So I met a girl…

I was recently the host on a TV competition show for people aged 8 – 13 and there, I met Zara.

I remember the first time I saw her. She is pretty with her Fulani long limbs, nose and beautiful eyes, but it wasn’t any of that; what struck me was the defiance, almost anger, that I sensed in this 13-year old. She always wore sneakers and leggings/jeans with her hijab; while discussing with her peers, she would sit thug-mode – you know, that pose where you hunch over with your elbows perched on your knees, legs spread firmly and widely apart – and gesticulate like a rapper. Occasionally she’d laugh, displaying white happy teeth, and only in these rare moments did the child in her shine through. Almost as soon as such a moment happened however, Zara would tighten her lips, brush a thumb over her nose and resume thugging.

One time I was feeling lucky, I told her to smile, because didn’t she see the cameras were on her? Brothers and sisters in solidarity, without so much as a glance my way or even the twitch of a muscle, Zara replied, “I don’t like smiling”. End of matter. Ozugo. As my friend Nike would say, Opari! lol.

Zara is smart; she would answer her questions correctly while playing with the edges of her hijab in a manner that drawled, are we done here? And when she ran into a tight spot, when she didn’t know the right answer, she would give up instantly. Hands still stuck in hijab, she would shift her weight from one spindly leg to the other, and amidst a train of hisses (yes, into the microphone!), she’d set her face in a scowl so visibly irritated that you’d be forced to sniff your armpits – like, is it me? Am I stinking? Then she’d throw an answer at you – because she expects it’s the wrong answer and wants to be left the hell alone – but she’d get it right and qualify for the next round. And then would she permit herself a tiny smile.

This happened over and over, and it irked me quite a bit. I wanted to conk her head and say, in my father’s voice, “Mai fren, dunn be sillay!” At the same time, I wanted to hug her tight and say, “Princess, can’t you see how great you are?!”

I saw through Zara. I saw this smart girl who could win, who wanted to win, but who was so afraid to try because if she didn’t win eventually, it’d hurt too much to hear someone gloat over it. So it was safer to feign disinterest and only try halfheartedly – get the logic? Me neither. 🙂

I didn’t get the logic, but I knew that the weight on this child’s shoulders shouldn’t be borne by even a full-grown adult. I knew that her former attitude (because that’s in the past now, Zara, isn’t it?) would only lead to a dark place in life, a dank bottomless pit in which regardless of how much money, accolades or relationships she garnered, joy would perpetually evade her. I knew that it wouldn’t matter the sad story she came from, life, self-acclaimed Themis that she is, would deal with her justly. And because I knew all these, I knew that I had to teach her a lesson, she and the rest of the children.

So, I got to work. Every time I saw her at camp, I talked to her, validated her; every time I saw a hijab bowed over, I told her to chin up then I smiled at her; every time she stumbled during the competition, I re-validated her. You’ve come this far, Zara, why give up now? Give it your best shot, so that win or lose, you won already. If you give up now, don’t even bother waiting for the results because yours got called already – fail. Be strong, you can do this, you’re beautiful, you’re good, you’re smart…DJ Khaled would’ve been proud of me.

In the end, Zara came in second place nationwide. She won some money, a medal and a trophy for her school. She says she also won a mentor and “an uncle who got my back” (I denied the mentor part, I’m not that old biko). Most importantly though, she won herself confidence and a lifelong supply of precious tenacity.

Now here’s the juice. Zara told me that but for her mother, she wouldn’t even be in school. Having married at 13 herself with zero education, her mother was determined that her daughter would live different. But it was just her; Father Zara and everyone else in Zara’s family and immediate community thought it was a waste of time having my young friend in school. Her mother constantly fought, negotiated, schemed and scraped, to keep her child in school. And so, coming for the competition, Zara wanted to show everybody that she was worth it. She wanted to prove to her father and her people that girls should be allowed to go to school.

“Well, look at you now,” I told her as we sat gisting afterwards, “you did all of that. Killed it!”

She beamed. I asked if she had plans to attend the university and her nods reassured me. She said she would become a medical doctor, an actor and a TV host, and then she would build a big school in her community where girls can go for free.

“I wish my mother was here,” Zara sighed, “I told her not to come because I was afraid I’d fail her.”

“It’s okay, now you know better. You’ll never again let fear rob you of a potentially priceless moment, like this one.” I consoled her. “As for your mother, look in the mirror…she is here.”

I meant it.

When the winners lined up for pictures, Zara held her trophy up the highest, her smile the brightest…so bright I couldn’t help mine.

It was the proudest in your face moment I have ever seen.

 

P.S: Zara is a fictitious name used here to protect my friend. Haba, if iss you nko, will you use her real name?

Chisom

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THE LECTERN: MAY I HAVE SEX WITH YOU?

