My Natural Endowment Made Peers Envious – Wilcox

| September 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

Anastasia Chienye Wilcox nee Opara retired as principal at Odolowu Primary School Ijesha Tedo, Surulere Lagos on January 1st, 1992. The Octogenarian speaks about her childhood, profession and ways in which government can improve the living condition of the aged with JULIET KUYET BULUS.

When and where were you born?

I hail from Umueze, Uzoagba, Ikeduru, Mbaitoli, Local Government Area, Owerri, Imo State, and

I was born on 29th July 1939 in Umuahia, Abia State.

How are you able to tell the exact time of your birth?

It was recorded by my Father in his diary, my Baptismal Card and in the Baptismal record book of Catholic Mission Church, Umuahia, Abia State.

Which schools and or institutions did you attend?

I started from Holy Rosary Catholic Primary School, Port Harcourt, after my Father’s death in 1948 I moved to St. Joseph’s Catholic Primary school, Uzuagba, Ikeduru, Mbaitoli Local Government Area, Owerri, Imo State from October 1948 to December 1948. I later went back to Holy Rosary Catholic Primary school, Owerri, Imo State from January 1949 to December 1950 and proceeded to Holy Rosary Catholic Primary school, Emekuku, Owerri, Imo State from January 1951 to December 1952. I went further to St. Joseph’s Teacher’s Training College Aba, from January 1953 to December 1956. And lastly, University of Lagos where I read Associateship Diploma in Education measuring in Science and Mathematics 1975/1976 session. And several other intensive Courses related to my discipline and administration attended all in Lagos.

How would you describe your childhood?

Growing up was fun and interesting. I was the fourth Child in a family of eight Children and was very much loved by the entire family and people around because of my disposition and charisma. I never lacked anything. My widowed Mother ensured we never lacked. Traders would come to give me their money to be the first person to patronize them before other customers because they believed I usually attract a lot of customers for them whenever I buy from them first, for this reason we never lacked anything because they normally bought all kinds of things for me as a gift. I was missed by all when I was going to college, especially petty traders because my touching their wears usually made them sell it off quickly. Due to my background and natural endowments my peers were envious of me, because of this, I didn’t mingle with the girls but with the boys and for that, those boys who were not close to me always  wanted to kiss me, to avoid this, I resulted in wearing red lipstick while I was under 20 years to scare them away and it did the magic. Since then till date wearing red lipstick became my lifestyle. It got to a stage where everybody wanted to marry me but because I was just a person who couldn’t marry more than one husband, most of the men married Teachers because of me and they never regretted it. After my marriage, the P.T.A of the School I was in then, went to  the manager to ask that I shouldn’t leave the School because the School was dead before I joined them and when I came on board I revived and made it vibrant and all the Pupils that left came back. Anywhere I taught, they never let me go but I had to move with my husband.

At what age did you start working?

I started the teaching job in January 1957, when I was 18 years of age.

What places have you worked and experiences garnered over the years?

My teaching experience was an interesting one. The early stage of my teaching career began at Regina Caeli Teachers College, Ogbor Nguru, Mbaise, Imo State. I went further to work at Holy Rosary Catholic Primary school Umuawada, Ezinifite, Mbaise, Imo State, Santa Maria Primary School (private) Aba where I became Head teacher and later St. Patrick’s Catholic Primary School, Yaba, Lagos, Tinubu Primary School, Lagos Island and became head teacher at Faz-li-Omar Primary School Oesuna, Lagos Island, New Era 2 Secondary School, Surulere, Lagos and moved to Erinoso Primary School Ijesha Tedo, Surulere, Lagos as head teacher and Odo Olowu Primary School, Ijesha Tedo, Surulere, Lagos where I attained the position of principal. I was recognised as the best Teacher in Owerri Province, Imo State and that was a day of joy because it proved that my impact in teaching was been felt.

Why did you choose the teaching profession?

I chose the profession I practiced because I wanted to impact knowledge on as many Children as possible and as God would have it, I was able to do so. I’m happy to be opportune to impact the lives of the younger generation in my own little way.

Was it a deliberate or accidental decision?

