My Mother’s Memoirs (2): My Life as A School Girl in the Olden Days, By Bunmi Fatoye-Matory
“I was young when I passed Standard VI. That was in 1945. I applied for teaching, and the Manager, Reverend Seat granted my application. These missionaries were very kind to us. When he saw that I was young in age and stature, he posted me to Ikere Baptist School. By that time, it was not easy to get motor to travel from one town to another.”
This is the second and concluding part of my mother’s memoirs of her school days and teaching experiences in the earlier part of the 20th Century in rural Ekiti. Her education, like the education of children in her generation, was managed by the Christian missions, whose goal was to produce young Christians. They were assiduously Christianised. While my own generation’s education still had significant doses of Christianity embedded in its curriculum, it was much less so, partly because the Western Region government had become involved in the schools. However, we still live with the legacy of colonial education.
“I applied to our Manager, an American Missionary named Reverend Seat. The Baptist members built a comfortable house for the missionaries at a place in our town called Oke Esu. The place had a large plot, and it was far from town. The missionaries planted many fruits on the farm. We called the place, “Ile Oyinbo – Oke-Esu”. The missionaries had hunters, cooks, gardeners, cleaners, and young girls, who played with their children with the kinds of games materials provided. The missionaries also trained orphan children for free. The children were from Igede and other villages where their parents were Baptist members during their lifetime. They lived with the missionaries at Igede, and people called them “Omo Oyinbo” because that they were trained by missionaries. Many brilliant children succeeded from them. The first missionary who opened the site was called Rev. Donath, with his family. They planted oranges, mangoes, and many other fruits, and we, young girls, were given work to do after school hours. Our work was to go from compound to compound to collect “Igbe ewure”, goat droppings, for fertiliser, to spread it in the garden where they planted fruits. It was daily work after school.
“The money for spreading Christianity by the missionaries came from America, and not our people. At times, in the evening, the missionary’s wife and children came to the town to visit church members, and many children would follow them, and our parents were happy to see them and welcome them. One missionary wife called Mrs. Hill was a nurse. She would go around in the evening to treat those who were sick, including some with sores on their legs. By that time, there was no health centre or clinic or dispensary to go to. They gave the treatment freely.
“As I said, I was young when I passed Standard VI. That was in 1945. I applied for teaching, and the Manager, Reverend Seat granted my application. These missionaries were very kind to us. When he saw that I was young in age and stature, he posted me to Ikere Baptist School. By that time, it was not easy to get motor to travel from one town to another. I went home with my letter of appointment. I waited for a lorry that would take me to Ado for three days, but there was not a lorry going from Igede to Ado. It was on the third day, I went to the Manager, Reverend Seat, that I couldn’t get a lorry to take me to my station. Immediately he heard this, he brought out his car and took me to Ado, and handed me over to the pastor in charge at the Pastorium to help me search for a lorry going to Ikere. The pastor’s name was Ayodele. He and his family took care of me for three days before the pastor could get a lorry going to Ikere. He went to the garage daily to check. Travelling with lorry in the olden days was not easy. The pastor found a lorry to Ikere and handed me to the driver, and begged him to drop me on the street I was going to, since I had never been to Ikere before. The driver was very kind. He dropped me at Oke-Ikere, the location of my school. I came out of the lorry and went to a shop nearby, where I met a Madam who was a sewing mistress with many ladies as apprentices. I asked her to direct me to Baptist School. I was lucky, because she said the Headmaster of the school was her cousin. She called one of the ladies to lead me to the school. When I got there, I met the Headmaster and other staff members. They were still in the morning session. The master received me warmly, and let me sit until they closed the school for the day. After closing, the Headmaster led me to the pastorium where the pastor in charge of the church was living. He introduced me to him, and lodged me in the mission. The pastor, named Ajetomobi, was an elderly man but he was not married. The mission was near the school. I was happy during the school hours with the pupils, but when the school closed, I was lonely and unhappy. The members of the church liked me. They presented me with different kinds of food stuffs like yams, beans, eko, and so on, but I was not cooking because of loneliness. That pastor was not cheerful, his sisters used to come and help him. He was a native of Ikogosi.