In this month’s edition of ‘The Lectern’, Tobe Osigwe writes about sex, sex education and where we have got it all wrong…as of yet. 

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That we might read…

Plato the classical Greek philosopher believed that dramatists should be banished from the society. His reason was that dramatists are imitators of reality; therefore they are liars, thus, removed from the reality which they try to imitate. I think of a truth that dramatists are imitators of reality but I doubt if they are removed from it. If there is any group of people in our contemporary society that are removed from reality I think its most clergies and fanatical Christians. These people are miles away from reality. Not because they don’t preach the truth but because they have mastered the skillful art of pretending away some truths.

However, if you think that our ever pontificating pastors are only those guilty of this habit of shying away from some truths, then you are sitting on a long thing. Topping the pretenders list are parents. Now, look at how our parents and pastors engage in this vocation of pretense. They will tell you things like, my dear fornication is a sin, don’t allow any man touch you, don’t have sex with any fellow that is not your spouse, keep yourself pure. While all these lines are true, the lie in it is, mere stating of it does not have power to stop one from abiding by it if the teller of the truth does not show how to uphold it. Rather, the teller of the truth has successfully aroused your desire and interest in testing the veracity of the truth.

I for one strongly believe that any problem you do not have a solution to you have no authority to shout from the tree top about the reality and existence of the problem. How can a parent tell the child or ward not to have sex while there is a sharp contrast if the child turns on the radio, TV, magazine, music, film? And, to crown it all, the parent is not curbing or monitoring the intake of such alternative agents of information. As if that is not enough, the child is shipped into a university, office, any other environment where the child is left in close proximity with the opposite sex and the hormones are all screaming and seething to be gratified thus placing the poor fellow in a hamlet situation of ‘to be or not to be’.

For those at loss with the point I am driving at, it’s simple: it’s not enough to say, don’t indulge in pre-marital sex; we have to go further by showing a practical and realistic way for one not to shine congo. In these days of intellectual enlightenment that people find it difficult to swallow axioms hook, line and sinker, one should not assert that something is bad and snooze off. Rather, there is a need to realistically explain why it’s bad and how to escape it for one’s warning to be effective and result-oriented. Failure to do this you have not solved any problem but you have succeeded in making noise and worse still, alienating yourself from such youth who will see you as an anti in the quest of having fun.

Sex is one issue parents don’t like to teach their children and when they do they simply gloss over with the hollow caveat ‘it’s bad’. Something so important and difficult to rise above its sweet temptation is funnily summarized in one straight jacket threat-loaded phrase: it’s bad. It’s bad and so what? Lie is bad and people still lie every day, so is stealing, cheating, fighting and other vices. Methinks it’s pertinent we admit that the reality of one not indulging in pre-marital sex in the way our society is presently structured is as difficult as a Fulani herdsman passing JAMB in one sitting. Let’s face and accept this reality then find out how to overcome it.

If the present foregoing is true, then it’s totally ridiculous for parents to expect their children to turn out good without showing or beefing them up with the required skill set and properly monitoring them. In the light of present societal realities parents need to take charge in overcoming of some moral codes. You can’t just sit down and expect people to remain chaste when there are overpowering modern day realities circumventing their power to remain clean.

Now let’s look at the following modern day realities; a full grown man of about 30 years is living in his own apartment, he pays his own bills and for reason best known to him he has been in an intimate relationship with a lady for two good years without hope of marriage and you tell them pre-marital sex is a sin.

Also, an unemployed youth who is sitting around at home is visited daily by a fellow unemployed youth and they gist away their unemployed time. I leave you to do the math of the end result of their unemployed gist. What of a lady who is in the university, her parents are no longer privy of her whereabouts, she feels she has fallen in love after some guy whispered some sweet nonsense into her ears and you think she will not…? *coughs*. Or a cute guy joins his church choir and at each rehearsal he sits closely with one beautiful church girl and they become brother and sister in the lord. And as we are all aware, hormones do not repent. Do you think they will not…? *coughs again*.

Let’s face it. So many things inevitably bring the opposite sex together these days. So many factors make people keep late night these days, so many styles of socially acceptable dressing, songs, films and activities, religious ones inclusive, make one think of sex every minute of the day nowadays. Also, it’s no longer a secret that parents no longer have a firm grip on their children or know their itinerary – no thanks to civilization. Trying to deny these facts is akin to denying that there is a mystery being who has a mind of its own in between your thighs. And, believing that people can behave modestly despite all these facts by mere warning that sex is bad is like keeping a yam with a goat and expecting the goat to be reasonable.

Trying to shy away from reality with some biblical truths minus sincere practical step is the staple product of most post-modernist day Nigerian parents or should I say Christians- I believe that’s why over -zealous church goers remain the easiest set of people to sleep with once the perfect opportunity shows up. Little wonder most randy pastors and some smart folks are having a field day sampling the Lord’s vineyard.

