SECOND CHANCE, 54 YEAR-OLD WOMAN, OBA'S WIFE, OTHERS BAG JS3 CERTIFICATES
Life seemed cruel to Priscilla Obiefuna in her early years when her beloved father died. Her mother sagged while toiling to provide for the family. Priscilla, who was only nine years old, had to pay the price as she took to menial jobs to support her family. Although the passion to go to school burned like an unquenchable fire in her young heart, she hardly completed her elementary school. She took up the job of an auxiliary nurse in a community clinic and went home monthly with a miserable wage.
She later got married Mr. Michael Obiefuna, a retired Assistant Accountant, with the Federal Ministry of Finance and was blessed with two children. One of her sons, aged 16, is currently in SS1.
For women of little faith, the task of fending for the family is enough to wean their minds from school. But, not Mrs. Obiefuna, who sat in her kitchen everyday singing the anthem of hope.
An opportunity shone like a distant star when a former First Lady of Lagos State, mrs Oluremi Tinubu, introduced the Alternative High School for Girls, Agboju in 2007. The school, also called a place of second chance, gave female adults and nursing mothers an opportunity to further their education. Mrs Obiefuna danced with youthful excitement as she enrolled for secondary education.
On her first day in school, she said she was so anxious the previous night that joy stole sleep from her eyes. And with her husband's support, she began the long walk to greatness.
Today, Mrs Obiefuna has joined the league of educated women, having completed her junior secondary education. In an interview with Daily Sun, the 54-year -old woman, who was radiant with joy, vowed never to rest her oars until she bags a degree in Nursing. The cheerful woman, who is also a step- mother of three graduates, said the encouragement of her husband and children had been her driving force.
Aside Mrs Obiefuna, 23 other students, including the wife of Oba N.A.K Akinyemi, the Alabirun of Ikaare Kingdom, Olori Modupe Akinyemi, were among those that completed the Junior Secondary in the school. It was a day of a thousand laughs for the students and their families as the school held her maiden valedictory ceremony last week.
The courage of the students was further strengthened by the amazing story of success by one of the invited guests, Dr. Caleb Olagunju, a minister with the Methodist Senior High School, Badagry. He narrated his meteoric rise from a village bricklayer to a PhD holder, noting that his desire to understand English language kindled in his heart the desire to be educated. He said he later rose through the ranks and now holds about 34 different certificates obtained from different institutions.
Speaking at the event, a lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU), Dr. Grace Oshun, decried the pathy towards girl-child education in the country. She said an estimated 16 million girls nationwide have no access to formal education.
The lecturer said the population of female students in various schools is often depleted by withdrawals and drop-outs.
'Retention in school is the real problem. A lot of girls who started school dropped out. Teachers have a role to play. Studies have shown that teachers are partly responsible for girls' dropping out of school. Teachers talk down on these girls, and treat them as though the boys were superior. If these girls are properly mentored by female teachers, they will likely continue their education and do well in school', she said.
Also speaking, the Consultant, Fonas-Berny Learning Clinic and Education Services, Mrs Beatrice Irune, noted that two thirds of women in the society are illiterates.
Mrs Irune, who is also a lawyer and Guest Speaker, said she suffered a similar fate when she got married at 19. She later returned to school after her fifth child.
On the inequality suffered by female children, she said: ' Gender inequality in education is extreme; girls are less likely to access school, to remain in school or to achieve in education. Despite almost 30 years of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAN), and 20 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), today, girls make up about 56 per cent of the 77 million children that are not in school. Women make up two-thirds of the illiterate adults'.
The Principal, Mrs Akanni Subuola Iyabode told Daily Sun that the school, since its inception in 2007, has continued to groom women in academics and vocational skills.
She said remedial classes are also available for new students that might find it difficult to enter into the JS1 class. Even those that stopped their education half-way, due to reasons of pregnancy, marriage or other distractions are afforded the opportunity to continue.
'The students do not pay anything. The school is part of the Lagos State education system and the students enjoy free textbooks also. Both the academic activities and vocation training are provided free to the students', she said.
Mrs Akanni commended the Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) for continuing the positive legacy of the Tinubu administration, especially in giving everyone an equal opportunity for education.
The Principal explained that learning is made easy for the nursing mothers, as the school has a crÃ¨che and care-givers that attend diligently to their babies.
She said the school has brought hope to those that dropped out of school by bringing education that would suit their needs to their doorstep.
While counting the gains of the programme, Olori Akinyemi, the highly-elated queen said: 'Today is my happiest day. I will still go further to SS1 when the new session resumes in September. I wouldn't have achieved anything without the support of my husband. Today, I can go to the bank comfortably and do my transaction. Initially I do send my Personal Assistant to the bank. But I can handle that myself now. I am so happy', she said.
According to her, she was unable to attend secondary school because her father didn't consider it necessary to train a female child.
Hear her: 'My father believed that training a female child was a waste of money. After I finished my primary school, I was asked to go and learn vocational skill. I learnt hair dressing and later I got married. But all these while, I was having the passion of going to school and my husband continued to encourage me.'
Olori Akinyemi also advised other women to take advantage of the programme, knowing that no time is late for a person that has a dream in life.
'There is hope. It is never late. Here is the opportunity to make a difference in one's life. It is a matter of decision and determination', she advised.