“To come back to my school days, when I was in Standard One in Igede, there were three of us, girls, in the same class. We were all friends. We were very young, so our Headmaster gave us nicknames. One of us was living with the Headmaster and the two of us were living with our parents. My friend, Dorcas Fagbuji was known as Olowo eyo, my friend Clara Alofe was called Little girl 1…”
“One afternoon, the Headmaster called me and asked me why I wasn’t happy. The Headmaster was married and he was a native of Ikere. Then he asked me whether I would like to live with him and his family, and I said yes. He promised to tell the church members the following Sunday. When they held the meeting on Sunday, he told the members and they agreed. By Monday morning, the pupils came to pack my little bag and food stuffs to the Headmaster’s house. His wife was happy with me and she took care of me like a sister. We cooked together. I was now happy as if I was living with my brother and sister. When I got my salary, I would give his wife my food allowance of five shillings (5s) monthly and I would keep a part of my salary with the Headmaster. His name was Mr. Jayeola. I didn’t know where I could keep my money. There was no bank, and I had not even heard of banks by this time. The Headmaster took me to his cousin, the sewing mistress who helped me the very day I got to Ikere. He introduced me to her and said I could go to play in her shop after school. I was happy. As kind as the Madam was, she didn’t let me stay with her doing nothing. She gave me knitting pins and taught me how to knit. Her name was Mama Abike. When we closed the school for Easter holiday, I got my savings from my Headmaster to buy all my needs, shoes, clothes, and some of the materials that the money could cover.
“To come back to my school days, when I was in Standard One in Igede, there were three of us, girls, in the same class. We were all friends. We were very young, so our Headmaster gave us nicknames. One of us was living with the Headmaster and the two of us were living with our parents. My friend, Dorcas Fagbuji was known as Olowo eyo, my friend Clara Alofe was called Little girl 1, and myself Rosaline Akeredolu Alo, was known as Little girl no 2. Our classmates knew us with these nicknames. The name of the Headmaster when we were in Standard One was Mr. Adekola, a native of Ilawe. Whenever he wanted to call any of us, it was that appellation he called: Olowo-eyo for Dorcas, Little girl 1 for Clara, and Little girl 2 for me.
“There was a day he sent one of us to Ado to collect mails. By that time, there was no post office at Igede, our home town. We had to trek to Ado-Ekiti for mails. Ado was ten miles from Igede. One of us was sent for the mails, but the two of us followed the mail bearer to Ado. Being young girls, we started to look around some places at Ado, after we had collected the mails. We were interested in seeing new places, as we had not been to Ado before. We did this for hours, not knowing that the time had gone. When it was evening, the three of us trekked back to Igede, with the letters collected from the post office. Before we arrived at Igede, it was dark; our parents had been worried and had gone to the Headmaster to ask of us. We arrived at night, and the two of us went to our homes, but the particular girl sent for the mail was afraid to go and report to the Headmaster. But her parents took her to the Headmaster to go and report. We thought the headmaster would punish us in school the second day, but he didn’t. The girl living with him called Olowo-eyo went on living with him. That Olowo-eyo was older than the two of us. Her real name was Dorcas Fagbuji. Myself and Dorcas were from Ilogbo Street, and the third girl, Little girl number 1, Clara Alofe, was from Ilamoye Street.
“The mother of my friend Dorcas Fagbuji was a washerwoman. By the weekend, we went to the brook to wash our uniform. When the mother finished ironing the clothes she collected from outside, we then used the irons to iron our uniforms. The pressing iron was the type you put in fire for it to be hot. The two of us read together in the evening with native lamp. There was no lantern by the time. We were doing well in our lessons.
“To come back to my teaching story, as I have written, I was posted to Ikere where I worked for a quarter and then went home to spend Easter holidays. When I got home, my mother’s uncle met with me and said he wanted me to come and teach in Catholic School at Igede, being that my mother’s family were the founders of Catholic Church and school, and I was one of their pupils. My mother’s family is Oloidi family at Oke-loro, Irona. The name of her Uncle is Alexander Dada, an old teacher by that time who was teaching at St. Benedict’s school in Igede. He took me to the Rev. Father and introduced me to the Father, being the Manager of all Catholic Schools in Ekiti by the time. The Rev. Father was very happy to hear that my parents were the founders of the Catholic Church. He was a Roman, a white man. I was baptised when I was a baby, that was where I was named Rosaline, which I never changed when I grew up.
