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Moses Obroku: Meeting Mr. Jones

Moses Obroku

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Mr. Dogboro Simon Jones was my Literature in English teacher in Senior Secondary 1 (SS1), when I was a student of Alakoto High School Tolu, Olodi Apapa, in 1992. I think he was carefully positioned to make a fundamental intervention that changed the course of my life forever. I was never a dull student during my secondary school days. But I wasn’t in the top five percent of my class either (well, until my turning point at least). You see, mathematics which was my shibboleth always ensured that. However, I was strong enough not to be ignored by all my teachers, except Mathematics teachers of course. And trust me, the feeling was mutual!
So when I started Senior Secondary School, I naturally followed my friends to the sciences hoping to become an Engineer when school was done. Big mistake! My Math never improved, Chemistry and Physics came with formulas to compound the issue and I became lost at academic sea. After first term, I knew Sciences wasn’t going to work for me, so I had a meeting with my mother (hoping she would understand my plight and present it to my father) with a proposal to the effect that I needed to change my school, so I could return to Art class where I knew I would excel. My proposal was bluntly flung out by all at home. I guess when you occupied the seventh position in a family of ten children, your opinions mattered less. So, with a rebellious heart, I stopped going to School knowing full well that I would never pass Chemistry and Physics.

By that act of rebellion, I was hoping my folks would be frightened that I was going to drop out of school and yield to my request. Apparently, I misjudged them. So for over a term, I didn’t go to school, wasn’t relating with anyone at home and generally hoped that the situation would resolve itself. Their position was that I should go back, repeat that class and change to Arts. After all the psychological torture, inevitable depression and series of counselling from friends and everyone outside the family that cared, I called a truce and returned to confront the shame of repeating that class! My mother had to go with me to meet with the Principal, to discuss my long absence from school. In the end, I was made to write the promotion examination in science class as a mere formality. Of course it was a fiasco. It was my worst performance ever in all my academic endeavours to date.
When I agreed to return to school, it was only to get peace from those who wanted to save me from myself. I didn’t understand all the fuss they were making about dropping out of school; and decided I would manage to graduate from high school so that they can all leave me alone. The mindset concerning students who repeated a class was that they were not smart. Else, why didn’t they get promoted with their colleagues? It was very humiliating I assure you. I became that boy who sat at the back of the new class, and just read my books, not talking to anyone until much later.
Not surprisingly, I felt very comfortable with the Art subjects. Then we had a test in Literature in English, and it changed my life forever.

It was a drama genre based test on ‘Sizwe Banzi is dead’. By the time the result came out, I had obtained the highest score. Not only that, the teacher-Mr. Jones had written a note on my paper requesting to see me. However, I was indifferent to both the scores and Mr. Jones’ note. After some days, he asked some of my classmates to bring me to him. His first statement was ‘you did very well in my test, why haven’t I noticed you before now?’ I explained how I came to be repeating the class, and Mr. Jones proposed that I took the General Certificate of Education (GCE) examination in SS2 before I got to final year. I shook my head at him, hoping he too would just leave me alone so I can go through my remaining time in school in peace. Matter of fact, I didn’t think about what direction my life would take after high school. But he didn’t. He assured me that he was confident I would pass Literature in English, English Language and any other three subjects to give me the basic requirements for leaving high school. Anyway, he wrote to my father asking for his permission to allow him (Mr. Jones) enroll me for the exam, volunteering to pay for it.

My father had his doubts. First, I was repeating a class, next, no one had written that exam before graduating from high school in my home. He conceded however, and paid for the forms. Mr. Jones gave me some more cash to get some books and other incidentals. Not long afterwards, he left my school to pursue a course in the seminary to become a pastor. It looked like his mission was done in my school. He had met with me to restore my confidence in my academic abilities, assisting me to discover my path. Finally, I understood the reason why I was in school, and where I needed to be headed afterward.

