Education is light! That’s true, especially in this modern age that without education one is left in the back waters of development. And so many societies have made education for both the young and old a priority. Indeed, in the perception of many it is a pre-condition for attaining socio-economic and political liberation. It is, therefore, a sine qua non for attaining acceptable civility.
Little wonder that across the world, the quest to get educated is a major priority second only to the need for self sufficiency in food production. In Nigeria for instance, the Unity School system was basically introduced to bridge the gap between the educationally disadvantaged states and others whose ratio of graduates was much higher.
It was also the reason for quota system policy that ensures that each state had some representations in public appointments, ministries, parastatals and at the upper chamber of the National Assembly equal representation. The above policies were deliberately introduced to ginger a section of the country that had fallen behind educationally to try and catch up with the other regions where education had been conscientized in the people.
However, the love for education has put an 81 old man in deep trouble with his community. Well, the community appreciates acquisition of the Whiteman’s knowledge and has encouraged it to some extent, especially where their wards are concerned.
The community though hadn’t foreseen that at 76 years, a man seen in some ways as role model would contemplate returning to school fully dressed in uniform as if he were a teenager. However to their bewilderment, Inalegwu Aboje, saw no other option than to fulfil his dream of being a secondary school graduate.
Papa Aboje saw nothing better than obtaining a school certificate and if that means enrolling in the secondary school, attending lectures like every other pupil, so be it. And so he decided to enrol in Okalekwo Memorial Secondary School Aune-Adoka, Otukpo Local Government area of Benue State.
But that was not the thinking of his community. Not that the elders did not appreciate education. But the wonder what could have been the driving force behind his decision to return to the four walls of secondary more than 50 years after he graduated in flying colours from Standard Six. Besides, they wondered what he would use this certificate for.
Attempts to dissuade him from wearing uniform along with other pupils and attending school ceremonies dressed as a secondary school undergraduate fell on deaf ears and the community therefore decided to take harsh action against him.
First, the elders sent a powerful delegation to talk him out of wearing uniform and attending classes with the rest of the pupils. Although he patiently listened to them and thanked them for their concern, he opted to heed their admonition in the breach.
Subsequently, the elders took a painful decision to disrobe him because according to them, he desecrated the elders’ tool by choosing to dress in uniform as a pupil, yet Papa Inalegwu remained undeterred. Two years ago, he wrote his National Examination Council, NECO. And he was glad that his dogged efforts were not in vain; not after obtaining eight credits and a pass including mathematics and English Language.
He told Friday Magazine, what the driving force was.
“Whatever dream God has given you, don’t let it die. A dream is a wonderful thing. It can give you hope for your future and encourage you to try when all odds are against you. But beware; there are dream killers that may want to snuff the life out of your dream. Don’t let them do it. A man who has a dream to go to school despite all odds especially and successfully did at age 76 must be driven by a great force.”
Born in 1932 at Opah-Adoka in Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue State, he started his primary school education in 1968 at Methodist Primary School in Obenna Adoka, and five years later he finished with distinction and was retained as a class teacher in the same school. He taught there for many years before he retired.
“I was determined to further my education after my primary school but the dream did not materialise because I lost my father at a tender age. The unexpected demise of my father almost kill my dream”.
However, he was compelled to get married at an early stage since going to secondary school became an ordeal. First, he could not support his education because of his father’s death. His uncle, who opted to assist him, was never in support of education. He saw going to school as waste of time and manpower that could better be used in the farm. With his perception that educating a child is punishment, he refused to allow him to further his education though he insisted he loved him dearly. So, his uncle thought he has had enough of secular education. The only support he opted to offer was to assist him to marry.
Notwithstanding, Inalegwu Aboje did not allow his dream to die, instead he kept encouraging himself and it culminated in his finally attending secondary school in 2008 and finished in 2013.
He attended Okalekwo Memorial Secondary School Aune-Adoka in Otukpo Local Government area of Benue State. He had eight (8) credits and one Pass in Mathematics in his National Examination Council (NECO) result
“Too old for school? Absolutely not! I was eager to attend secondary school despite my advanced age and the difficulties associated with aging. So from the first moment I decided to attend secondary, I became determined to conduct myself like every other pupil. I became determined to dedicate myself to my studies, not minding my age and the disadvantages which my age imposed on me.”
“Now that he has finished his secondary school, how does he feel? He insisted he remains delighted and does not hold any grudge against the elders that banished him from the council of elders because he chose to improve his secular knowledge by himself conducting in line with the norms of the school authority.
“I was motivated by my then principal Mr Inalegwu F Edo. I worked out every day to make sure I learn how to read and write better and cope with the pressures of other subjects which were somewhat difficult for me.”
Besides his educational career, Mr. Inalegwu Aboje is known to be hardworking farmer in the village because he has one of the largest famer. In the early 80s, he was among the first to use mechanized system of farming in the village. Being a teacher he was able to get the support of government. With this singular effort he contributed a lot to the development of agriculture not only in the Local government, but in its immediate environs.
“When I walked beside the other students on my first day in school, I was painfully aware that most of them were supposed to be my grandchildren. They barely looked at me-probably thinking that I was a security guard but they saw me in school uniform I was literally shaking as I entered my classroom. But in my subsequent days in school, we became used to ourselves and later they called me Papa. Although, I kept asking myself, how could I hope to keep up? What was I thinking of, enrolling in school in my 70s? I was 50 years out of date and out of practice.
“My biggest challenge was money to finance my education as I could no longer farm unlike when I was younger. It almost took me out of school, but with supports from friends and my determination, I decided to hold on and hold out as strong as I could.
“Besides, my sight was also another major challenge that I had to face while I was in school as I could not read for a long time. I am determined to go higher than secondary school, but my major challenge is money.”
He advised the younger persons not to consider themselves too old to go to school. If it’s a lack of self-confidence that holds you back, consider what I said earlier: you, as an older student, have incredible advantages over the other students.”

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