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Published On: Tue, Dec 16th, 2014

Adieu, Mama English!

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By Kabiru Tsakuwa

To the Baptist church Kano, where she served her god diligently, she was simply Deaconess Josephine Adetoun Shona. And to her family and friends, she was a sister, a mother and a grandmother. But to us-her numerous ex-students at the famous Rumfa College Kano; she was a mother, a tutor, a friend and dependable ally. Mama English as we fondly used to call her was a renowned educationist per excellence who was partly instrumental in many of us excelling in various fields today!

I learnt of her demise by chance on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012. That day, I was just back home from office at Abuja and having nothing tangible to do with my time; I decided to glance through some old newspapers. It was while going through that I came across the shocking news that our indefatigable English tutor-Mrs. Shona is no more.  She went to the great beyond on the 15th of November, 2012!

Well, Mama might have died physically, but definitely not in spirit as per as we-her ex-students live in this ephemeral world. Because her cherish memory would linger on, in the psyche of many students she help nurtured across the length and breadth of Nigeria and beyond.

She was very hardworking, selfless and completely detribalized. She was instrumental in many of us having a credit in English at a time when passing WAEC/SSCE in the ‘Use of English’ was akin to passing a camel through the proverbial needle!

To the glory of almighty Allah, most of her student at Rumfa College, who were admitted into SS1, from January 18th, 1988 to November 12th, 1990 when we finally bid farewell to the school, are now professionals in various field of human endeavors. Some are engineers including yours sincerely; others are doctors, pharmacist, lawyers, lecturers, and journalist.  The list goes ad- infinitum!

Indeed, being one of her favorite student, I used to be very close to her. And even after graduation our path did crosses so often, and on each account, she never fails to ask about our progress in life. She has such a telescopic memory that she can recollect the name of her student very well. This is a testimony to the bond that had existed between Mama and her numerous students.

Not knowing her full name at that pretentious age was not surprising at all. Our closeness to her was so deep that her name was immaterial to us. It was only after her death that we got to know her full complement. And all we know at that particular time was Mrs. Shona, or Mama English. Through her singular effort, we learn to read novels which students of nowadays only dream of reading in universities. Novels and plays  by renowned writers like William Tolstoy, Shakespeare, James Hardly Chase, and numerous other literary works like ‘The story of love’ by Spectrum publishers, Enugu, and ‘How Europe underdeveloped Africa’; “Animal Farm’; and  ‘Thing Falls Apart’ are all part and parcel of our  personal collections through the rare encouragement of Mrs. Shona.

It’s unfortunate that those that truly contributed to nation building are never recognized in their life time in Nigeria. Otherwise, madam Shona should have been among the first to be so recognize with national merit award. In fact, she deserved to be awarded with at least OON for her effort. But this is Nigeria, my beloved country!

It may not be out of place to call on the Kano state government to immortalize her name albeit belatedly by at least giving her a posthumous award in recognition of her selfless service to humanity. The renaming of a school or an office block at Rumfa College may not be out of place.

May her family (nuclear and extended); and her numerous students and collogues, most especially his Excellency, the former governor of Kano state Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau who happened to be the principal of Rumfa College from 1988 to 1992, have the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss of Mrs. Shona at the ripe age of 79. Adieu!!!

KabiruTsakuwa can be reached on

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