It is commonly said a teacher’s reward is in heaven but in recent times there has been a push to change this narrative. It seems quite ironic that those who sacrifice their life to build society are only encouraged with the thought of recompense in the afterlife.
Many have often questioned why can they cannot reap of their good work while here on earth and one of such is a renowned Abuja based surgeon, and Founder of the Stanley Medical Foundation, Dr Stanley Boniface, who searched for a teacher that impacted him while in secondary to show his efforts were not in vain and express appreciation.
Dr Boniface, from Ideato North in Imo State remembers retired 62-year old Mallam Usman Pateh, an indigene of Zaria in Kaduna State, and believes that his own teacher must be appreciated while still alive. The medical doctor opines there is nothing out of place for his teacher should have the best kind of life while still on earth.
Boniface who met Pateh while a student in Science School, Ikara in Kaduna State, says he could not forget the mentorship and kindness that shaped him to become who he is today.
Of particular significance to Boniface was that in his final year in the school, Pateh, who was then principal, gave out his car to get money to cater for the feeding of the entire Senior Secondary School 3 (SSS3) students to ensure they stayed back and wrote their final examination.
This was because the examination had been extended by three weeks and the students, most of whom were in dire straits financially would have found it difficult to go home and come back to write the examination.
The teacher, a devout Muslim, then took it upon himself to cater for the needs of almost 400 students during the period to ensure they stayed back and write their examinations so their academic progress would not be disrupted.
Boniface, one of the beneficiaries of this gesture, said this singular act touched his soul and he vowed never to forget his teacher as long as he lived. The student had gone ahead to study medicine in the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) where he emerged the best in institution’s medical school. He had gone on to serve as a one-time chairman of the UNIPORT Academic Board and among other things is a neuro-scientist with the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.
The student, now a medical doctor, examines his teacher
Driven by this Boniface who said he often kept in touch with Pateh on the phone decided to pay him a surprise visit as the teacher turned 62 years this July.
So from the seat of power in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the student got a guide and traced his teacher all the way to the streets of Zaria in Kaduna State to show he still remembered and appreciated his teacher.
It was a surprise visit at Usman Street, Zaria. The teacher had no idea his student was coming to see him. It was an emotion laden encounter as both connected after many years. The teacher’s eyes were misty with pride that one of his own made it not just in the world, but was one of the best at what he did.
The student, who said his teacher’s well-being is his priority, went with a mobile clinic to take blood samples, check his blood samples, and check his eyes as part of a comprehensive health check.
Among other things he gave his teacher was a giant birthday cake, bags of rice and some cash.
Boniface, who prayed for long-life for his teacher, said this would be done frequently.
The teacher, who was overwhelmed by his student said he did not even remember he had done such a thing and was only reminded of it as his student visited.
Boniface, also a lecturer, said, “I did my secondary school in Science School, Ikara. While I was there, I was lucky to be tutored by an interesting and good man. A nice father in the person of Mallam Usman Pateh. He did so many wondrous things for us while we were in boarding school Ikara. He did so many things he did for us that if I decided to name them all, I don’t think we would leave here today.
“But worthy of note is there was a time we were preparing for our final examinations in secondary school. There was not enough money to sustain us in terms of feeding. The only option then was for us to leave school and come back later to write the examinations. But this was a man that had the milk of human kindness and he said no, that we would not go, and preferred to use his car to borrow money for us to remain in school and study for the exams. That action struck me and I said I would never forget it. To the glory of God, I wrote that exam and I became the overall best in Kaduna State between 2002 and 2003 in the National Examination Council (NECO) exams. I pursued my dreams and today I am a surgeon.
“I said I would find time to come and appreciate him to pay him a visit and distribute happiness and assure him I still remember he exists and also thank him in my own little way for all the things he did for us. I encountered him in SSS1. He was the principal but sometimes he would come into the class to teach us Biology. My intention was to study law but when I was in Junior Secondary School I did well in the Sciences. So I said no I want to study medicine and when I came into SSS1 saw the passion in him as a Biologist and that also in a way motivated me in addition to a number of interesting teachers in the school then.
“We had SSS3A to SSS3D or so. We were about 300 to 350 persons that he catered for with his own personal money. That was an uncommon feat for any person and if anybody should forget this kind of generosity then such a person should be questioned.
“Even though I don’t spend much time in Nigeria, I would find time to be coming to see him. I have a foundation called the Stanley Medical Foundation, so even though I am not there I would be sending them to come and see him. We would be visiting him frequently and I pray that God will continue to sustain his life and also grant him more health.
“I thought it wise to come with a mobile clinic to him to check his health. He should know that one of his students is now a doctor. It is most important. If I am a doctor by the grace of God, definitely the person that assisted me to become a doctor I have to take care of him. So I decided to come to his house. I decided not to inform him I was coming. I wanted to surprise him. I came with a lab scientist to take all his blood samples for a general body examination. I came with an optometrist for his eyes. We also came with a nurse to be in charge of his blood pressure and vital signs among others.
“We came with some materials for Baba to assist him. He is retired but he is not tired. So in my own little way I will keep supporting him. We shall do more powerful things.
“He is a man that loves peace. He is a good man. I told my mentor and friend the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, that I want to come and pay a surprise visit to my school teacher. The IGP, who is a man of integrity, sent his regards. I also thank my state governor of Senator Hope Uzodimma, who also I told about who this special man is what he has done in my life. The governor said I should extend his greetings to him and he also gave me some things to give to Baba which I gave to him together with what the Foundation brought,” he said.
Boniface (left) with his teacher, Pateh on Usman Street
Pateh, who began his teaching career in 1983 and rose to become a principal, said he was overwhelmed.
Speaking of his encounter with Boniface, he said, “I am from Zaria in Kaduna State. I started my teaching career in 1983 and rose to the position of principal. In 1997 I was transferred to Science School, Ikara and that is where I met Boniface as a year one student. I gave him the post of deputy head boy because of the calibre of person I saw in him. From day one you would know that he is a leader. We had no problems. The head boy was a Muslim and he was deputizing him and you always see them together. There was no problem whatsoever between them.
Dr Stanley Boniface
“In fact what he is saying that I did for them that time, I am just hearing it now. He just reminded me. There are things you do and forget. Believe me; I had forgotten that I did that. But I think it was an extension period. It was WAEC or NECO that came after the end of the term. So the option was whether for them to go and come back or for them to stay and continue. I decided that they should stay and decided to cater for them because going and coming back would have disrupted them. Some may not have been able to make it back. It was a two or three week extension and after that they started their exam and you can see the dividends now.
“This is a big surprise to me. He did not tell me he was coming. I am short of words to express how happy I am. But when you have a son as a medical doctor, anything can happen. I have seen that it is not easy to spend an entire day to see an old man, and this is something I can never forget.
“My message for students is that whatever your teachers ask you to do is for your future and they should be focused.”
At the end of the day it was obvious that Pateh’s greatest joy was not the promise of frequent free medical intervention, the money, rice nor the birthday cake, but seeing a reward in his effort to make the society a better place as exemplified in Dr Stanley Boniface.