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Chisom Winnifred: The Day I Visited the Garri Factory



I never liked teachers who gave assignments on a daily basis when I was in secondary school. I saw it as punishment. We’d spend almost nine hours in school just to get home and still be saddled with homework.

Fast forward to a few years later, it turned out I was my own worst enemy. In my place of primary assignment for my service year as a teacher, I give assignments daily. I found it to be a very helpful teaching tactic. Days when I didn’t give assignments, and I asked the next day, “Who can tell me what we discussed yesterday?” I’d get perfect silences for answers, everyone trying their best to avoid meeting my eyes. But, when I gave an assignment, no matter how little, it helped retain something in their minds, mostly because they had to read the note to get the assignment done.

I also didn’t like my students copying assignments. While I saw it as an offence that may have been pardoned with a clause, not doing your assignment at all was a cardinal sin with no redemption. If I could, I’d most likely have thrown the offender in a den of lions.

On this beautiful Monday morning, I was collecting assignment notes seat by seat, as usual, and when I came to a particular girl’s desk, our conversation went something like this:

“Where is your assignment?”

“I didn’t do it.”


“I didn’t have time”

Wait, what? I was flabbergasted. What could a fourteen-year-old be possibly doing all weekend that she didn’t have time to answer five questions on her English note? I concluded she was just lazy and I didn’t hesitate to give her the punishment for cardinal offenders.

That weekend, my friend told me she heard there was a local garri processing factory close to us. She wanted to buy and we could also look around, too. I tagged along. It was quite a sight. The different stages of processing, from peeling, cutting, grinding, drying and frying down to the final process. We took pictures, even. On getting to the point of sale, I saw a girl that looked familiar bent over the huge frying pan, turning garri over a large fire. She looked up, smiled shyly and greeted me. It was my student, the one who received the cardinal punishment for neglecting her home work. I was surprised to see her. She shyly told her mother (who we came to buy garri from) that I was her “aunty” in school. The mother greeted us warmly, offering us seats.

My friend was the major benefactor of the goodwill of the mother, who filled her bag with garri much more than the value of her money. Out of curiosity, I asked the woman if they would be working the next day, which was Sunday, and she said yes; because of demand, they worked seven days a week. After we left, I felt bad. My student hadn’t lied after all when she said she didn’t have time to do her homework. I imagined she went to help her mother every day after school, too.

This led to some thinking on my part. I hadn’t bothered to find out the reason why she couldn’t do her assignment, I just judged and penalized her without a second thought. I realized this was one of the many scenarios that occurred on a daily basis. We usually don’t pause to find out why people do the things they do, we just go ahead to judge. I remember being in a heated argument with an older friend about the comment that Nigerian youths are lazy. He kept trying to tell me that our generation was filled with lazy people who have an ugly sense of entitlement to the government to take care of everything for them. I remember asking him has anyone bothered to ask “why” we are lazy? Or a whole generation woke up, had a midnight meeting, and made a pact to be lazy?

The reason our parents gave us lectures on the importance of school was to get a good job. Our curriculum was packed with courses that taught us how to be employees not employers. Nothing is wrong with this except that the sectors we’re studying for are over saturated. We’re equipped with knowledge we can’t apply, and we find ourselves stranded.

We weren’t taught financial literacy and the art of savings and investment, so it’s no surprise we don’t even know how to source for funds or flesh out a business plan, I heard about the new twist the “yahoo” business has taken. Boys who think they’re men making quick wealth via women’s underwear. A very bizarre thing. But then, as I’ve realized, there’s a why for everything. Fear is a dangerous thing, and the fear of remaining poor for the rest of one’s life can trigger a lot of actions. They can’t see or fathom another way of making money or being financially free, neither do they have the resilience to make money the right way.

I’ve come to realize, there’s always a why for everything. If I had asked my student that day, “Why didn’t you have time for your homework?” I may have come to a clearer understanding on the inner workings of her life. Before jumping into conclusions in your dealings with people, it would do you good to ask why. It may not explain everything, but it’s provide a clearer template for a more informed conclusion.


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  1. dee

    February 20, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Very well said!

  2. Ada

    February 20, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    We have to be understanding. Looking at it from another perspective, our line of thoughts matter. Since she is just 14, I will address this to parents: mum or dad in cases where the child has just 1 parent. Taking a few minutes to answer 5 questions is not too much to ask for but we live in a society where making money is no more tied to good education. My family friend narrated his experiences during NYSC. Most of the parents of the children he taught had businesses so his students did not see any point going through rigorous education when they can sell motorcycles like their parents and count huge sums of money. For me, if you have global and not just local expectations for your child, education is key. Steve Harvey said his daughters asked him why they needed to go to college since their father is a star without college and he asked them if they had special talents. We see successful people going back to school ‘ eko agba’ All I am saying is this: some people sponsored themselves through school. Sometimes it is not the 14year old who does not want to do school work, it’s mother and father who says. ‘What’s the point sebi Dangote, Obasanjo, Buhari etc no go school. Let us sell beans or garri quickly o so we can have money. Better to be rich than educated, society treats you better if you are rich even your school fees will be paid from sales, oya forget homework’
    Please note: I am not saying this applies to this specific case but many parents these days don’t believe in education. They put their children through school so friends don’t look down on them not because they believe so much in education. Many Nigerians put children through school for societal pressure reasons.

    • didi

      February 20, 2019 at 5:51 pm

      Education just exposes and rebrands you but its not capable of making one rich or sucessful.

    • Tolu

      February 20, 2019 at 10:33 pm

      It is still better to get education even if it is just first degree, you never know when it will be required of you. Education worked for an Obama, even Donald Trump wouldn’t have smelt that seat with no education. The guy went to UPENN, an Ivy league so my dear maybe Niger sha but in other countries forgerrit.

    • Uche

      February 20, 2019 at 10:42 pm

      What about the future. Me I cannot marry a man we no go school o. Too much wahala even if he is rich. We will must likely not flow. Think about the future when making decisions o.

  3. Leo

    February 20, 2019 at 4:28 pm


  4. larz

    February 21, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    If you ask the question. You will get more information. More information might mean you have to take action. Afterall, you cant unhear what you have already heard.

    So people assume because it makes life a lot easier and justifies their actions/ inaction


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