Mother was a strong woman. By day, she was the epitome of hardwork slaving to feed the family and send her only child to school, but at night she always broke down, a suffering woman who needed to cry herself to sleep. Father used to work at the factory at Tse-Kucha, with a reasonable income. We lived a happy little family until that November in my second year in secondary school when the cement factory was closed down and staff
laid off.

Father had not saved for the rainy day so it hit us hard. Ours was not the only family that staggered; some former workers even found the world too cruel a place to live, wives left. He spent the initial days sleeping at home but soon started spending the whole day at Madam Go-slow’s joint just down the road, coming back deep into the night. He was just going through the motions of existence.

Mother’s petty trading was our means of survival along with the few pennies I got from doing odd jobs around the neighbourhood. There was our ever punctual landlord as unfailing as the inevitable month’s ending. There was food to be bought, there was also my school fees. Some days we ate once and some other days, not at all. One night as we
sat on the varenda breaking melon seeds, I asked Mother why she hadn’t let me drop out. She hesitated a moment and answered, “Don’t you want to go to school?”
“I do.”

She hesitated a moment longer than at first and with a calmness peculiar to her, she went on.

“Our condition right now is very bad, you know that but it doesn’t have to remain this way forever. I would rather go to bed hungry so
that you may go to school. I don’t mind going naked either, just so you go to school. You know why?”

She didn’t wait for an answer but went on

“Because there is hope; you can have a good future, but you have to go to school first. One day you’ll pull us out of this wretched life we are living. Despair only strives where there is no hope; hope will always triumph over despair.
I have a strong belief that you will come to something if you go to school, that gives me strength.”

Those words were never to be forgotten.

At school, I kept pushing on. One day, our English master asked us to write a factual account of the happiest day of our lives. I wrote my essay in future tense, the next day he called me to his office. He told me my essay was quite the best but curious to know why it was in
future tense. I explained how my happiest day was yet to come. I went ahead to tell him all. That day he went home with me.

The following term I left to live with him and his wife in the school’s staff quarters. He was the Vice Principal so he had a house in school. He was to take responsibility for my schooling for the remainder of my secondary education. Mother was overjoyed.

Mr. Dajo, the VP provided an environment that allowed me to come out with an O’ Level result that earned me a state-government scholarship
to the university.

Looking back, I’m most grateful to Mother, that woman who walked naked, slept hungry in hope. Through all the hard times, she never
despaired. She passed away before I completed my engineering degree, she didn’t enjoy the fruits of her pain. A year later, Father also passed on. The lesson Mother taught me never died: hope over despair

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