The next session, I was made the class captain, and I also became a prefect in the school. I remember the principal during the interview to be made a prefect told me he had never appointed someone who repeated a class as prefect before; but that the recommendations in my favor were strong. It looked like I had become unstoppable academically, and there was no looking back. On the day we were to commence WAEC exams, since the result of the GCE exams that Mr. Jones had initiated was out, I made a quick stop to check my grades. Mr. Jones was right. I had passed five papers- two distinctions and three credits. Literature in English that started it all was a Distinction!

I wrote and told him the result which of course made him very happy. But I was just warming up. I cleaned out my papers in WAEC exams, wrote JAMB exams, promptly got admission to study law in the university and was preoccupied with school for the next seven years. In 2014, I got admission with Scholarship from the Dutch Government into United Nations University in the Netherlands. During that course, we had a field trip to International Labour Organization (ILO) Headquarters in Geneva. As I sat at the conference room with some eminent personalities, I remembered the boy whose future was uncertain in Alakoto High School in 1992, that was repeating a class, before Mr. Jones sent for me and made that life changing intervention.

After losing contact with Mr. Jones for over 16 years, by sheer providence I came across someone who knows him and we re-connected. When I saw him in 2013, he was looking well. He has greyed slightly but the years have been graceful to him. He is now pastor of a church in Delta State, and I am sure has a bigger platform to disburse the largeness of his heart.

People usually wait for those who have impacted them to pass on before they are celebrated. Mr. Jones is my living hero. Anyone who remembers Tolu school’s complex, comprising 16 secondary schools notorious for hooliganism and gang wars; where axes and butcher knives were freely used by male students on each other, will realize how slim my chances of amounting to much was. Through his care and commitment to his job, there was one more boy off the streets of the ghetto that was my origin. For your intervention, you are appreciated…my teacher!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Sam74100

Aside from being a lawyer, migration management expert, security personnel and fitness buff; there are many other sides to me. I am also a self -proclaimed foodie (and oh yes, to complement that, I can cook!). Of course, writing is my passion and I have a mission to inspire my world, one person at a time. I can be reached on [email protected] Instagram: @mosesobroku

39 Comments

  1. Koko

    March 16, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Awww! Our teachers are not celebrated enough, paid enough for the impact they make in our lives. So sad that teachers are paid so little for all the Work they do and most of them genuinely love their job.

    Wordsbykoko.blogspot.com

  2. Calabar Gal

    March 16, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    This is a lovely tribute to Mr Jones.

  3. nimiben

    March 16, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    What an inspiring piece. God has programmed certain pple to help us fufil our God ordained destiny in life. Thank God you met yours early in life to help direct you into success. Its very thoughtful of you to celebrate Mr. Jones while he’s still alive. May God continue to bless this man ijn. Amen

  4. oyinlola Sobowale

    March 16, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    If these acts of kindness were to be a part of us then we will be lovers and keepers of our brothers. I keep telling people that you don’t need a million dollars to impact lived. All fine if you have the money to spare but if you don’t, be a blessing still. Words go a long way to change things. A simple smile. Every human responds to love and genuine concern. Several years later, that young man still vividly remembers a teacher’s influence in shaping his life. God bless Mr Jones immensely…I pray this counts for him as righteousness in the sight of God.

    Welldone Moses…quite inspiring piece.

  5. Yombo

    March 16, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    Very lovely and inspiring

  6. Jay

    March 16, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    Thank you Angel Jones.
    Note to self: you never know when an act of kindness can save a whole generation.

  7. Focus

    March 16, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    If only all teachers understood their purpose as Mr Jones did.. To change the course of one person’s life is sufficient as a life mission. Mr Jones is indeed a rare breed.

  8. Graciemama

    March 16, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    Awesome read….If only our teachers could be better motivated and appreciated.
    “People usually wait for those who have impacted them to pass on before they are celebrated”…..#Word

  9. TeeTee

    March 16, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Inspiring! Bravo, Mr. Jones. Bravo, Moses.

  10. Israel Obroku

    March 16, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    I remember! From your choice of the sciences, to the challenges you faced, I remember! How in the brink of giving up, God sent Mr Jones to instill hope and a rare chance for you to better yourself! I remember how you embraced life again, and made something of yourself out of nothing! I am proud of you bro! I smiled, for your article brought a flood of great memories! Less I forget, this article is centred on a selfless and great soul, a living legend – Mr. Jones! I celebrate you sir.