Parents should understand that helping their children to plan their future will help greatly in curbing pre-marital sex. If one knows that at the age of 24 or thereabout, he is sure to be financially and emotionally responsible, and therefore ready for marriage, I believe the issue of premarital sex will be history. After all, nobody enjoys doing bad, but one resorts to it when one runs out of alternative good deeds or when one is visionless, deluded and ignorant.

To this end, with my short experience, I think the only way one can shy away from pre-marital sex is to flee from it via avoiding intimate relationship, sexually suggestive films, songs, raunchy friends, profaned environment and less of social media. But the fact remains, the longer you run and flee, like every other race, the weaker you become. Yes, each time you add a year, your defenses against withstanding the enticing darts of sexual intimacy and gratification reduce unless you have tasted it and have grown weary of crossing the Rubicon. Or you have resorted to some other secret but perverse way of gratifying this legitimate desire. Or perhaps, the Creator has given you a special grace to withstand sexual urges. But such people are few and rare.

May GOD open our eyes of understanding.

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BY: Tobe Osigwe ()

If you have a piece you would like to post at ‘The Lectern’, send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you want to ‘be read’ but are yet undecided about a subject matter, send me an email too and we can work up something appropriate for you.

“I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter”

My Beef with Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola

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The 57-year old former commissioner of Lagos state is the present governor of the state of Osun. Getting there was no ride in the park for him; he fought a dogged battle for his mandate following the results of the April 2007 elections, a battle which lasted nearly four years as he was not sworn in as governor until October, 2010.

I remember following the legal battles as a much younger man and rooting for him partly because I admired his tenacity, but also because I believed that only a man who was convincingly justified could hang on to a fight for that long. So when the October judgment came in his favor, I sent Governor Aregbesola a pat on the back via DHL – I am still waiting for him to acknowledge receipt.

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When I was posted to Osun state a few years later for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, it felt to me like somebody in the highest was rewarding my support for the engineer governor’s cause. But one year later as I packed my bags to leave, I was neither an admirer nor a fan of Ogbeni Aregbesola.

My beef with Engineer Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, Executive Governor of Osun state (State of the Living Spring) is a very rare beef. It is red, juicy and meaty, laden with strips and strips of milky, stringy akwara-ndu.

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The beef is justifiable because a lot of it is based on my personal experiences during the year I lived as a khaki-wearing tenant in one of the more rustic communities of the state. Because one can only masticate so much beef in one mouthful, this beef is restricted to the governor’s mishandling of education in Osun.

My primary assignment in Osun was to teach students of a secondary school and like many of my fellow corps members, I approached the job with enthusiasm and a burning zeal to impact positively in the lives of the young ones. But that zeal was soon ruptured because I quickly saw that the system was not designed for much positivity. The educational system I met in Osun state was held high up as a brilliant executive make-over; it was heralded both within and especially outside the state as a revelation – the resurrection of a hitherto dead system. But in heart-wrenching reality, it was still a corpse, only better suited.

The following lines will explain why:

  1. Communication:

In my first class teaching Physics to the SS3 class, something very akin to the following scenario ensued.

“Did you learn about motion in your SS1 and 2 classes?” I asked.

The class nodded as one.

“And the laws of motion?” Nod again.

“Good. How about force and friction, temperature and pressure? You know them?” Nod. Nod.

I was on a roll, flowing and very happy they were following.

Then I called up a girl in the front row. “Ope, please stand up and tell us what pressure is”.

Opeyemi stood – she was a thickset light-skinned girl whose round face made me think of a happy doll with her low-cut hair and marked ample cheeks. She said nothing, just stood with her fingers splayed out, palm down on the desk before her and eyes set on me.

I thought she was shy so I tried to reassure her. “Don’t worry,” I said, “You don’t have to quote your book, just explain it to me in your own words”

Ope stared on at me for a few moments more. Then she said, “Oga, só Yoruba

“What?” I asked, lost.

“Só Yoruba” she repeated, “Só Yoruba dí è dí è”

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Beautiful people of heaven and earth, she requested that I speak Yoruba to her, or in the least interject sprinklings of the vernacular in my lessons. The reason was that she could not understand the words I was saying in English. Neither could the rest of her SS3 classmates, who were all registered for and few months away from writing the West African School Certificate Examination at the time.

It was not just SS3 students though, and not just the students in my school. In Osun state, I met students who could not write if you dictated notes to them, and when you wrote the lecture notes out on the board, they drew it into their books because they could not read.

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I kid you not.

Maybe this deficiency exists in more Nigerian states than Osun. Maybe, but for Osun state whose government swears that education is a priority…tsk tsk tsk.

 

  1. ‘Free’ education:

Knowing his beginnings and the path that led him to the pinnacle of power in Osun state, Ogbeni Aregbesola should know that nothing that turns out good in life is ever given free of charge. Not good wealth, not good friends, not good health…and definitely not good education.

