Nigeria’s first public health nurse tutor Mrs. Adegoroye

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Kunle Emmanuel
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Nigeria’s first public health nurse tutor Mrs. Adegoroye

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Nigeria’s first public health nurse tutor, 83-year-old Mrs. Anuoluwapo Adegoroye, talks about her years in nursing and passion for travelling

When and where were you born?

I was born on October 18, 1930 in Ijebu-Mushin, Ogun State. My father was Mr. Theophilus Ishmael Fojuri Osifodunrin. My mother’s name was Bernice Odubowale Osifodunrin (nee Kuti) of Ososa, near Ijebu-Ode. My father was a teacher. He used to be very good at keeping records.

Are you from Ijebu-Mushin?
No. My hometown is Ijebu-Ode.

How was your growing up like?

For me, it was great fun. I was the last of my mother’s children, though I wasn’t her last born. My mother had about six children, but the influenza epidemic of the 1920s took the others. Only my elder brother and I survived it. This made my brother very protective of me. My father had other wives, so, I had younger ones. My parents, especially my father, reated me like a princess. He would not let anybody touch me. He ensured that I was never maltreated.

What do you remember of those days?

Everything about my childhood was pleasant, to the best of my knowledge. Everybody loved me.

That means your father wasn’t strict with you.

Not at all. I was treated like the baby of the family.

How did your mother trat erring children?

She was not a spoiler. If you failed to perform your duties, you weere in for it. If I did anything wrong, she would not spare me, even though she might turn around later to pet me. But at that point, I would get the punishment I deserved.

How did you spend your holidays?
There was always work to do. We didn’t really have much time to play. I can’t remember any games we played at all. All the things that I had avoided while that school was in session, I was made to do during the holidays. That is not to say I did not enjoy the holidays. Working was also fun. I also enjoyed reading. So, I read a lot during my holidays. I was never a dullard. I was always either coming first or second in class when our results were called out at the end of the session. I imbibed the reading culture. Though I was always busy studying, that didn’t stop me from carrying the load of any of our mothers in the house.

What did you want to be?
I wanted to be a teacher.

How then did you become a nurse?
It might have been because my dad was a teacher as well. But I realised that, with my passion for nursing, I could be a teacher even in a nursing environment. That was why I ended up being a nurse educator. Even after studying nursing, I couldn’t help it; I had to impart all the training I had acquired in the coming generation of nurses. Also, I felt I was good enough to be a nurse. I was always encouraged by my teachers and people in the profession.

What schools did you attend?
I started my primary education at St. Saviour’s School, and then completed it at CMS Girls School, both in Ijebu-Ode. My secondary school was Queens’ College, Lagos. I finished from there in 1948. After secondary school, I worked briefly as a Nurse Probationer at the General Hospital, Lagos. Some time after, I was encouraged by my school mother in Queens College, late Mrs. Florence Odufalu; my uncle, late Mr. Samson Odugbesan; and my late brother, Samuel Osifodunrin, to apply for a government scholarship to study General Nursing and Midwifery in the United Kingdom. And I was awarded the scholarship. This was in 1950. Later, the scholarship was extended for a year to enable me study Public Health Nursing at the University of Southampton in the UK.

Was there any other man before your husband?
I met a young man called Abraham, who I didn’t marry because my parents didn’t approve of him. He went on to become a very prominent figure. I don’t want to give too much away. He did try to marry me but my mother would not consent to it. He’s passed away now. He was very clever. He was my brother’s classmate.

How did you meet your husband?
I met Prince Adeniji Adegoroye while I was studying at the University of Southampton. He was studying there as well. We got married on the July 28, 1956. He has passed on to glory now. He died in 1999.

How did your journey as a nurse begin?
Soon after I came back to Nigeria from the UK with my husband, I started work as a nursing sister at the General Hospital, Lagos. After that, I worked as the Public Health Sister in charge of the rural clinics in Victoria Division of the Southern Cameroons. Later, I got the World Health Organisation fellowship to undergo the Public Health Nurse Tutors Course at the Royal College of Nursing in London. I returned to Nigeria in 1960 to become the first Nigerian Public Health Nurse Tutor.

What were some of the experiences you had as a nurse in the United Kingdom?

It was a beautiful experience. Even though I was small in stature, everyone loved me. I was also very hard working, so, I was often left with other people’s work that they could not finish. And you can be sure I did not complain. I did all the leftover jobs, and I did not mind at all. It was not as if they were lazy, but because I was faster at doing many things. I was smaller and faster at everything. Also, I was the one who got sent on errands a lot, but never in a way that I would feel victimised; never in a punitive way. If you send Anu, it is because she can run faster than you. I never ran from a job that I had to do. They all loved me. They were very appreciative of my efforts—not that I ever asked them, ‘What will you give me?’ I was nice to them, and I felt happy that I was nice to them. The nicer I was to them, the happier I felt. And I didn’t have to do anything in particular to force them to love me. I was not arrogant. How could you be black and arrogant? (laughs)

What did you enjoy most about nursing?
Everything about it was interesting. I can’t single out anything if it came down to picking what I enjoyed the most. Remember I told you I was a brilliant student, and I loved to learn. Nothing was too much of a challenge for me.

