My parents weren’t sure I’d survive, so they organised no naming ceremony for me — Adeniyi, 91-year-old retired teacher
Mrs Esther Adeniyi, a retired schoolteacher and trader, speaks with about her childhood, career and family life
When were you born?
I was born in 1930. I am now 91 years old.
How did you know the date you were
I learnt about the date from my father and mother. They wrote it somewhere.
Where did your parents come from?
My father and mother are children of chiefs in Ilaro, Ogun State. My mother’s name is Mariam Bede Adebiyi and my father’s name is Joseph Odeyemi Adebiyi.
What was your occupation before you retired?
I was a teacher for years. I later became a trader – I sold provisions, cloth and kola nuts.
Did anyone advise you to leave teaching for trading?
I left teaching when I got married and started having children, so I could take care of them.
Who told you to leave your teaching job?
My husband, the late Jeremiah Gbadewole Adeniyi, told me to leave the teaching job. I left my teaching job to take care of my children.
When was that? I left my teaching job in 1952. How did husband?
you meet your late
My husband and I met while I was teaching. I was a teacher and he was also a teacher; he worked at Iworo Ajido, near Badagry, Lagos, while I worked at Osada at Itegbe, at the border area in Badagry.
How did you manage the advances from men before you got married?
It was not only my husband that wanted to marry me. When I was young, many young men wanted to marry me, but anyone God appoints for someone, that person is for them. I had about four suitors before I got married to my husband.
What attracted you to your husband?
It was the will of God that we got married. He was a teacher and I was also a teacher. He was handsome and we were from the same hometown, Ilaro. I married him because my parents saw that he came from a good home when his parents came to our house and told me to marry him.
How old was your marriage before your husband died?
I was married to my husband for 40 years.
How many children do you have?
I had nine children but only seven survived.
Can you describe your childhood?
My mother didn’t have many children because she experienced stillbirths. Her children kept dying at birth and she had me after three (other babies) died at birth. My father had four wives; every one of them had children but my mother kept having stillbirths. When I was born, they didn’t organise a naming ceremony for me; nothing was done, no serious party. In fact, nothing was done because they were not sure. When people came to ask for the name of the baby, they told them Tanimowo Adejoke is my name because God watched me.
I started schooling at J. J. African School, Ilaro. I was there until I got to Standard Three. My father took me away from the school and enrolled me in Christ Missionary School, Ilaro. It was at CMS that I completed Standard Six in 1949.
How did teaching start?
In 1950, the government established what we called L.A. School (Local Authority School); that was how it employed
me as a teacher in Ita-egbe, Oniro Agbede, in Ipokia. I taught there from 1950 to 1951, before I was transferred to Ebute Igbooro in Ilaro; I was transferred to L.A. School, Ona-ola, Ilaro. I taught there until 1952 before I got married. When I got married, my husband was a teacher also in Iworo Ajido. He was a headmaster and I was a headmistress. I had my first child there. We were later transferred to Agege in Lagos, in Iyana Ifako, Pen Cinema, and later from Agege to Ifo, it was from Ifo that we returned home before we built our house.
What would you say you benefited from teaching?
The benefits are much because teaching gave me the power to educate my children.
Is there a difference between teachers in your era and the present-day ones?
There is a difference between teachers then and now. In our time, we received £21 per annum; my husband received £36 per annum as a headmaster. Education was better at that time than it is today. In my time, we taught pupils to read and write in Yoruba and English from the start but nowadays, teachers teach more in English language.
How close were you to your late husband?
My husband and I were very close. We did not joke with the education of our children and that is what I am reaping now. If one wants their children to study, they should tighten their loins; my husband tightened his loins. I also tightened mine just to educate our children. My husband was not a drunkard and I wasn’t a wayward wife; we rubbed minds. Where there was any lapse, we took care of it. Today, in this age and time, couples do things differently and not jointly anymore.
When we were young girls, life was different. We listened to our parents. When they told us to go somewhere, we did. There are no ladies anymore; during our time, there were ladies and people could identify them.
What do you mean?
Marriage during our time is different from what obtains today. The difference is civilisation. In my time, a female had the time she must or must not go out, and a time, she must return. Our fathers gave us boundaries and we did not cross them. There are no rules like that today. People blame it on civilisation.
What was the perception about virginity during your time?
During my youth, if a woman was married and the husband did not meet her as a virgin, her father was beaten to a state of unconsciousness because his daughter soiled the family name. But if she was married as a virgin, it was announced to the relief of her father. This is important because the husband and the families would know that when she didn’t get pregnant on time, it wasn’t because she tampered with her fertility. But now, they (ladies) commit a lot of atrocities before they enter their husband’s house. In fact, some men would say they didn’t want to go through the stress of virginity. They would say the woman should have got rid of her virginity before they meet.
What is your advice to the youths?
My prayer is that the youths would listen to their parents. If a woman listens to her husband and the husband listens to his wife, their children would also listen to them. It is the disobedience by both parents that makes the children disobedient.
Do you have any regrets in life?
I don’t have any regrets because I serve the living God who has been with me for years. He wants people to serve Him alone because, as He said in His word, He is a jealous God. I don’t have regrets concerning my husband, my children or my house because I have Jesus.
There is a difference between teachers then and now. In our time, we received £21 per annum; my husband received £36 per annum as a headmaster. Education was better at that time than it is today. In my time, we taught pupils to read and write inyoruba and English from the start but nowadays, teachers teach more in English language’
What is your favourite dish?
I eat seafood. I also eat posu soup and solid pap. I eat pounded yam and egusi soup. I like ewedu and vegetable soup.
Do you have a favourite colour?
I like white, which symbolises peace.