In the world we live in today, how far you can go in life is often based on the amount of education you have as well as how much you have allowed your education influence your being.
It is clear that life is not just about being rich in material things. Getting educated goes a long way in shaping who you can be. The great Obafemi Awolowo once compared education to light: in the same way one is likely to be clumsy in the dark, if not educated a person is likely to fumble through life.
This reality had a profound impact on Pa Alimi Olanrewaju Amodu, an 80 year old sociology graduate of Lagos State University and the oldest graduate in the history of education in Nigeria. Many have queried the need for this unprecedented step so late in life while others have commended him. Irrespective of the debate around his actions, Pa Amodu has demonstrated to the whole world that education is the key that opens the way to all other things and that education can be acquired at any stage of life.
While recalling how he sat beside students of his grandchildren's ages in an interview granted to Total Education, Pa Amodu insisted that there is no age limit to learning: "Some people think that they are old, no. The more you read, the more your brain will be functioning. If you don't read, the brain will be declining."
Reminiscing on his recent undergraduate days, Pa Amodu said during the same interview: "There is this lecturer, who taught me the Sociology of Violence. You dare not come late for his lecture. He himself will be there. He is of my son's age group, and if you come a minute late for his lecture, you are not coming in. He will tell you, 'if you know you are old, stay at home.'"
He considers his undergraduate degree to be "a great achievement and the first step" as he plans to acquire both a master's degree and doctorate: "I want to be called and addressed as Dr A.O. Amodu." What a motivating statement!
At 80, this man believes that the sky is not a limit but rather a starting point. His accomplishments have set a standard for anyone who thinks that age is a hindrance to the achievement of life goals.
It is also necessary to note that this man graduated with a second class lower (honours) degree without sitting any course twice, something which remains a big challenge for students in our tertiary institutions. If Pa Amodu could get to this level at his age, then they should attain nothing less.
He also reads daily from 3am to 6am in order to update the scope of his knowledge, underscoring the importance of books and self-motivated learning. Pa Amodu had been offered admission by several universities in the past but preferred to give his children the opportunity first: "You see, the ultimate sacrifice you can pay as a parent is to give the best of education to your children."
Born on August 23, 1932, Pa Amodu's early education took place in Ibadan. He obtained his Standard Six certificate in 1952. He secured a job with Costain West Africa in 1958 and was also employed as a clerical assistant at the University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan. He ended his working career at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in 1992.
At an age when most people look forward to a peaceful retirement, Pa Alimi, with an indomitable spirit, decided to embrace the rigours of academic life: "I returned to school after serving the federal government for 35 years. I saw going back to school as an opportunity which I lost while working as a civil servant. I was determined to face and accept any negative or positive experiences my going back to school could bring at my age."
Pa Amodu sees his education as a means through which he can help the youths on the streets: "I chose sociology because it is holistic. It deals with all aspects of human endeavour; talk of psychology, politics, education, etc. Another thing that motivated me is that anytime I went out, I would see some people termed area boys roaming the streets. I took it upon myself to do a [sic] research on why some of these boys are in the university and some are not...Education is a human right." He also deploresthe disposition of the Nigerian government towards education: "The government gives little or no attention to education and is very bad. Not only the federal government, also, the state governments must make education a priority. If the society is poor, it is because the citizens are poor. If we have sound education, there will be no problem of crimes and cases of area boys taking over the streets. They need to do something to raise the standard of education."
Pa Amodu has sent the message that old age is neither a barrier to relevance in society nor an obstacle to personal growth and fulfilment.
This piece was originally posted on September 6, 2012.