When I started my final year of high school, college wasn’t really on my mind. It’s not that I didn’t want to go to college, I really wanted to go. My dream was to become a badass lawyer like A. Scott Fenney in Mark Gimenez’s The Color of Law. However, my family couldn’t afford it.
In Nigeria, there are no student loans to get you through college after high school. The few scholarship opportunities available are mostly accessible to undergraduates with high CGPAs; and there are usually a lot of people vying for these scholarships every year. So, if you want to go to college, your parents have to pay for it. Or, you’ll have to work and save before you can afford to pay for it.
My parents were low-income earners and couldn’t afford the college tuition fees. The prospect of having to raise the money needed to apply for my WASSCE (West African Senior School Certificate Exams) was already daunting enough for them. The cost made my parents anxious and even drove my mother to tears one evening. She wanted the best for her sons and couldn’t bear to think that she wouldn’t be able to provide that for me.
One day I found her in the bedroom that she shared with our father, crying. It was then that the reality of our money situation struck home. Before then I had nursed a little hope that a miracle might happen, that somehow they would be able to make enough money to get me through school. But after that evening I accepted my fate. I wouldn’t get to be a lawyer any time soon.
Will I Achieve Great Things?
This wasn’t the case for a number of my classmates in school. As the term progressed and our preparations for our final exams intensified, most of them talked about the universities they would apply for. They also talked about all of the extra lessons they were taking to prepare for university. This plunged me into depression. I couldn’t believe it. I was serving as the school’s head boy at the time, but I would have to end my education after high school; whereas my mates would get to further theirs.
Please don’t interpret this as pride or egotism. The expectations that were placed on me were really high. I was one of those students who teachers were sure would go on to achieve great things. They all expected that I would go to college. This is because in Nigeria, the possibility of achieving great things without a college education is really low.
The more I thought of my reality, the sadder I became. My dreams of becoming a badass lawyer were slim. The only option available to me was to learn a trade after we were done with the senior school exams. Raising the money for this training would take some time itself. The future was bleak.
The First Sign Of Hope
Fortunately, I didn’t allow my depression to discourage me from giving my best in school or in church. I was still very active in the children’s department of our church. This children’s department catered for teens in secondary schools and the kids in primary and nursery schools. That year, when the annual children’s day celebration came up I was chosen to present a recitation to be taken from the Gospel of John, chapters 1 to 5. I prepared well for this endeavour, taking my time to memorize the indicated chapters and practice my presentation.
On the Sunday of the celebration, I presented my recitation. There were no flaws in my presentation except for a brief pause where I forgot a line for a moment. The congregation was impressed. They were so impressed that a member made an announcement where they promised to pay for my WASSCE registration. Another promised to pay the tuition fees for my last year in secondary school. I was overwhelmed with joy, but to my surprise the best was yet to come.
I think the most signification of all these gifts was the announcement that the bishop made. Just before the end of the service he publicly invited me to a regional conference of the church that would be held in two weeks time. I would be given the opportunity to present my recitation again at the conference. This was important because there would be a lot of important people at the conference.
The Generous Air Commodore
I prepared for the conference as well as I could. I stayed up at night to recite my lines over and over to ensure that there would be no mistakes. I also made time to study for my final exams that were coming up. My family and I prayed about the event; we hoped that everything would go well. I had no special expectations. All I wanted was to do my best.
On the day of the event I had to travel to the next town. That morning I nearly missed my bus! Fortunately I got there on time. When the call for special presentations was made, I was invited to the podium to present my recitation. Funnily enough, I didn’t even get to finish it this time. Halfway through the recitation a note was passed to me by one of the ushers who was serving in the event. The archbishop wanted me to stop—there was an announcement to be made.
Slightly worried, I allowed myself to be led offstage. I went back to my seat to wait to hear what he had to say. What came next surprised me and swept me off my feet. I had been awarded a scholarship to any college of my choice to study any course of my choice. An Air Commodore in the congregation had offered to pay my college tuition. All I had to do was apply and get accepted, and then I was good to go! My dream of becoming a lawyer was finally possible.
When I got home and announced the news, my family and friends were elated. Everybody was so happy for me! Finally, I would get to study law and become a badass lawyer just like I had always wished. In the weeks and months that followed, I studied hard; I was desperate not to flunk the WASSCE or the JAMB (Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board) exams. Those exams were necessary for my college application.
The Darkest Day Of My Life
I passed both of my exams with flying colours and began to prepare for the next challenge—the Post Unified Tertiary Matriculation Exams (PUTME). The PUTME were administered by different universities to screen the candidates who had applied for their school. Their cut off marks were determined using a combination of your JAMB score and your PUTME score.
It was during this period, as I prepared for the PUTME exams, that I got the devastating news that would plunge me into the darkest moment of my life. The Air Commodore that promised me a scholarship had died mysteriously. He had been found dead in a hotel room in a city outside of Nigeria where he had gone for a meeting. My scholarship flew out the window. Suddenly my dreams that were finally within reach vanished.
The days that followed were the darkest days of my life. It seemed as if all hope of making something out of my life had been lost. A lot of people who heard about the scholarship sympathized with me whenever they saw me. At some point it began to feel as if I was the most bereaved. It made me feel guilty because it was wrong to only feel bad about his death because of the scholarship he had promised me. He had left behind a widow and a few children. They would be hit hard by his death. I had no right to feel as bad as I did. But yet I felt worse with each day that passed.
For a moment I had dared to hope that I would get to hop on what we call the “fast lane to success.” This meant to go through college and get a nice job in the biggest law firm I could find in Lagos. I would pull my family out of poverty and our life of lack would be a thing of the past. I would pay for my brothers’ college tuition whenever they finished with high school and they would join the labor force. Then, we could start our own families comfortably and contribute to the upkeep of our parents in their old age. I would also establish a scholarship fund for the less privileged kids in my community.
Speak It Into Existence
But the opportunity to reach my dreams and become a lawyer died before me. My faith was stripped completely. Fortunately, I refused to let go of my dream. Even though my dream was now a stark naked, cold and shivering thing, I held on tightly to it. I told my mother that all was well, I would go to college. Nothing was going to stop me. My future would not depend on whether someone else lived or died. I was going to college no matter what happened and that was it. I prayed about it and continued to prepare for my PUTME as if nothing had happened.
Words are powerful. I believe that when you make positive statements and act as if they are your reality, then they actually happen. It might seem like a silly thing to say, but it’s the truth. Often times when we find ourselves in horrible situations we make feeble attempts to speak positivity into our lives. When nothing happens, we give up too easily and quit. Don’t quit. You have to keep the faith alive. I kept the faith alive and I was rewarded for it.
Two weeks later my mother came back from church smiling. She told me that our church had decided to pay for my tuition. They would not let the scholarship that had been promised to me go away.
What I learned from this experience is to never give up on your dreams and aspirations, no matter what happens to you. You will get hit by the adversities of life. But you should hold on and be firm in your beliefs and convictions. Be so determined to win that you’ll take every chance you get. I didn’t just believe that I’d become a lawyer; I took every opportunity that was presented to me with both hands. I passed my exams with flying colours and did my best each time I was called upon to serve. I succeeded because I prepared, and took my dreams seriously. And even when it looked like there was no chance of me reaching my dreams, I remained hopeful, I spoke them into existence, and my dreams came true.
This story was selflessly submitted anonymously.
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