“After some years when government approved grants for schools, there was a school that the government refused to give grant to. The school was under the Christ Apostolic Church, C.A.C, “Apostolic School”. The government said they were not using medicine. By then, I was teaching under them at Ikare-Akoko. Here I knew the wonderful work of God.”
“During the holidays, after I had been introduced to the Rev. Father, he visited me regularly and asked me not to go back to Baptist School, Ikere, promising to post me to St. Benedict School Igede. That was how I resumed at St. Benedict School, Igede and I never went back to Ikere. The Rev. Father was living at Ado-Ekiti. Ado was the headquarter for School Managers. Whenever we were to be paid our salaries, all the village teachers trekked to Ado every month for our salaries. There was no means of transport. It was after I worked for a year under the Catholic that I noticed the scales of salary were not the same, and the registration of teachers too. The schools were under their mission, not under government. This made me go back to Baptist School again, and I was posted back to Ikere. It was there I registered as a teacher. If you taught for two years, you would be registered to “C/D”, and if you taught for another two years, and were lucky, you would be registered to “C” teacher, which means an experienced teacher, with an increment of salary. Different missions had different scales of salary. Some teachers suffered before they could get their salaries because their salaries depended on the contributions of church members on Sundays. It was when I resumed under Baptist that I was registered as a part “C” teacher, with the payment. There was no grant from the government as the schools were under church denominations.
“After some years when government approved grants for schools, there was a school that the government refused to give grant to. The school was under the Christ Apostolic Church, C.A.C, “Apostolic School”. The government said they were not using medicine. By then, I was teaching under them at Ikare-Akoko. Here I knew the wonderful work of God. It was hard to pay our salaries because of the lack of government grant. The school was a big school, but the government refused to approve the school, so the Standard VI pupils couldn’t get their certificates. Here was the miracle. All the church members, students, and teachers decided to pray and fast for a week, sleeping in the church day and night, for prayers so that the school could be approved by the government. When it was the seventh day of prayers, the most Senior Apostle came. His name was “Baba Babalola”. He came from the place where he had been fasting and praying for a month, to end the prayer and fasting in the church. There were different kinds of fruits and juice for appetiser; nobody ate solid food. It was on that day I knew the most Senior Apostle Babalola was the founder of C.A.C. church. He had been performing miracles in his days. After the prayers and fasting, the Manager of the school and the Headmaster got the letter of approval and grant for the school from government. All the grants were paid to the Manager. The teachers were no more suffering for payment of salaries, and our arrears were paid.
Our parents who knew the time when Babalola started his missionary work said he was performing miracles all around the towns. The time he started was 1930 according to history, at “Oke-Ooye” of Ilesa. During the time he started his God’s work, any child born by the time and didn’t know his/her date of birth would refer to the year when Babalola started God’s work. The C.A.C. churches marked the date, October 11, every year with celebrations. Won nse ajodun C.A.C ni 11th October lododun. They dance around the town, from house to house and praying. The full name of the Apostle is Joseph Ayo Babalola and the churches composed a song to him. The song is “Mo fara mo Olorun Babalola. Mo fara mo Olorun Aposteli. Igbala yi wu mi. Mo fara mo Olorun Babalola.” He did a lot of miracles in his days, according to history, because I have not been born during his early missionary work, but I read in history when I grew up. The one he performed in our school by fasting and prayers made me believe that God is a wonderful God that hears our prayers during the time of hardship and overcome our hardship if we believe in “Him”. We should pray, not only during hardship, but we should pray always during joy and be grateful to “Him” in any condition. That is why we say in Yoruba dialect that “Adura ni ebo onigbagbo”. He is a wonderful God, “who can do” and undo. This short history encourages us to believe in God and be nearer to Him. Our teachers taught us Christian songs like “Talo dabi Olorun mi/Ta lo dabi Olorun Joseph/To se ileri/to mu ileri se.”
Bunmi Fatoye-Matory was educated at the Universities of Ife and Ibadan, and Harvard University. She lives with her family in Durham, North Carolina. She is a writer and culture advocate. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org