I am Jimmy Adebayo Bitrus (not real name), a former student of a reputable secondary school in Lagos. My life has been plagued with ups and downs. I have faced numerous challenges in different areas of my life. These trials have taken their toll on my academics and social life. At age 13, I could not read or write well; neither could I speak English fluently. I wasn’t serious with my studies and so I frequently had bad grades in nearly every subject. I always get promoted on trail and failed two consecutive classes in junior secondary school. I began to cheat in exams and always got caught each time I did.
When I finally pushed into S.S.S1, I was the dummy in the school and everyone took pleasure in calling me names like olodo (unintelligent student), moron, jerk, freak, and loser. I had zero control over my life because I allowed people to make decisions for me. Feeling confused about what I wanted to become in life, I kept changing my department in school because I wasn’t coping in any class. I had no friends, no to play with or talk to. I eventually joined a notorious gang in school and was introduced to drugs and pornography. Marijuana became my best food after few weeks into my fascination with the weed.
I was very loyal to my new clique of friends because I felt I had found people who would watch my back, people who would always be there when I need support. But I was wrong. They abandoned me when I got into trouble with the school authorities trying to steal the principal money to buy marijuana.
After much pleading by my parents, who had to sign undertaking on my behalf, I was still retained in school for my final chance. I cut grass for two hours every day for three weeks and my parent had to report in school every week to observe my compliance. It was an embarrassing experience altogether for my parents and I. they were the type who live consecutive lives and do not like to be brought to public, at least not to matters that could tarnish their image.
“I was the dummy of the school and people took pleasure in calling me names like olodo (unintelligent student)”
My life is in great turmoil and in felt I was in raging storm. I was advised to see the school counselor and was so lucky not to have been addicted to the marijuana. At first, I wasn’t open to Mrs. Martins the psychologist, but when she started asking me some questions, I found myself telling her all my problems. She later asked to see my parents after seeing her for two weeks, I was a changed person. She was more than just a psychologist; she became a friend and a motivation to me. I started believing in myself, learnt how to read and write even though it was difficult in my age.
In the next academic year, I was totally a changed person. I started improving in class and everyone noticed it. Just a few students appreciated it while others started spreading rumors that I cheated in the test and exam. I didn’t give ears to falsehood being propagated – I kept pressing on. I was determined to get to the top of the class. Less than a year after my rediscovery, my persistence paid off. I was the second best mathematics student in the school by the end of SSS2 second term. It wasn’t long before I started representing the school in various debates, science and mathematics competitions. I always came back with awards each I went. Not only was my WASSCE result the best in the school, I also gained admission into one of the best universities in the country.
Through all these challenges I faced, I have learnt to see challenges as tests for promotion ad stepping stones to greater heights. Whatever things you are not proud of, whatever habits you feel ashamed of, you can overcome them. Learn to seek help from the right places and, finally, remember that you are responsible for your life. You can decide what you want to become in life.