Adeboro Odunlami: Macro leadership from micro people [NEW VOICES]

by Adeboro Odunlami

Doys Primary School, Kwara, Ilorin

 The bell rang for the last time in the day as the pupils gushed out of their classes. I stood back as I watched them race each other in their dusty shoes and untucked shirts. The teachers collapsed into their chairs drained from hours of yelling and threatening.

I walked up to one of the classes and introduced myself to the class teacher, a frail looking woman with huge veins swelling different parts of the skin around her throat and forehead. I told her my name and asked her if I could ask her some questions. She obliged and asked me to sit.

After I declined her kind offer to have some sachet water, she asked me what I was looking for.

‘I am trying to tell stories on leadership. But I do not want to focus on political leaders, so I was hoping to glean some light from your years of experience; to learn leadership from the mouths of the babes and suckling you have so selflessly tended to over the past years’

She smiled and bobbed her head up and down. Skillfully setting down her sachet water, she unfolded her arms and said indeed, she had some experiences to share. I will summarize each story according to the leadership attribute drawn from it.

  1. Integrity: She told me of a young girl in one of her classes 2 years ago. The girl, 8 years old, was the most honorable individual she had met. If she said she’d so something, you better believe she would. There was a time when the girl had promised that she’d do her best to help her seat mate understand Percentages and Decimals in math (even though most teachers had given up on said seat mate). She would show up in his house on Saturdays and after church on Sundays. After school, she would wait with him under the Mango tree and revise Percentages and Decimal. He came out as the second highest in the Percentages and Decimal; right after her.

 

    1. Honesty: She also told me about a boy. He was 10 years old and was in Primary 4; quite older than his classmates. However, he was the most honest child she had ever met. She said he never lied about who did what; even if that person was him. ‘He was not perfect’ she has said, ‘but he had sufficient morals to always speak the truth’. He once confessed to stealing another student’s lunch. ‘I was very hungry and something told me to eat it. I did. Now I feel very sorry and I will try to give her my own lunch – any day my mother can afford to give me’

 

    1. The Ability to Delegate: She told me of the current class captain in her class. According to her, he’s the most confident person she has ever met. In her words, ‘Whenever I him to get some chalk from the principal’s secretary, he says, ‘yes ma’, then he turns to any other pupil and says, ‘I will come back soon but before then, if anything happens or they need me, please answer on my behalf. I’ll ask you when I come back. Thank you’.

 

    1. Positive Attitude: According to her, there’s a little girl named ‘Ayomikun’ who was rightly named because her joy is always full and she never lets anything get in the way of her positive attitude. The one time when a student died in school and the management announced it, she had furrowed her brows for a while and then when it seemed like she was done thinking, she approached her wailing friend and said, ‘Sorry, don’t cry. If someone travels to London, will you cry for the person? Joshua has travelled to heaven. Heaven is better than London o. We should even be begging him to bring plenty things back for us. It’s just that he won’t want to leave heaven again. Sorry ehn’

 

    1. Ability to Inspire Others: Finally, she told me of a student; also in her present class, who is obsessed with inspirational quotes and never misses out on sharing them when needed. He had once told her after a tired day, ‘Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be. Thank you for being our champion’. According to her, that singular event has kept her motivated ever since.

I cannot think of any other thing that would make me as excited for the future as I get when I remember these stories.


Adeboro is a graduate of Law, a photographer and a collector of experiences. You probably, most likely, already know her.

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