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9 Sep 2008

'It's not where you live, it's HOW you live'

I was really challenged/inspired by this woman's story(1) so I thought to share. I had read about her children (quadruplets) in the metro paper but reading the story from this woman's perspective is totally mind blowing. I am so enthused by women like this. Let me know what you guys think.

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


  1. Wow! I'm impressed...this news should be spread far and wide!
    Tell me I'm no 1 to put a comment through! :-)

  2. @nolimit- i am glad someone agrees with me that this is wow.

    yes o u r the number 1! u deserve a reward ;) how u doing??

  3. first time are you?

  4. This is really inspiring and I am sure she is a blessing to the single mothers...I'm so touched...

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  5. You are really making changes in your blog...from address to picture...very soon template...easy oh...

  6. What an inspiration for our oppressed African Women that there is a way out. Life goes on even if you are a single mother you do not have to fail and that shows that hard word and careful planning pays off nice work.. I loved this story really

    For some fun ( lose weight / fitness) Join us us in our quest for 6 weeks

  7. Hey, you've been awarded!!! Please see my blog for details. Congratulations!

    Ah!!! Will be back to post a real comment.

  8. This is a really awesome article! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  9. Oh wow. That's such a beautiful story. Quads??? Dang!! To God be the Glory.

  10. incredible!
    Next time i see someone complaining about raising a few kids they're gonna get some talk!

  11. @kin'shar- I am fine thanks :)

    @Rita-u are welcome... per the changes...allow them o...dem no fine ni ;)

    @Emilia-Yes o life goes o..and this has shown that being a single mother is no excuse.

    Ah! me i need to gain weight instead...thanks for the invite though :)

    @BrownSugar- really!!! aww thanks girl (that is me acting surprised wink) Oya come back with ur real comment o ;)

    @Xbox Wife- You are welcome :)

    @Jaycee- Abi o, same thing i thought.

    @Vera- lol...i also exclaimed when i saw quads! not twins, not triplet, quads!!! men God is just amazing abi

    @afronuts- yes o..this is a real eye opener. thanks for stopping by

  12. Wow that woman is a strong woman, I can imagine her pride and joy right now.

  13. Inspirational dear!!!!

    I can imagine all the effort she put in over the years!!!!! Glad to see it all paid off...

  14. Thumbs up for this woman men!

  15. @30+- yes o this woman strong..kai

    @fluffy- abi o..thank God it paid off in the end

    @writefreak- na real thumbs up!

  16. Aloted!!! You just 'chanced' me at Seye's blog from catching the number one spot. lol!

    How are you though?


  17. this is kinda it
    aloted,thanks for sharing will stay with me all my life.

  18. @solomonsdy- hehehe...major chancing..oya come back and comment properly

    I am good

    @simeone- am glad u were blessed..i just had to share it...

  19. this story is very moving, and not only in the sense that a sista was able to raise her kids all by herself. it shows in a rare situation the boundless blessings of God, cuz really, that's what this is.

    thanx for stopping by mine.. yes, the song blog is the regular updated one :)

  20. I was begining to wonder where you faded to after the honey moon post! "ife234" no longer exist. Thank God I visited LG and when I saw you there...

    How u de?

    Very inspirational story. See God at work!

  21. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm glad u think my baby's cute. I look forward to seeing urs soon (when u're ready of course). lol. Yeah i'll begin the story soon and u'll be the first to know when i begin. Take care gurl

  22. Wow!! Amazing.. this brought tears to my eyes. God bless her!!

  23. Successful quads! This is so rare... Touching story.

    *sob* moist eyes

  24. Read this in the paper too.

    They do not look alike.

    How u dey?

  25. A-MA-ZING...thanks for sharing

  26. yes o..i like this your comment..
    ok i know what blog to focus on now ;)

    @Dee!- sorry mind me...

    yes o..NA God!!! shows he is no respect of anyone or any situation

    @gbengasile-lol..ok will watch your blog for the update

    @Aijay-me sef i nearly cried...God bless her indeed!

    @seye- aww u too cried? here's a

    @Oluwade- iyawo....i see you are back :) who and who do not look alike, the quads together or with their mum. I don't think they look like their mum but i think the quads look alike...

    @Shubby Doo- yup o..A-Ma-Zing..
    my pleasure :)

  27. with God all things are possible. They live in the most unsafe parts of London and they have come out a success

  28. Wow this is awesome. I read abt the quads in the Metro didnt even know there was more to them than this. Double wow!

    God has used this woman to do a wonderful thing.

  29. Gotta stay tight and read every bit of this. Meanwhile Rita said something about u on mi-blog

  30. truly inspirin story!

    how u doin?

  31. her story is an inspiration. i admire her determination to raise great kids and not let her family be part of the statistics.

  32. Superwoman.. no contest!


I would love to know your thoughts :)