Trials, Resilience, Hope: The Inspiring Journey Of Olufunke From LASU Graduate To Hawker

Daud Olatunji

In the bustling streets of Mile 12, Lagos, Mrs. Oluwole Olufunke, a proud graduate of Accounting Education from Lagos State University (LASU), is defying the odds and demonstrating the indomitable spirit that resides within her.

 Her story is one of trials, resilience, and unwavering hope, and it serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by many in Nigeria.

Mrs. Olufunke’s journey into hawking was not a choice she made lightly; it was born out of necessity.

 A widow and mother of three, she had been employed before the devastating wave of Covid-19 hit, leaving her jobless and struggling to provide for her family. 

The company she had worked for could no longer pay its employees, forcing her to make a difficult decision. She could not allow her children to go hungry, so she turned to the streets.

The catalyst for her unconventional career change can be traced back to two crucial factors: the untimely delay in her university results and a significant financial burden from a loan. Olufunke’s life took a tragic turn when her father passed away just when she was anxiously waiting for LASU to issue her long-awaited results. Her father had insisted she wait for her LASU diploma before seeking employment, with a vision of a brighter future. His untimely passing left her with a heavy heart, and a dream unfulfilled.

In addition to this, Mrs. Olufunke had borrowed a total of N120,000 from the Lift Above Poverty Organisation (LAPO), a microfinance bank, to support her family. 

The pressure of repaying this debt, coupled with the urgent need to feed her children, left her with few options. 

The consequences of failing to repay LAPO loans are severe, including public humiliation and, in some cases, even confinement.

The decision to become a hawker was not taken lightly. She faced the challenge head-on, drawing inspiration from the bustling marketplaces she frequented. 

Olufunke’s determination to repay her debts and ensure her children’s well-being led her to the streets with an “Abo” (bowl) in hand. Despite societal stereotypes and prejudices that often accompany this line of work, she found solace in the grace of God and the strength to persevere.

She was however struck by luck when a lady, having pranked  on her while at work, decided to shower blessing on her with some capital with which she was ready to use to begin another life .

Mrs. Olufunke’s story is a testament to her unwavering spirit and her commitment to her children’s future. 

Her dream is to save enough money to open a shop where she can sell raw food and even provide wholesale goods to those selling pure water and bottled water. She envisions a better life for her family, including better living conditions and the opportunity for her children to further their education.

In the face of adversity, Mrs. Oluwole Olufunke’s story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. 

Her journey from a LASU graduate to a hawker is a powerful reminder that challenges can be overcome with determination, hope, and unwavering faith. 

Despite the odds stacked against her, Mrs. Olufunke’s story is one of hope and the pursuit of a brighter future for her and her children.

The Interview was reproduced :

Her statement “My husband is deceased. I have three children. I graduated from Lagos State University.

“I was employed before Covid-19, but the company couldn’t pay us. I couldn’t let my children go hungry, so I went to the market and started hawking. The reason I began hawking is that I had borrowed about N60,000 from LAPO twice. When the time came for my children to return to school, they couldn’t, and LAPO was demanding the money.

” I saw how they were punishing defaulters, even locking them in the toilet. I felt I had no choice, and I didn’t have the money to start a business. I asked myself what I could do and started praying to God. I decided to go to the market, see how people were hawking, and thought of hawking to repay these people. When we were in the market, they often referred to us as ‘Mallams,’ but those of us who carried ‘Abos’ (bowls) had God’s grace. It depends on where they assign you to carry loads. 

“My purpose was to hawk and earn some money to buy food for my children. So, that’s what I’ve been doing, instead of staying at home. I earn sometimes N1,000 or N1,500; it varies.

“I believe God sent the lady to help me, and I pray that He continues to bless her and make her prosperous. I also want to establish a business, possibly selling raw food. If I can find minerals in packs and a freezer, I can even assist those who sell pure water and bottled water by supplying them at wholesale prices.

“The house I live in is too small for me, and I’m still pursuing my education. I obtained an NYSC exception in 2002. 

“I completed primary school and secondary school and had two sittings before enrolling at the University of Jos for my Diploma, and later, Lagos State University, where I studied Accounting Education. I have been teaching since I completed my diploma. At that time, my father, a great man, arranged a job for me at a school.

” He encouraged me to continue my education, believing it would brighten my future. When I finished, I wanted to use my University diploma to work, but my father insisted I provide my Lagos State University results. He refused to let me use my diploma and said I should retrieve my results.

” The day I was set to bring my results, he prayed for me, but I received the news that he had passed away. I was devastated, and it affected me deeply because I would have had his support in finding work. I didn’t have any connections, so I started looking for employment.

” I secured a job at an international school and worked there for nine years. It was never my intention to leave the job, but my salary was reduced from N30,000 to N25,000, and they threatened further reductions due to unpaid fees by the students. Many owed N100,000 or N200,000. 

“The school decided to hire NYSC graduates instead, citing that they couldn’t afford us. This situation left me wondering what to do next. I wished my father were alive to help me. I have children to take care of, and I’m not lazy. I was ready to accept any job, even in primary school. I had taught at their primary and secondary schools and even served as a vice principal. At the time, the school was in Alapere, and I commuted from Owode early in the morning.

” They warned us not to be late, and eventually, they allowed me to come later. I was seeking a job that paid N15,000 or N20,000, even though it was far away, sometimes in Ikosi from Owe. Sometimes I walked, waking up early in the morning, and sometimes I made it, but other times, I didn’t due to traffic.

“At the last place I worked, the man saw my results and was amazed. He asked if I could work with him, and I agreed, solely to provide for my children. He inquired about my desired salary, and I said N40,000. 

“He couldn’t pay that amount and offered N20,000 instead because of my qualifications. I accepted. However, when it was time to pay, there was an issue as the school remained closed due to a government-mandated extension.

“I decided to go to the market, observing other women like me who were hawking, and I thought that no matter what, I would hawk and survive. That’s how I began.”

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