What were the highlights of your career?
As a Public Health Nurse Tutor, I worked at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital/Nurses Training School from 1960 to 1964. In 1967, I was awarded another World Health Organisation fellowship at the University of Toronto, Canada where I studied the integration of public health nursing into the curricula for nurses at the university level, as well as for hospitals with schools and colleges of nursing. In 1973, I was given a Ford Foundation fellowship to observe Family Planning Activities in North Carolina in the United States, Jamaica, Mexico and Costa Rica. I was also the Head of the Community Nurses Training School, Lagos. Afterwards, I was the Head of the Community Midwives Training School, Lagos, and later, the Head of the School of Public Health Nursing, Lagos, till I retired voluntarily on the June 1, 1978. I served for 30 years, first in the Federal Ministry of Health, and later on, in the Lagos State Ministry of Health. Between 1979 and 1984, I was appointed a Nurse Consultant with WHO. I was based at the WHO Regional Training Centre for Health Services Personnel, Yaba, Lagos. In 1980, I was appointed a Nurse Consultant to the Gambian Ministry of Health. There, I reviewed and systemised the training programme for Gambian volunteer village primary health care workers. In 1985, I established ANAD Health Management Consultancy Services. It was derived from the first two letters of my first and last names—Anu Adegoroye. In 1987, I was a recipient of the Meritorious Service Award of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Lagos Branch, and the recipient of the Florence Nightingale Award in 2001.

What were you able to achieve with the consultancy fim you established?

ANAD was mainly set up as a platform to actively make my skills and knowledge, which I had been fortunate to acquire in the field of public health nursing, available to the Federal Ministry of Health, various state ministries of health, and international organisations such as the United Nations International Children’s Fund, and the Combating Childhood Communicable Diseases Project, which was based in the US. So, we had the WHO, UNICEF, the CCCD Project, and others, who worked with us to achieve our goals, by making resources and opportunities available to us. However, the administration of Gen. Sani Abacha made many of these organisations reduce funding, which inevitably affected our productivity, and our work stopped. We trained a lot of community health workers and traditional birth attendants on modern practices. I and my friend, a fellow nurse educator, ran the consultancy. We improved community health practices.

In what ways did you help in improving nursing education?
I authored a book, ‘Community Health Care,’ published by Macmillan Publishers, UK in 1984. It was a resource that was used widely in nursing schools all over the country. I have also authored several health plays, like ‘Live and Let Live,’ a play on the prevention of tuberculosis; and ‘Obe L’awo,’ a play on nutrition education.

How do you spend your time these days?
I was a devout Anglican, right from childhood. I used to attend the All Saints Church, Yaba. But now, I am a member of the Agape Community Baptist Church, Surulere, where I gave my life to Christ. I used to be a Bible study teacher, although I can no longer teach. I am now fully retired. These days, I spend most of my time reading the Bible and relaxing with my family. I also enjoy watching Africa Magic Yoruba, One Gospel, and TBN.

How did you spend your vacations before your retirement? I travelled a lot. I enjoyed travelling. My children can tell you themselves. Whether it was for work or for pleasure, it was always fun. I have been to quite a number of countries: China, Austria, Singapore, Swaziland, Switzerland, Italy, Hong Kong, Australia, Austria, Ghana, Germany, Thailand, Senegal, and even to Israel. In all, I have been to 32 countries.

What do you love most about motherhood? What don’t I love about it? I had my son when I was 32, my first daughter when I was 33, and my second daughter when I was 42. They are all lawyers, and I love them so much. They might say I was a strict mum, but they know I love them all unconditionally. I enjoy their company: my children and grandchildren. I remember when one of them got married, I cried. I also consider my brother’s children my own, all four of them. And their grandchildren I take as my great-grandchildren. I don’t remember teaching any of my children to go and do anything, because they have already learnt it with me. They learn so easily and they are no bother to me at all. I love them so dearly.

What is your favourite meal?
My favourite meal is bean porridge. But I like cooking Ikokore, a native dish of my people in Ijebu.

Family members refer to you as maama. How did the name come about?The name started with my first grandchild. His mother, my first daughter, didn’t want me to be called the regular grandma. So they started calling me Mama. But when one of my younger grandchildren was born, she started calling me Maama, slurring the first syllable, so everyone adopted that style. So, I decided to add an extra ‘a’ to the Mama to indicate the slur. ... rse-tutor/
Nigerian Nurses lighting up the world one candle at a time.

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