Meanwhile a big shout out to ShawnDaVinci
Watching television pictures last week of jubilant teenagers celebrating their A-level results, I was filled with an amazing sense of accomplishment.
In my home that joyous feeling has been felt fourfold. For my 18-year-old children – quadruplets Tolu, Tayo, Tobi and Tosin, who were conceived naturally – all achieved A and B grades at the St Francis Xavier sixth-form college in Clapham, South-West London.
They have secured places at Manchester University, Goldsmiths, Queen Mary University of London and Cambridge.
I am, understandably, bursting with pride. Because, although I’ve not had to cope with too many social disadvantages over the years, the fact remains that I am a 52-year-old single mother. And I have brought up seven children – four of them boys – on my own in Lewisham, one of London’s most deprived boroughs.
Proud: Single mother Julie Oke believes it's how you live, not where you live
I have bucked the statistics that say my children, who grew up without a father present in their daily lives, should be academic failures.
All of them have done exceptionally well. The eldest boy is 29 and a doctor in Nigeria, my 27-year-old daughter is a nurse and I have a son, 25, who is a lawyer.
However, it is the success of the quads that has got everyone asking how I’ve pulled off this apparent miracle. Well, it is not rocket science. Simply put, it has always been my philosophy that it’s not where you live, but how you live – and that children learn by example.
I’ve always known education and hard work were the ways to improve my life, and I have instilled the same principles in my children.
My goal has always been that they would break down barriers and excel academically. But I also wanted them to do so in schools with a strong moral code, to complement my work at home. So I have always sent them to religious establishments.
I chose St Francis, despite it being a long way from our home, because it has a great reputation for academic achievement. Its exam results are consistently well above average and the majority of its students progress to higher education, including Oxford and Cambridge.
When I visited, the facilities stood out above the rest. I was especially struck by the principal’s mission statement, which says ‘to be successful in today’s world you must develop skills and abilities at a higher level than was ever necessary in the past’. That is what I’ve always told my children: to stretch themselves beyond what is expected.
I am constantly being told children in black communities are failing because 59 per cent of them are raised by lone parents. But, although I accept children are largely better off when they grow up with both parents, just having a man in the house does not mean they will go on to become pillars of society.
Four times the success: 18-year-old quadruplets Tobi, Tayo, Tolu and Tosin celebrate their A-level results
It really does depend on how you bring up your child. How they see you live your life and the values you instil in them from an early age. Too many single parents, of all colours and creeds, are content to collect state benefits and let their children run wild.
I have been a single mum since the quads were born. I was 34 and on my own but I was determined I would open up as many opportunities for them as possible.
They have seen how hard I work. I have never relied on Government handouts. They have learned by example that commitment and dedication will get you a long way.
Yet my background is not a wealthy or privileged one. My father was an illiterate Nigerian farmer and my mother was one of his seven wives. She ran a shop in a small town in the state of Osun. There were 24 children in all – five my mum’s.
I can remember my parents telling us that becoming educated would mean we did not have to work as physically hard as they did. However, they could not afford to send us all to higher education.
I went to an Anglican grammar school and ended up doing teacher training in Nigeria, before getting my first degree in social work education from the University of Paris in 1984.
After moving to London, I lived in a single room and did various odd jobs before I could get my footing. I was a social worker in Lambeth when, to the shock of everyone including myself, the quads were born.
I took a year’s maternity leave, put them into nursery and went straight back to work.
I continued studying child care because I wanted to open a nursery. I now manage a business that cares for 20 youngsters up to the age of five and have a staff of four.
I’m not saying it hasn’t been hard. At times, money has been incredibly tight. The children wore each other’s clothes and never got the designer gear or fashionable items their peers had. Yet they never complained. They saw how hard I worked and they knew it was all for them.
I’ve taught them to be respectful of other people, especially their elders. Once, one of the girls got into an argument with a teacher over her grades. I explained shouting was not the best way to get her point across and it was disrespectful. Another time I discovered that my sons wanted to settle a row with a local boy by fighting. I explained that violence could escalate and that it rarely solved a problem.
Obviously, there has been peer pressure put on them over the years. They see other kids running wild, doing what they want. But they know that is not how we live in this family.
I’ve never had to worry about them getting involved in gangs or drugs or any other bad behaviour for that matter. It is just out of the question because they have been brought up as good Christians.
People think being a single parent means your children have to fail. I live by my own code and my own notions. I tell my children they are individuals, that they do not have to be like everyone else.
What has held a lot of black families back is that they have accepted the stereotype. They do not realise they can achieve anything they want, that the sky is the limit, that class or colour should not classify who they are.
People have said I shouldn’t blow my own trumpet. But I know I’ve done everything possible to give my children a good start in life. It has taken commitment, time and care but it has been so rewarding for me to see them growing and achieving. And I confess, I’m privately amazed by how well they have done.
My message to other single parents is that they should not let the system determine their lives.
I say, always push yourself. Pray, work hard, respect yourself and your children.
I don’t think I’m unique or alone and only wish the good work of other lone parents with children doing well could be heard as loudly as those crying about the effects of guns and violence.
(1)Story taken from here.
Meanwhile a big shout out to ShawnDaVinci a new blogger. Please visit his blog and welcome him warmly. Thanks peeps :D