Back home in Nigeria, I used to wake up as early as 5am, say the morning prayer with my family and head out to deliver crates of bottled soda (Coca-Cola and Limca products) to customers before heading to school. My mum was the owner of the business and I and my siblings had to help deliver the products to customers in other to make gain. This became my daily routine.
School started by 8:30am, but sometimes, before I finish my morning routine and get to school, it was already 8:45 or 9am. This happened at least three times out of the five school days a week. In my secondary school (Christ the King College Onitsha) late coming is against the school rule and attracts punishment.
My principal, Mr. Olisa, had a way of getting late comers. At the assembly ground, each class prefect would write down the names of students that attended the morning assembly. And if your name was not on the list, like mine sometimes, sorry for you. Mr. Olisa would lie in wait for late comers and lash them with a cain that we call KOBOKO. Getting the lashes made me think: ‘should I skip my morning routine that helps bring money into the family in other to avoid the punishment of coming late?’ Nevertheless, I stayed strong, took compulsory nine classes, hid from Mr Olisa when I could, and submitted to the punishment when he caught me.
As a secondary school science student, I memorized the first twenty elements on the periodic table in Chemistry; I mastered how to draw and label a tilapia fish in Biology; I mastered how to derive all three equations of motion in Physics and learned the Pythagoras theorem in Mathematics. My final secondary school exam, West African Secondary School Exam, (WASSE) lasted for two weeks and was comprised of nine subjects.
Now I am abroad, away from home, and the experience is different. Not all professors question you when you are late to class. SAT or ACT is just a day exam and is comprised of three or four subject. Computers, library, books, and teaching assistance are readily available in schools to anyone who needs them unlike my school. Even now in college, some professors give “open book” exams which would be considered a no no in my country.
Education became easy in America and I had no trouble keeping up. One of my biggest advantages compared with some students from some African countries was that I already know how to speak English, because English is an official language in Nigeria and you must get a pass mark in it before you can be accepted in any University.
My morning routine made me strong and hardworking. Now, I work and go to school, feed myself, and pay rent and other bills, all on my own. The lashes from Mr. Olisa taught me that lateness in anything is a disease that can ruin success. My exposure to an intense learning system has helped me to cope with and excel in my college education in America which is very demanding.
Truly, education at Home, although different from education abroad, was my bedrock for success.