Justina Abdul Lateef: Importance of alumni associations
Justina Abdul Lateef is the president of Airforce Secondary School, Makurdi Alumni Association and works in the telecommunications sector. She shares her passion and journey into ensuring that the alumni thrive.
Having left secondary school in 1988 and lost touch with mates, this pushed Justina to seek the whereabouts of her mates. With the help of a few of her colleagues, they were able to set up alumni. This, she says, is a dream come true.
For her, “This is something that we look forward to for so many years. I have colleagues that are scattered around the world and for a long time I used to wonder where everyone was because I seem to be seeing no one. Thank God for social media, we created a WhatsApp group, found a way to regroup and we told ourselves we want to have a reunion in a year and it became a reality.
“In the beginning, it was interesting and because we hadn’t seen ourselves in so many years, of course, you would expect the natural friction and as time went on we understood that a lot of us have picked up different characters along the way. We found a way to meet each other half way and today we are very happy to see ourselves.”
While reminiscing her stay at her alma mater, Justina described her principal, Mr Abimbola Adesina, as the best in the world said, “when I called him a few weeks ago, I told him my name and he immediately said, ‘yes, I know you, you were in the second set’. He has such a photographic memory and was a disciplinarian. Every day he came to the assembly we learnt something new; he is an amazing person.
Airforce Makurdi was like a family, I learnt team spirit, discipline and the essence of keeping fit and I took it with me. We also had this ‘negative corporation’, when someone does something and the teacher tries to find out the culprit, we all rather face the punishment than give out that individual and I think it has helped me today where I work. And so I hear people say if you can’t work with Justina, then you can’t work with anyone else.”
Speaking on their involvement with their alma Mata, she said, “We intend to be involved with the activities of the school; The schools that have made name today didn’t just cross their legs to get it done, we have to work hard to achieve it, sponsor, and encourage them. We will be there for their graduation ceremonies when the school needs assistance, we will help, and we will tell them on improving trend and ways of impacting knowledge in modern ways if they don’t have them. We will give scholarships to deserving students and encourage others to work hard at it. Airforce produce very good students in my time and we want to further encourage it,” she said.
While commenting on the standard of education in the country and comparing it with what was obtainable in the past, Justina said, “Generally I wouldn’t say that the standard of education has increased because with the trend in the country, there is an outflux of people studying outside the country that means there is something wrong within. At the time when we studied, few people went abroad, it only happened only if your parents have something to do outside the country and you had to go with them, we didn’t have people deciding that their kids will go to secondary school while they are here in Nigeria.
“The government needs to get it right by motivating people who do the work, if you don’t motivate teachers and scholars, we will lose these hands to other countries who appreciate the effort of teachers and education. It should be taken seriously and encouraged.”
On her advice to young people, she said, “The only way up is down and you must work hard at it, there are certain things that come in stages. Hard work is the keyword, you must set a goal for yourself and work towards it. There is no shortcut to life.”