  11. EllesarisEllendil

    March 16, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    Nigeria has great teachers, if the system is ever fixed, World watch out!

  12. Dammy Ogundana

    March 16, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    Very inspiring Barrister Obroku, Kudos to Mr Jones!

  13. Tosin

    March 16, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    I know of Tolu.
    Well done. And God bless Nigeria.

  14. eclectic

    March 16, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    This piece moved me to tears….encourage people when u can, be KIND to one another.

  15. Sandra igene

    March 16, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing your great experience my Friend . almost didn’t open this link I am happy I did . similar to mine how my mum wanted me to study “medicine”story for another day! .Mr Jones is a true Mentor , We don’t need millions to make an impact ,Words of encouragement, little push and right cancelling go a long way. Recognizing a platform to achieve ours dreams in life there are things that has to come into play. Your success today has to do with determination. hardworking and focus. All thanks to Mr jones for his support from the foundation.

  16. Oluwatosin lois Opeyemi

    March 17, 2015 at 5:09 am

    A little smile,a little touch,a little word of encouragement,a little commitment…so amazing how these little acts affects our world. Mr. Jones,i salute your foresight $ determination.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      March 17, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      Very true.

      God bless Mr. Jones and he should be an inspiration to all of us who can motivate the people around us who may be struggling in areas that we can offer help of any measure. Thanks for your article, Moses, it was very heart-warming.

  17. Blackbeauty

    March 17, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Thank you for celebrating your teacher. Just the other day, I was discussing with a friend about the importance of appreciating and expressing love when a person is alive, instead of waiting till it’s too late and all you can do is write a beautiful eulogy which the person cant hear,others can only ‘aww’ over and you…..well, you will be left wishing you had done or said something while you had the chance.
    Didn’t mean to sound morbid

  18. henry

    March 17, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Nice one to Mr Jones

  19. Alem

    March 17, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Wow, lovely write up. Some teachers really inspire their students to rise above limitations. Reminds me of when my mum comes to visit me in Lagos (she is a lecturer in a northern university) we always encounter at least 1 or 2 of her ex-students when out in town who always thank her for how she counselled them in school then.

  20. Sola

    March 17, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    I hardly ever make comments here, but I had to today. This brought tears to my eyes. Good one. An encouragement for us all to reach out to people in what ever capacities we find ourselves.

  21. sgirl

    March 17, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    good story. There are some good teachers with a large heart.

  22. Does anybody know him?

    March 17, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Thank you for this! Only last week as with almost every other time, I mentioned to a friend how i was looking for my teacher. He impacted my life in more ways than one. Made be the confident woman i have grown into. His name is Yerima Abdulkadir Yakubu. He was my Economics teacher in Doma Comprehensive Secondary, Woji, Port Harcourt. Tall, almost 6’5, Dark, good looking and very charismatic! What a disciplinarian. Biko, if you know him, tell him I am looking for him o. To thank him for his role in my life. He never discriminated on gender or religion. He took the call of being a teacher seriously. I appreciate him.

  23. Jacob Ideji

    March 17, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I’m proud to call you my uncle, it’s in the moment of decision destiny is made, and you made a good one with the help of Mr. Jones. Your personal approach to life is commendable. You dared to break with tradition in AJ or tolu High school and remain true to your own inner vision. Unlike many students before you or during your time at tolu, you refused to limit yourself to your environment, Moses Obroku refused to be limited at all. In all, we say thank you Mr. Jones.

  24. Barbie

    March 17, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Whao! very inspiring article… We all have this one person who has motivated us in one way or the other, We should learn to celebrate them when they are alive rather than waiting to send tribute or buy aso-ebi when they die…

  25. D

    March 17, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    We all need a Mr. Jones. Mine was my math teacher although I sucked at Math until my SS1 and i was in the sciences too but i also suck at English, literature, history and all that stuff. I love reading but hate giving a written summary of what I read. All them punctuation and grammar…. not my cup of tea. Then came my “Mr. Jones” hee decided to give all the science majors a project. (who does project in SS1???) He had to pick from a list of topics he gave us and write a report on it, with abstract and everything like those things you defend in college. I was one of the students to grumble and tell him it was too much for students of our age but he told me “I believe in you, you can do it” Mine was quadratic equations but you had to write on the history and everything. At the end of that project lets just say all of us became pros at Maths and thank God for him because I don’t know what I would have majored in otherwise.