Perhaps the biggest irony of the government’s policy of ‘free’ education is that when critically analyzed, the system is not even free. A much-touted dividend of the ‘free’ education policy is the common uniform for all students of government-owned schools.

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About the ‘free’ school uniforms, parents in Osun state had the following to say: “the uniform wears out too quickly and cannot be purchased elsewhere than from the State approved company. We were made to wrongly believe that the uniform would be free as part of the Free Education policy when the first batch was distributed for free. However, purchasing another one afterwards costs about N2,000” (www.9ralife.com)

While we’re on the matter of parents, another sad result of the ‘free’ education system in Osun state is a complete and conscious self-dissociation from the education of their children by parents, especially the unenlightened. In many schools, the PTA was more or less nonexistent and where it did exist, it had no purse to fund events like student socio-cultural and end-of-term gatherings because the government decreed that parents not be levied. On market days, the classrooms dried up because parents sent their children to the market with wares for sale. And on other school days, one too many parents took their children to the farms.

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No chance, no time, school can wait.

In order to avoid such indolence by parents towards the education of their wards, and in fact, for the sake of reason considering the population of children involved, subsidized education is clearly a wiser path to tow than ‘free’ education. But His Excellency’s government will not hear of it.

 

  1. Opon Imo:

According to Aregbesola, Opon Imo is ‘a virtual classroom containing 63 e-books covering 17 academic subjects for examinations, an average of 16 chapters per subject and 823 chapters in all, with about 900 minutes or 15 hours of audio voiceovers…more than 40,000 JAMB and WAEC practice questions and answers…mock tests in more than 51 subject areas, which approximates to 1,22o chapters, with roughly 29,000 questions referencing about 825 images’.

I wish I could confirm or challenge any of these claims but I cannot because in all the months I spent teaching in Osun state, I never saw an Opon Imo tablet. Neither did my students, nor for that matter, any students in my local government of primary assignment. My enquiries revealed that it was a similar case in many other local governments across the state.

I do not know which students received the 50,000 units of Opon Imo tablets that the governor supposedly ‘distributed across the state’…

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Oh, there they are.

Still, I wish more of them ended up in the hands of the younger students, more than two-thirds of whom are yet to own one. And if they eventually do get the Opon Imo, I would like to ask Governor Aregbesola questions like: ‘Are the learning materials in English or Yoruba?’, ‘Who will teach the children to use the Opon Imo? No, not all the propaganda about support centres and ambassadors…really, who will teach them?’, ‘And you say it will phase out textbooks? How? More importantly, why?’

 

  1. Re-classification of schools:

Another key point of Ogbeni Aregbesola’s education policy is re-classification of schools into elementary school (5 years), middle school (4 years) and high school (3 years), as against the national education policy of 6-3-3. In addition, the re-classification had attendant mega schools which accommodated many small schools bringing children from different religious backgrounds under the same roof to learn.

The administration claimed that this new system would give the pupils more time at the middle school so as to be “better prepared for maturity into high school”.

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From my vantage point at the grassroots, all I saw the re-classification doing was tearing apart whatever hope was left for the struggling Osun child. These children were being taught WAEC syllabus in local parlance, had very minuscule grasp of English language as a result and even less significant academic and social abilities. It was therefore very tactless, in my opinion, to force upon them the rigors of such a transformation.

Seeing as a good number of students still struggled to grasp the technicality of writing their own names, it was disorienting to learn that their class was no more JSS 2 for example, but Grade 7. Many of them quit school when their classes were moved far away from them, to one of the mega schools. And consequently religious havoc erupted in the state as Muslim schools protested against having to conform to Christian students in their midst, and vice versa.

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The re-classification activity was not just unnecessary but potentially damaging to the struggle of education in the state of Osun. It was a badly conceived move by the governor’s administration and even worse, poorly executed which explains why in many rural communities, the change was just too burdensome that it was made only on paper.

I do not think that Engineer Rauf Aregbesola is a bad man with intentions to ruin Osun state. I think he is an intelligent man – his media and publicity contraptions are so robust that to observers from outside the walls of the state, he can do no wrong; I think he is a shrewd politician who in spite of all, manages to keep both the grassroots and elite smiling for the camera; and I think he is a man whose good intentions for his people are constantly at war with – and losing to – his personal and party political ambitions.

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Come Saturday, August 9, 2014, the people of Osun state will march to the polls to cast their votes for the person who will sit in the executive seat of the state for the next four years. My beef with the man currently in that seat does not project any ill will towards him. It merely calls attention to the potentially fatal tilt of the education system which I witnessed under his leadership.

Hopefully, Engineer Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola or his successor will pay attention; because otherwise, I fear for the future of the children in the state of the living spring.

I rest my beef.

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Locate me @ojukwu_martin on twitter