One thing most people don’t know about me is that for the latter half of my teen years I wasn’t in school. It was a period of about four years between high school (secondary school) and college (university) where I was absolutely unoccupied. What happened?
I left school before I was sixteen (fairly common these days). In school I was brilliant, going for quizzes and having the best WAEC result in my set. I also prepared for JAMB and passed. Every time I see 237 something clicks in my head till today.
I wasn’t planning to go to a Nigerian university. I imagined there would be some scholarship to study abroad I could get because of my excellent WAEC result but I planned to attend a Nigerian school until that worked out. So when I wrote university entrance exams, I wasn’t so serious about them until the results came out. Filling my application forms was based on the nearest school to home and any engineering course except mechanical or electrical engineering. I felt those two branches were too mainstream.
My JAMB score was enough to beat the cutoff for Petroleum engineering. The problem was, I had applied for chemical engineering (somehow I didn’t see the code for Petroleum UNIBEN when I filled the forms) and for that you needed a score above 250 to be on the merit list. All those not on the merit list had to be recommended for admission by a senior lecturer or professor or high ranking staff. I should point out that for almost every school I attended in my life, someone had to pull strings behind the scenes despite my being qualified. Story for another day.
Anyways I was recommended by a professor and given assurances that my admission was secure seeing he was the immediate past head of the admissions board and had considerable influence. I waited with fingers crossed and dreamed of the day I would resume. I waited till the fourth list came out and still my name did not appear. Admissions prof said he didn’t know what happened.
Meanwhile all my former secondary school mates found a way to escape to school. Some got admitted into school while the rest enrolled in pre-degree and diploma programmes. I was left in town more or less with no friends my age. I think the part that hurt the most was I had higher scores than most of those who got admission (some in two departments simultaneously). Still, I consoled myself with plans to go abroad to school.
The next year I didn’t bother buying the JAMB form. I was really hopeful of the abroad schooling thing but we really didn’t make any concrete plans because we lacked the money for such a project. My parents were retired and full time ministers. My rich uncle whom we had hoped would help passed away and so this brought the abroad school thing to a halt. Two years had passed.
In the third year, my brother and I prepared for JAMB a second time (first time for him). He was like the best study partner (broke my WAEC record in our secondary school, record still standing 13 years after) and we prepared with past questions with a jihadist vengeance. The exam was a breeze but the results were withheld. Not outright seized but withheld pending investigation. Did we do so well our performance was suspected? We’ll never know. The results were never released.
At this point my Christian trial was on. I was bitter, depressed, and quiet. I never lashed out at anyone. I went about my household duties, happy to be occupied with them. I had my customers in the market and watched some of their kids grow up. I became the fastest person in the house at washing the plates, picking beans and washing beans for akara or moi-moi (beans cakes). I still haven’t met anyone with superior household chore skills.
I didn’t lash out but I was angry inside. I was frustrated with the Nigerian educational system and UNIBEN in general (I couldn’t get in! Sorry, Chris Brown) and didn’t know how to explain my situation to friends and teachers who asked. There was no cable TV, no gsm, no internet. There were no friends to visit and I didn’t even have novels to read. All I had was my bible and the radio.
So, read my bible I did. I’m blessed with a memory for expressions and ideas so I came to know the Bible from cover to cover. It’s still very difficult to mention an expression in the Bible that I haven’t heard before or don’t know where to find. At the same time, I stumbled on a series of sermons on the biblical book of Hebrews by Arthur Pink. This book was bigger than my Bible and was such an in-depth study I don’t even remember all the things I read in there.
The Book of Hebrews was written to a group of Jewish Christians facing persecution from Judaists. The encouragement they were given applied to me but not directly. I was not being persecuted for my faith and here I was, feeling depressed and finished just because I couldn’t further my education. I think that was the turning point of my life. My trials fitted in a big picture. I was not the only one suffering. And my pains were by no means the hardest.
It was like a load was lifted off my shoulders. My life started on a fresh page. I finally became humble and ready to start from scratch again. I didn’t even care whether I went to school anymore. My life was suddenly bigger than all my school struggles.
I finally got to go to school but that’s a story for another day. I’m so grateful for those days at home. I think they shaped my character more than any other period in my conscious life. I am grateful for them.
Word out to @Sirkastiq for giving me the idea for today’s post. See y’all tomorrow.
For Wisdom is better than all the trappings of wealth;
nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.
(Prov. 8 vs 11, The Message)