  26. Lady S

    March 17, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    Great teachers are gems! I celebrate Mr. CY and Mrs. Udoji of St. Judes, Festac. They truly made a difference.
    I hope that the government would invest more in education and teacher training. Teachers play a pivotal role in shaping children’s lives.

  27. bamaiyi

    March 18, 2015 at 10:56 am

    yes! Moses you have said it all, everyone of us has a hero in our teachers.

  28. Catie

    March 18, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Thank God for Mr Jones. Thank God for remembering and appreciating. Thank God for something good is still coming out of “Tolu”. I mostly thank God for what He has turned you to be today. God bless the Mr. Joneses of this world. God bless you and yours…

  29. Tomi Lawal

    March 18, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Awwww, so sweet. God bless Mr. Jones. Very inspiring!

  30. jackie

    March 18, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    If we have come this far, its becos we have stood on the shoulders of giants at a point in time. God Bless all the Mr Jones out there. We also must pay it forward. Be someone’s Mr or Mrs Jones.

  31. Ibhade Ahabue

    March 18, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Truly inspiring…..

  32. Glory

    March 20, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Determination can bring you to anything.. from the very start you never allowed your lows to out shine your highs.. Here you are today celebrating a man who contributed so much in bringing your dreams and aspirations to pass with that single gesture of sowing which many don’t believe in.. I believe we can all learn from this to always invest in people and try to show kindness wherever we find ourselves.. In all of this I ‘ll say we should always believe in ourselves……….. Well done M.O

  33. Ada

    March 21, 2015 at 7:17 am

    I like your choice of an image for mr Jones… Lips sealed. That aside, I believe that you can never fulfilled life until someone can look back and say at some point in their lives, you replaced a tear with a smile, despair with hope and uncertainty with hope. In the end, it’s about the lives we touch, that’s the only legacy we can live behind.
    You can also make mr Jones proud by allowing me send you 1 or 2 CVs…that would change someone’s life (winks)

    • Ada

      March 21, 2015 at 7:18 am

      I meant to write, you can never live a fulfilled life…

  34. Dan-okwena

    March 23, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    I see parallels between this story line and my personal experience, and that gives me a lot to cheer. Quite an interesting and inspiring tribute to a living hero. Bravo cousin of life. I’m proud of you!

  35. sharon

    April 6, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Nice!

  36. rasaki oriyomi Lasisi

    July 9, 2015 at 1:28 am

    ,I specially say thank you to Mr yakubu(my mathematics teacher in Apapa high school in 1988),the occasion was when I went to answer natures call in the middle of writing
    History,on my coming back from the restroom,Waec examiners besieged me in a bid to search me wether I will come into the exam hall with incriminating materials,odu,as it was called then,Mr yakubu ran to the scene from nowhere and told the examiners not to search me,in his words,“he is different and knows what he is doing(Godwin opara A.k.A skill, now late and myself are the males that wrote history,unfortunately,he died before the release of the results in which he made a distinction in History,I made a credit pass,eight other girls also wrote history and none failed,History was a dreaded subject then and till date.Whenever I remember that incident,I always pray that whatever Mr Yakubu believes in(he told us he does not believe in the existence of God) will honour him,Sir,wherever you are,I am grateful.(Deacon Rasaki oriyomi Lasisi).

  37. CHIDEX

    October 5, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    All that is needed is just the right word at the right time. How soothing and pleasant a word of encouragement, a word of counsel, a word of direction, a word of love can be! Above all, appreciate people when they are alive and can hear it, not when they’re gone, as my hubby keeps ringing out. Thank God for all the ‘Mr Jones’ in our lives. Happy birthday, Moses! What a piece, a midst all the others! Ride on, my unstoppable genius!

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