Sixty-one-year-old grandma, Mrs. Helen Odeba, tells GBENGA ADENIJI why she decided to attend secondary school at her age
Which state are you from?
I am from Kogi State.
How many children do you have?
I have nine children; four girls and five boys. Some of them have married. I have seven grandchildren.
Did any of your children go to higher institution?
Yes, some of them did. My eldest son and one of my female children studied at the Kaduna Polytechnic. They obtained diplomas there. One of my sons is a corps member. He studied at the Kogi State University. Another female child is currently at the Plateau State Polytechnic.
Have you ever attended any school?
Yes, I finished primary education before I got married. When I got married, I stopped my education but I always wanted to return to school.
What have you been doing since you got married?
I have been a housewife.
Why did you decide to return to secondary school at your age?
I want to learn new things. I miss my years in primary school as a child when I learnt many things. I felt that I could learn more now that I have given birth to children. I am now able to concentrate on the future. This made me enrol at the Government Secondary School, Gonin Gora, Kaduna State. I started from the junior class.
What class are you?
I am in senior secondary two; commercial class.
Did your husband and children support your decision to return to school?
They did when I told them it was what I desired to do.
What does your husband do?
He works as a security man at the Kaduna Polytechnic.
How do you relate with your classmates?
We relate well. We joke, chat and study together. I have a seat mate, Justina, who I disturb a lot to explain topics that I do not understand to me.
Which subjects do you like most?
I like Mathematics and English. I always perform better in the two subjects than I do in others.
How do you feel learning with younger classmates?
I always feel happy. It is fun learning with them. There is no shame since I know why I returned to school.
How do you combine taking care of your home and studying?
I try to plan everything well. I cook and take care of the home on time. I also find time to read what I learn in school daily. There is no day I do not revise what I was taught in school.
What do you intend to do with the secondary school result?
I want to open a shop after I finish with secondary school. I will know how to calculate money, talk to customers and give them their change.
Do you intend to go to university after your secondary education?
I am not sure that I want to do that.
What do your friends tell you?
Many of them do not support me. They keep telling me that I am wasting my time going to school at my age. I do not think I am wasting my time. I think I am doing what is right because no one is too old to learn. I wish they could join me to learn.
How do your classmates address you?
Everyone in the school calls me, ‘mama’ including my teacher. I only smile because I know it is a way of showing me respect. I respect all of them too.
What are some of the challenges you are facing as an adult pupil?
I take care of the home apart from going to school. Most times, I find it hard to cope. Also, I attend school regularly but sometimes, I may not have transport fare to go to school. There are also times that I do not understand some of the things that a teacher is teaching. I always try to meet my mates to teach me or meet the teacher to explain. The teachers are nice. They give me attention whenever I ask questions.
What is your name?
I am Saifullahi Adamu Bawa.
What do you do?
I am a mathematics teacher. I teach at the Government Secondary School, Gonin Gora, Kaduna State. I teach all the pupils in the senior class mathematics.
In your class, you have a 61-year-old pupil, how did she become one of your pupils?
She was in the school before I came. I was employed last year. She started JSS1 in the school. I am the class teacher for her class; SS2 (Commercial).
Did you ask the school authorities any questions when you saw a mature pupil like her in the class you were meant to be its class teacher?
No. I was just amazed. I really liked it. Most times, I tell other subject teachers to give her full attention whenever they are in her class.
What can you say about her?
What I can say about her is that she is coping very well despite her age. She always disturbs her seat mate to learn new things or for her to explain anything she does not understand to her. She wants to know it all. She never comes late to school. She is very respectful. In fact, she calls me ‘sir ‘ or sometimes ‘uncle.’
What do you find most interesting about her as a pupil despite her age?
It is her zeal and passion to learn. She is very committed to learning. She is really inquisitive.
What experience did you have with her while teaching her class that remains memorable?
She is always attentive. She has never for once offended me or anyone in the school to the best of my knowledge. The passion to learn is there. Teaching a class with a grandma, I have also learnt to maintain my dignity. There were times she would ask questions out of context. In those moments, I would say, ‘mama, please meet me in the staff room.’ But she would plead and tell me not to be offended.
Is she popular in the school?
Everyone in the school knows her.
What is her performance like in class assignments and tests?
It is below average but better than how I met her.
For how many months have you been teaching her?
I have taught her class for three terms; a session.
How has her presence motivated other younger pupils to learn?
It has made most of her classmates and schoolmates not to score low marks. There is a competition to do better because it is a motivation seeing a grandmother performing better than young pupils. Besides, most of her classmates get jealous when she scores a mark higher than theirs. Hence, no one wants to be below her in the class.
Did she tell you why she wants to complete secondary education?
Yes, she told me that she would open a shop after the completion of her secondary education. She wants to know how to communicate with her customers, be courteous to them and how to calculate money well.
Do you think she is doing enough academically to achieve the goals?
Yes, like I said earlier, she is trying hard. But I think she needs to work harder. I tried to convince her to proceed beyond secondary education but she refused. She said she would stop after the completion of secondary education.
What do you think are some of her challenges?
I think part of it is lack of motivation from those close to her. We try our best in the school to motivate and encourage her.
Has any of her children ever visited her in school?
I have never seen any of them since I joined the school.
How do her classmates relate with her?
They relate with her as a grandmother, mother and classmate. They play and joke about many things together.
How does she react when she gets a low mark?
She feels bad.