Let’s leave politics aside today. While politics is too serious to be left to professional politicians alone, this column is dedicated to teachers, yes teachers. Sunday, October 5, was the World Teachers’ Day and I wonder how many of us ever bothered about those wonderful teachers who shaped our lives and moulded us to be what we are today. True, not all teachers are divine as some are worse than Lucifer and his angels, making students’ lives miserable and schools unbearable.
By the way, my parents were teachers too but this is not about them. It is up to their former students to do but they were damn good teachers, yes even if I am the one saying so. They both loved and still love their students to a fault and were committed to the profession they believe is the best even with the paltry pay they received while teaching.
It is, however, fitting to add that it was my mother who laid the foundation of English language in my life and still corrects my writings till date. When letter writing was in vogue, my mother would not only reply to my letter, she would equally send back the original letter marked with corrections! Thank God, she does not read my emails today.
But there were other teachers who stood like Olumo Rock in my life that even if I forget others, they would not be forgotten easily and to them this column is dedicated. I remember Mrs. Dare who was my class teacher in primary three at St. Peters Anglican School Ede, who loved me passionately. Even though my mother was a teacher in the same school, she became a foster mother to me and insisted on me staying back to finish my assignment while others left for their homes. Looking back now, I think my life took a better shape after the 1978/79 session under her. The other teacher is Mr. Z.O. Olatubosun who taught me in primary six. Even though he took that expression ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ too seriously, he really poured out his heart teaching us. Interestingly I only saw him in 2013 since 1982 when we left primary school.
My favourite teacher in secondary school remains Mrs. C.O. Laniya who made me realise that maybe I have a career in journalism. She was my English teacher in form three and propelled me to punch above my weight in the class. This woman was the first teacher to visit me at home insisting on meeting my parents and asking them to deepen my interest in reading and writing. She became my mother’s friend because of me and was always asking me to write essays upon essays aside from the regular school assignments. She used to take me and few others to sit with form five students then for extra lessons after the school hours just to brush up our language skills. I still remember her words vividly, “Wale, don’t waste a word!”
Another teacher whose input into my life remains memorable is Mr. J.O. Fawole who taught me mathematics in form five. It was almost past redemption time for me in the subject, as successive teachers seemed to excel in caning than teaching. But this elderly man demystified the subject that at that late hour, I fell in love with mathematics. “Anytime you’re confused, just check the left and right sides of the equation and if they are not balanced, go back,” was his usual admonition. I barely scraped by but I must thank him for his ‘extra time’ winner in my school certificate examinations.
Only one teacher was remarkable when were in higher school at Baptist High School, Iwo and that was Mrs. Idowu who taught us Biology. Last August was the first time of seeing her after we finished in 1988 and she had retired, looking fit and cheerful as ever. She pulled me aside and asked after my classmates wondering how many of us are in the life sciences today.
At the University of Ibadan, Professor Mark Nwagwu ensured that molecular biology was not just DNA and double helix alone. He encouraged us to read wide and not just our course of study alone. Nwagwu would quote Shakespeare copiously while a Soyinka play or memoir was not taboo in his classes. The late Professor Frank Ukoli showed that parasitology could be fun while political activism should be an integral part of our lives. Time will not permit me to write about Ari Goldman, Mike Hoyt, and Robin Reisig, three wonderful teachers I met at graduate school.
We all owe our teachers a huge debt of gratitude for ensuring that we become the good professionals we are today. If they are still alive, reach out to them and say thank you in any way you can. In so doing, we will encourage those who are toiling presently as teachers in different classrooms.