Rifkatu Chidawa; Teacher of men
Let me tell you the story of this woman, her name is Mrs Rifkatu Chidawa, cerebral educationist, quintessential administrator, inimitable mother and above all an unrivalled disciplinarian. She doesn’t beat or flog but her standards and principles are so stringent that you would have preferred flogging as a soothing alternative.
She was my principal In Gss Karu Abuja, she tutored and mentored me like I was her biological son. Nothing I did as a student was good enough- according to her, ‘Second best is not best enough’. She wanted me to exceed the limits of mediocrity. I remember showing her my GCE result I wrote while in SS2. In that same result, I shone brilliantly that other teachers were happy and showing pride but not ‘Sai Mama’ as we call her! According to her, a result without a credit in English Language is as good as not even sitting for it. I felt deflated by her verdict but I vowed to change her perception of me. Final exams came and by his grace, I didn’t only shine brilliantly, I made distinction in English. And it was Sai Mama that personally copied my result and envelope ed me in warm embrace congratulating me! That was Mrs Chidawa, the extractor of the best from people.
Similarly, I got admitted to study Public Administration in a polytechnic shortly after I finished secondary school. Filled with joy, I took the letter to her, she seized it and ask me to go wait for university admission! Nothing I did to make her release my admission letter, she refused. I was pained and frustrated but she won’t bulge. That year I lost the opportunity of going to school as ABU refused to admit me. I stopped seeing her, cut off ties and didn’t want to have anything to do with her. Only her saw what she saw but I was blinded by anger. Year passed and she saw my writing in Hassan Rilwan ‘s Sardauna Magazine and waited no more in calling me.
‘My interest in you is biological, the first time I saw you, I told myself, this is my personal project and I shall mentor you. I was harsh on you because I wanted the best for you. If I had been lenient with you like others, you would have become complacent. Deep within me, I was happy and proud of your exploits. As good as polytechnic education is, I wanted you in a university where your social imagination can be sharpened. When I saw your writing in this magazine, I called my staff and together we danced that my son is in a magazine’.
I recoiled into her mentoring as I savour her motherly dotting. She was there for my wedding, been there for my everyday aspirations and I have no regret being under her tutelage.
Today is Teachers Day, I join her many ex-students she has mentored to wish her long life, better health and promising life. Happy Teachers Day to the Honourable Commissioner of Culture and Tourism, Niger State, my mama my friend.