aided the social menace. Her words: “Parents of most of the out-of-school children are poor. They do not have enough money to feed themselves, so they don’t think about sending their children to school. Yes, the government schools are supposedly free but the truth is; is education entirely free? This is the truth we have to face squarely. Some families have many children and these children have to hawk goods to contribute to the welfare of the family. There is no social help from government for such family, so, the poverty is intense that the priority becomes tackling hunger and education becomes an inconsequential burden for such family. There should be availability of jobs for these parents, when they can afford to feed their children they will remember education.”
On the measures government should put in place to ensure that only teachers who are passionate about the job teach students, she has this to say: “You should know that no teacher would run an extra mile unless they understand what teaching is about. However, government has already started taking the necessary measures as they have increased teacher’s salary compared to when the salary was very poor. They’ve also upgraded some of the buildings, so, students in public schools do not feel like second-class citizens to students in private schools. They have also put in place teachers registration council so that anyone who is not a trained teacher is not allowed to teach even if you have series of professional degrees. So, the government is at work, but they just need to up their games, find out what is happening in the education sector of developed countries and upgrade, such that it is the best of the best graduates in academics that teach and manage the schools.”
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