It is often said that the toughest part of a project is at the initiation stage. I have often tried to put together words that best describe the level of impact your exceptional teaching has had on my life during my short sojourn at PTI, but most times words failed me. I guess it is difficult to show commensurate gratitude to people who have really touched your life. However, the lack of a matching gratitude is no excuse for ‘no gratitude’ at all. No wonder one can never stop thanking God for the more one thinks the more he thanks. Like the Yoruba adage, “a thinking being is a thanking being”. Thus, this letter is an expression of a heartfelt appreciation; firstly to God for including in the journey of my life PTI and secondly to you for allowing yourself to be used by God as a tool to positively mould destinies.
My time in PTI could be likened to the story of the Good Samaritan. Only this time the focus is on the traveller who was beaten. Coming to PTI for me was a demotion. But isn’t it funny how God’s carefully thought out plan often seems chaotic in the eyes of mortals? Even though PTI was meant to be an experience of demotion, I guess God stretched the strings of my destiny a little backward so I can garner enough momentum for a huge leap forward. I am more convinced now that PTI contributed one or two vital experiences to my success story and I am not sure it would have been so if I hadn’t met you.
In my short time in PTI you made us value the importance of starting small. This you did by sharing your humble beginnings with us. Though we were ‘mere’ OND students you took us through a mental journey and sowed in us the seed of greatness. You constantly reminded us that we could be anything we wanted to be most especially inventors. You told us we could be professors, doctors and all. Most importantly, you showed us how. Sir I have never seen a class so motivated to succeed more than the class you thought. Many say a teacher’s reward is in heaven but I dare say sir, yours are standing in your face. Your nurturing has catalysed in us a contagious desire to succeed.
You were ever willing to come down to our level and you did that still holding your dignity. You were paid to teach chemistry but you did the extra by teaching us life. I do not know which of your teachings were more important but all I know is that not all of us will apply the knowledge of chemistry you taught us but we will all apply the life lessons you were consistently generous to share with us.
You deepened my believe in God without ever shouting in religious fanaticism “repent, the kingdom of God is at hand” you simply lived exemplary. You had the welfare of your student at heart and were most willing to help in any way you could even if it had to be financially. I remember in a particular class when you shared with us some fun experience you had at a recently concluded oil industry games you attended, when you were done sharing with us the fun you had, we all chorused, “where is our share sir” and you obliged our request by giving to the whole class of forty something, each a bottle of table water. You needed to have seen the way the students scuttled for their share of the bottle of your water. This may seem small but in my gamut experience as a student from kindergarten to the university no teacher has given or offered me water!
You weren’t my project supervisor but the doors to your office were always opened to me any time I came in for consultations. Due to your support I finished my project experiments and submitted the analysis for my data three months ahead of the submission dead line. I am glad to inform you that I had an A in that project. All these happened because of you.
Recently I was in a typical situation where I had to draw from your love deposit. A particular student of mine was looking very unkempt with his uniform so tattered. I approached him and taunted him, quizzing why he had to look so rough and unkempt. In my words I said, “Tunde why are you dressed like a mad person?” He was deeply embarrassed and his classmates laughed at him and some made cynical jokes about his look. I felt bad; as it struck me that he may not just have the means to replace his burnt uniform and it was in a bid to appear decent that he looked insane. Like a flash of clarity, a thought came to me what would Dr Idehen do if he were to be Tunde’s teacher? At that moment I apologised for making a jest of him and gave him money to sew a new pair of uniforms. I knew somehow that the state of his exterior was a clue to what was going on inside of him. Tunde’s mum came to school to thank me the following week for my act of generosity, I smiled and was proud of myself when they did but really they were thanking you for depositing yourself in me.
I may go on and on to show the magnanimity of your selflessness but I may have to write a book to do justice to this gratitude. I would have written this letter and mailed it to you in confidence but I know your humility may prevent you from sharing it. So I have decided to make it an open letter. I want all the students whom you are going to teach before you retire, value you more and not miss the rare opportunity of impartation by undermining you. For these and many other act of kindness you have shown to me I am grateful and I say thank you.
Ekele Onuh Oscar