Hope: A Basic Right or A Pipe-Dream - Kaira's Story


All over Africa, precedence has been given towards Malaria prevention and treatment with the World Health Organisation and the global malaria community having a vision of a world free of malaria. This is, riding on the fact that the emergence of the disease caused by Plasmodium falciparum has and still is, endangering lives most especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Various pathways and strategic frameworks have been put in place to ensure that the disease-spreading organism, the female mosquito, is not allowed to breed and live long. 

The Prosperity Ark

However, before the emergence of these emergency measures, it begs the question of how Africans had been living. How many people have died due to their ignorance about the disease and its vector? How many young people, by virtue of being unlearned have had their goals and aspirations cut short? This brings to mind the story of Kaira, that sweet young lady I met from the Idoma tribe in Benue state, Nigeria.

Hearing the Call

It was 1960. Nigeria had just gained her independence from the colonial masters and the freshly appointed leaders were trying their best to get a grip on leading the nation right. Peugeot was the hot car that every young man wanted and I was no exception. Tie and dye loose-fitting shirts and flared jeans were the fad. I was the typical average Joe enjoying life and having the highest level of fun.

One Sunday afternoon, I visited my grandmother who lived at the Jos-Plateau and the house was packed full of cousins, uncles and aunts all filling their plates with Sorghum and their cups with milk gotten from the goats my grandmother kept. We decided to eat by the TV set newly bought by one of my uncles and then, someone shouted, "Who is this man!?" I found out that it was Aliu Babatunde Fafunwa, one of the foremost and best teachers Nigeria ever had. I had never heard about him but the way he spoke on TV captivated me. I was spellbound. Suddenly, I grew tired of the mundane type of life I was living - I wanted more. I wanted to impact lives. I wanted to be remembered many years after I died. I knew my life had changed from that moment onward.

Taking the Bold Step

After my experience at Jos-Plateau, I went back home but kept mum about my experience in my grandmother's house. I was sitting under the palm tree discussing the state of affairs with my best friend, Sammy when the village headmaster passed by. He approached us and informed us about the fact that the form for the College of Education was out. Enquiring what this meant, I got to know that everyone who wished to become an educator had to go through college. 

Suddenly, Sammy picked up the form and began to fill it - without saying a word to me. I thought, "I can't believe he did that without telling me. We do everything together! What changed?". 

Not wanting to be left behind, I picked up the last form and made the best decision I had ever made all my life.

The Prosperity Ark

A few weeks later, with an Afro haircut on me and my faded tie-and-dye shirt, I resumed at the Teachers' Training College in Benue, Nigeria. My friend, Sammy, had been admitted to the Teachers' Training College in Nsukka, Nigeria. Thus, placing our friendship on a long-distance one.

The Girl Who Changed Everything

College life began in earnest and several guys and I lived off campus. Gradually, our home became a pub; we drank and gambled all the time and though some of the guys smoke, I never crossed that bottom line. I got mixed up with the wrong crowd and began drifting farther away from my initial dreams.

One fateful evening, I was going back home from meeting up with one of the guys who drinks with us when I noticed a lady washing her father's motorcycle. I greeted her and we got talking. She had just finished high school and was waiting for her results to be released by the National Examination Council. The chat lasted for some minutes and it was a good one. There were no Cupid arrows, no slow-motion rhythm, she was just a young girl I met.

We were about to part ways when her father arrived and being the hospitable person he was, invited me in for dinner. I obliged and it was there I got to know the young girl's full name was Kairamarachukwu but was always called "Kaira". 

I saw how enthusiastic she was about getting educated although no one ever had the opportunity in her family such that she hardly allowed me to eat as she began to tell me how she knew she was going to become the Minister of Education in Nigeria someday, she happily told me her dreams of wanting to enter the Teachers' Training College once her results came out great.

My first thought was, "I will never again come in for a free meal as long as I'm here".

I could hardly wait to get rid of her and her chatters. Finally, her father, probably sensing my discomfort, stopped her and sent me back home.

I headed off home where I lived with my friends and oh dear, I was miserable! Kaira was the epitome of how I was before arriving in Benue and she had stirred up things within me. I felt so convicted and wanted to tear myself away from my stray friends. I got back home but I noticed I could not party with them, I found it hard to drink with them and I had to leave home to sleep in my College's classroom that night.


When I came back home the next day, I walked into the house and saw my friends all wasted from partying all night. They had had a wild night and the whole house reeked - alcohol, sex, vomit. The whole place looked like a den of sin and all of a sudden, it became disgusting to me. 

I packed my clothes and the books I had and went back to school. Kaira's father found me on my way back and hearing my predicament, offered to take me in. In exchange, I was to home-school his daughter. I agreed and again, I found myself staring into the big, black and excited eyes of Kaira.

She could have competed to be the happiest person on earth the moment she heard I was to stay with her family. I vowed to steer clear of her but before I knew what was going on, Kaira became my first student.

She would patiently wait for me to come back from school to teach her what I had learnt and as her teacher, I was enjoying every process of it.

The Tipping Point

Our daily schedule went on unhindered until one day, Kaira came down with a strange illness. She was throwing up and it was not the normal colour - it was green in colour, she had a high temperature, and kept complaining of headache and body pain and before the day ended, the young girl had convulsed twice.

I was of the opinion that she should be taken to the big hospital in the city which was about an hour away but her father, convinced that she was being afflicted by witches in the village, refused. He called on the elders and they made some markings and incantations over Kaira. Her condition did not improve, rather it took a turn for the worse as she began to throw up bile and was getting dehydrated. My heart ached!

I took the decision of travelling to the city where I met the Ghanaian doctor on duty and convinced her to follow me to see Kaira. She went with me and came to a quick diagnosis of chronic malaria fever and typhoid. She requested to take charge of Kaira's treatment but the village elders shut her up, calling her a quack and me, a betrayer.

Slowly, life slipped out of Kaira's eyes. I can remember clearly, the tinge of sorrow and regret that clouded her eyes as she gave up the ghost. Of course, her death was blamed on the witches and night spirits of the village but I knew it was not so. She could have gotten better if only she had been attended to by a doctor on time.

The Prosperity Ark

Till today, after many years and having civilisation enter into that community, one of my deepest regrets remain that I had let my first student die without fighting on her behalf to keep her life.

Kaira's story is just one of many young people's stories whose life had been thwarted - some dead, some handicapped and maimed for life because of ignorance or schemes.

While Africa is not the only continent plagued by many silent killers, it is my deepest wish that every human regardless of their origins, colour and race stand firm to keep their lives, remain healthy, happy, safe and live without regrets.

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