It was deliberate, and if I am given the opportunity to start life all over again, I will still like to be a teacher. I love being with children and seeing them develop in the right way and I am contented with that alone, and this for me Is my little contribution in training the younger generation. It is not an accidental decision that I became a teacher, I made the decision knowing fully what I was getting into. Because of the fulfilment I had in going this direction, I feel heart broken whenever parents decide what profession is right for their children, during my days there were parents who preferred the girl child getting married immediately after secondary school because they felt, eventually the girl child will get married and leave the home but they preferred investing more on the male child in the area of education. Instead of getting married at an early age abandoning school, I would have wanted girls to go to school and choose their own Career or suitor themselves. Sometimes, I think I shouldn’t have married early because it deprived me of my childhood.

Where were you during the country’s independence in 1960, and what did that day mean to you?

On 1st October 1960, I was in my house in Aba and that faithful day, at the time meant nothing to me though it was a day of liberation from colonial masters, and we finally had a say in the affairs of the country. I also did have hope for a better Nigeria and sadly these hopes were dashed. It is unfortunate for me to say that even after almost 59 years of independence, the country was more organised under the colonial rule because everything moved as it should.

What activities did you engage in at your younger age?

My hobbies were sewing, Playing Netball, Reading, Dancing and presently I would say, Praying, watching EWTN Catholic Channel, CNN, Nollywood Movies on ROK channel on DSTV.

What was your favourite food then and now?

I loved beans Porridge growing up but as I began to age, I suddenly liked swallow, especially eba eaten preferably with vegetable soup.

Favourite tunes or music and dance steps?

Manu Alnu Nwanneya and Sa Mbola Mamam by the Peacocks were my favourite tunes, dance step is Waltz. Other artists are Nat King Cole, Joe Naz and Rex Jim Lawson.

How would you compare your time with what obtains today?

During my time, everything was organised. People were afraid to break the law. There was fear of God, people had to think twice before engaging in anything that could put a dent on their reputation and that of their family. Money had value, people were sincere and obedient but now the reverse is the case, people worship money, they can do anything for the sake of money. Might is right is the order of the day. When I was young, we would do as we were being told without complaints and we would gladly do it. But today, the world is quite different, and this is because civilisation has crept into our country. Youths have become lazy and grumble at errands when we would jump at such an opportunity to serve our parents whenever the need arises. Many are unemployed today, while some who are opportune to be employed do not value it. Hard work pays and it did for me even though I might not be rich, I have gotten more rewards from God. Morality has gone extinct. Whenever this generation is advised they end up saying their time is different from mine, but to me since we are still on earth, nothing has changed when it comes to decency and morality. Jobs were everywhere unlike today when people become graduates from various institutions of learning and are yet to secure a job.

When did you get married?

I got married on the 2nd of April 1960.

How did you meet your spouse?

I met my husband, when I travelled to Aba from School in Umuawada, Ezinihite, Mbaise, Imo State to buy Materials for Domestic Science for my Schools as the Head Mistress. I lodged at a girlfriend and classmate’s house, her boyfriend came visiting with his friend who started dancing around me, I left them and went to bed on  a Saturday night, then after Mass the next day being Sunday, my girlfriend said her boyfriend invited us for breakfast to his house, which we honoured the invitation and then got connected.

What was the attraction to your husband?

He was well built, tall, fair, handsome, intelligent, very neat, smart and was always serenading me with love songs.

How many children do you have?

I have five lovely and wonderful Children (three females, two male), eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren. I couldn’t have asked God for more. I thank God for His abundant blessing.

What can the Government do to assist the aged in the society?

Retirement is not something one can avoid because one will grow old eventually irrespective of the position they hold in the society, it is quite unfortunate that a country like Nigeria does not put things in other for its citizens, things like a well packaged Health Care facilities, Social Services, Pension facilities, housing, welfare and Senior Citizens amenities rather the aged are left uncatered for by the same country they gave the best years of their lives, leaving them to their families and relations who most times are unable to fend for themselves. A government that has the interest of its citizens provides for both its youths and older persons, in other countries, these provisions are made

Do you have any advice for the younger generation?

They should be patient and not be in a hurry. Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 verse 1 speaking says To everything There is a season,  A time for every purpose under heaven. They must be respectful to their Parents, Spiritual and all lawful authorities. They must be forgiving, not bearing grudge. They must be Hardworking and during that they must find quality time to unwind and relax. Knowing that all things belong to God Almighty, they should depend solely on God for everything. Parents should also learn to be parents to their Children and bring them up in love and fear of God. Finally let nothing disturb them.

Culled from :Here

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