Away From Home

Joshua Oluwagbemiga (1)-ee36a448

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I never thought that they meant it literally, until two weeks ago.

“Golibe!!” I heard my mother call and I snapped back into reality.

She had just finished packing my clothes into a traveling bag.

Today, I’d be leaving my village for the University Of Southern California. I know you’re probably wondering how; well, I am too. I still can’t wrap my head around all that has happened in the past few months.

My Uncle, Chudy, when I was fresh out of secondary school, had made me apply for a scholarship to this university and others overseas using my WAEC result. He had told me that he’d make sure that I leave this country to study, even if the scholarship didn’t work out. But he was sure it would, somehow he believed that they would accept me because of my outstanding result.

But Uncle Chudy had died six months ago, and all my hopes of ever leaving the confines of this small village died with him.

And just when I thought that there was no hope left, I received a letter from the university that I had applied to telling me that I’ve been offered admission into their school alongside a fully funded scholarship, and all I had to do was come down there to begin studies.

I quickly accepted it; I was elated. But my elation quickly died as soon as I saw the amount of money that I would be needing to travel to California to start schooling.

“624,000 naira? For only transport fare? Hian! Do you think I’d be here if I had 624,000 naira to throw around?!” My father had exclaimed in surprise.

“Only transport, 624,000. I don’t think I have that much money to spare!” 

“Calm down, Theo. Even though you don’t have the money, that’s not how you’ll say it na.” My mother had replied.

And turning to me, she said in thick Igbo, “Even if your father and I have to sell all our lands and all our properties, and even borrow on top of it, we’ll make sure you resume school in due time. You will not lose this opportunity, inugo?” 

I nodded in reply, suddenly feeling hopeful once again. And that is how this journey began.

In a few weeks, my mother sold all her new wrappers, even the Holandis and George wrappers that she had kept for special occasions. My dad also sold his rickety Peugeot 404. But the money still wasn’t complete.

I had to resume two months from when I got the email and it was already a month down the line. Yet neither my parents nor me knew where the remaining money was going to come from.

Days turned into weeks and it was almost resumption date. I had already concluded that the situation was hopeless. Until one day we heard someone knock on our door. 

I had gone to open the door, and there I found all the elders of my village standing before me. I greeted them all immediately and they all grunted in reply, asking me if my parents were home. I replied in the affirmative and went in to call my parents. 

I wondered why the chiefs were here. My father didn’t own a chieftaincy title, he wasn’t a wealthy man. He had no affiliation with the royal cabinet in any way, he was a priest. So I wondered what they were here for.

When I called my parents, they both came out and greeted the chiefs too. It was obvious they were as confused as me. 

“We heard that your son got a scholarship to study abroad.” The eldest said, speaking good English. 

My father had nodded, his confusion still clearly etched on his face.

“Because your son has done us proud, we all as the leaders of this community have decided to take up the bills and provide everything he’ll be needing to resume over there.” He continued.

Immediately, my mother exclaimed and started to dance, not even waiting to hear the rest of what they had to say. With her hands lifted up, she did the surugede dance, something I haven’t seen her dance since I was born.

The elders were all smiling. And my father, he looked like he wanted to cry. I didn’t know how to feel, but I know I was happy and relieved. Soon enough, my mother was done dancing and the elders continued with their message.

“We’ll also be organizing a sendforth for him in two weeks. So that he can serve as an example to his mates, to show them that hard work is a thing to be celebrated.” Another elder said and my parents nodded.

My father thanked them, shaking their hands and praying that God would bless them for what they had just done.

And now, I’m here, on the morning after my sendforth, with groggy eyes, preparing to leave my village for Lagos. From there I’ll be heading straight for the United States of America, where my school is situated.

“As you are leaving, remember the child of whom you are.” My father said, suddenly appearing beside my mother.

And I nodded in reply, lacking the strength to say anything. They had said all these things before. I didn’t think there was any need to repeat it. Thankfully, we were on the same page.

And as I walked to the bus park to get into a bus, I could see a few people waving goodbye to me from their houses.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s just today I understood the reason why.

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