My time at the Ruby Springfield College comes to an end in a few short minutes. I vividly remember soberly strolling in in August, having absolutely no idea what to expect of the kids. I didn’t even know if I was going to be accepted by the management; I was just too intent on making some form of impact in my service year to want to idle away at the Ministry of (no) works.
Now, the better part of eight months is behind me – and I still can’t think of better use for the time than being with these kids. Just yesterday, mid-way through my trip to the Governor-Elect’s office, thoughts of my unattended class ran across my mind. Heaven knows I’d rather be with tomorrow’s governors than today’s. And, judging by the girl who just walked tear-in-eye out of my office without saying a word, I’d say the feeling is perfectly mutual. It was for such a feeling I took on extra teaching jobs in my spare time.
It beats me how they even warmed up this much to me; I set out neither to be ‘liked’ or hated – only to be missed. I knew I had a mission to carry out. Somebody had to be better for all my emphasis on the power of self-belief and hard work. Maybe I just underestimated the depth of such talk.
The clock won’t stop singing it’s ‘tic-toc’ anthem; very soon, it’ll be “BBBBB’ (that’s Batch-B Bye-Bye Borno). Therefore, I think it’s only fitting that I put up the last article I sent in for editing towards our passing-out publication.
“For we like bricks exist; first as trivial nothing, then as promising lumps; then, by proper guidance, as glorious structures that cannot be overlooked” – Imisi
I had always hoped to spend my service-year teaching in some remote village. That was, judging by the impressions the movies painted of teachers being next to gods in those places. As the time to receive my posting letter drew close, I, however, changed my mind – thanks to all the tales of excruciation that flew around camp In fact, so great was my fear that vehement prayers preceded the collection of the said letter. Words cannot aptly describe how delighted I was to find my worst fears didn’t see the light of day!
Still, every time I spoke with friends whom fate had taken a little further from town, their tones always struck a chord within me. They never seemed to run out of superlatives in the narration of their experiences. I would have thought they’d envy me for being in the centre of town; how wrong I was! If there was any envying to be done, the job was really and truly mine. Was everything alright with them? I knew for certain that the out-of-town settlements didn’t have many companies to boast of. So, after all the lofty pictures we painted together in camp, how could my friends be so happy teaching – and for a miserable fee too? What did I know! You see, they had, one by one, found the joy of impartation – and from that point on, it had stopped being about the money!
Their attitude plunged me into thought and one day, I said to myself “let’s see what teaching even feels like; maybe life shouldn’t be all about the money”. I decided to pick up a teaching job in my spare time and help ease a kid along the path of enlightenment. Some time passed after that decision and I was soon in the thick of things; rushing home from work for brief respite before hurrying back out to teach the lad.
One day, without notable antecedent, he opened his tiny mouth and the words that came out left me stunned. He looked up mid-way through a task I had assigned him and said “Uncle, when I grow up, I want to build a primary school, a secondary school and a university. Uncle, what do you want to build”? I was dazed beyond words, as though a lightning bolt just traced a maze through my frame. I tried my best to look composed, but even a blind man would have seen how jolted I was. What on earth was the kid thinking? “By the way, is that the work I gave you? Can’t you see I’ve already grown up?”. A thousand and one possible answers ran through my mind; most being techniques to avoid giving him a proper answer. I had, however, banished my demons of cowardice a long time ago. So, what did I do? I opened my big mouth and dazed him right back! I looked him straight in the eyes and said “when I grow up, I want to build people”.
I could immediately see that those words were a little too heavy for his young mind. So I went further to explain. I said “in life, we all build. Some of us build houses, some bridges, others roads but these structures soon wear out. I don’t want to build something that will fade. I want, rather, to build people that can go on to achieve whatever they desire – and, maybe someday, look back with gratitude. I want to teach people that nothing is impossible; that dreams do come true”.
He looked at me in utter amazement and with child-like comportment said “so, I can become a doctor “? This time, my reply was short: “if you believe and work hard”, I said. He nodded gleefully and continued with his work. His mother would later report a total turn-around in his approach to school-work. His end-of-term grades provided further evidence of a tear-drawing transformation.
Looking back now, I find that to be the single most inspiring and fulfilling experience of my entire service year. You might wonder what any of this has to do with you, but like I told the young boy, “we all build”! The question is: what do you build? Do you, by charisma, build lasting friendships or, by arrogance, enmity? Do you, by giving hope, help others build their dreams? Or do you, by careless words, scatter what they’ve gathered? Everyone must build something. Look back and see what structures adorn the paths you’ve walked. We all build but I’d rather build people! What will you build?
Editor, EnP CDS”