Dame M.A. Osunde was a rare gift to humanity. Lifting the conclusion on page 149 of her book The Teacher My Memoirs published in 2005, she said ‘…my success story in the development of the society through the education of the child, philanthropy and humanitarian concern for the less privileged ones demonstrates monumental achievement that would certainly record more giant strides in the annals of history. My life externalizes what William Shakespeare, the bard of Avon, wrote in one of his plays: "some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them". By God’s grace, I can be said to have achieved greatness. If some people would say today that I am great from my modest contribution to the development of our society, I can say, with thanks to God that I worked for it’.
It is instructive to note that most of what appear in this biography are extracted from her published book. Some of such are what has been said about her by some people at various times, and vividly reflect on her real life in relation with others.
“Lady Auntie Maria is a daughter of God. She is a mother to many. She is a counselor to many. She is a helper to many. She is an adviser to many. She is everything” says Rev. Fr.Jonah Gugong, O.S.A. in 2005.(Former parish priest at St. Augustine Catholic Church, Ukhegie).
“Actions, they say, speak louder than words. Her pragmatic gestures in the church council and many other committees in the church are thus evident of her unrelenting love for service to mankind. Should I elaborate more on her expertise in counseling? She is indeed a consultant in counseling. Your sound pieces of advice on a variety of issues have gone a mile in moving the parish to great heights” said Rev. Fr.David M. Jakos, O.S.A. 2005.
It is a matter of great joy that her role as a builder, evangelist, an educationist and philanthropist, was noticed and rewarded with award of a medal for worthy service by the supreme pontiff, Pope John Paul II, in November 1993. Apart from being a Christian of great repute and a successful educationist, she was a great philanthropist. Her milestones in this direction are evident in the Red Cross Society which witnessed great recruitment of youths through her Red cross volunteering.
She was a succor for the underprivileged as shown more widely by her various scholarship programmes and award granted countless number of children who went through Auntie Maria School. Many of them are already sitting at the helm of affairs of the country; which ordinarily would not have been possible with them.
History is replete with great men and women who were either born in remote areas or in the hearts of villages where there are no visible signs of growth and development. But their rural backgrounds have never constituted physical or psychological obstacles to their greatness later in life. Indeed, there are historical and contemporary great men and women, who despite their humble beginnings and their relatively rustic and unknown birth places, turned out to be statesmen and great leaders who influenced persons and events around them. Dame Maria belongs in the category.
She was born on 13 September, 1928 into the Osunde family of Igieduma and Ojo family of Ihogbe, Benin city. Her father’s name was Igbinoba Adams Osunde, and the mother’s name was Imasekha Ojo.
Dame Maria Amieriye Osunde’s life was full of industry and energy. She was educated at Government School, Ahoade in Rivers state, Our Lady of Apostles, Benin city, and Sacred Heart College, Ubiaja.
She studied Montessori Education at Nicholas Montessori College, Princess Gate, England. She also attended Wandsworth Technical College, England. For both primary and secondary school education, she was under the missionaries’ influence.
From Our Lady of Apostles (OLA) and the Sacred Heart College, Ubiaja, where she was one of the pioneer pupils, she broke up temporarily and engaged in teaching, got married and had all her six (6) children.
Auntie Maria as she was popularly known completed her Teacher’s Grade III certificate course in 1945. Her teaching career began at OLA, Benin, her alma-mater. She also taught at Sabo Memorial School, Ibadan, in 1955; and in 1957 moved to St Peter and St Paul Ile-ife, and from there moved to Local Council School, Broad street, Lagos. She was later, in 1964, transferred to Our Lady of Fatima, Surulere, Lagos, from where she left for England for further studies in 1966.
Later in 1966, she proceeded to England, and studied at Nicholas Montessori College, where she specialized in Nursery and Primary Education. This formed the foundation on which her school, Auntie Maria, was built. In London, her first engagement was to enroll for the Pitman first course for six months, and Montessori for two years. Her first job was with St Mary Magdalene school at the Inner London Education Authority, in 1969, where she worked with children the range of ages 3 – 5.
And at night and on Sundays, worked at the little Sisters of the Poor, where she took care of old people.
Back home, Benin city, Nigeria, she became the pioneer presenter of the children’s programme on NTA Benin in 1973 where she acquired the name Auntie Maria. The first teaching job she engaged in on coming back home as a qualified Montessori teacher was with Emotan Preparatory School. From there she moved to the University of Benin Staff School as the pioneer head. It was at this place, she nurtured the dream of her own school.
The school today known as Auntie Maria took off with twenty two children.
The establishment of Auntie Maria School was a “DREAM COME TRUE” for Dame Maria, who was motivated by her love for children and the zeal to provide sound educational foundation. Thus, the metamorphosis from the nursery in 1974 to the primary in 1984 and the secondary in 1994; a gestation period of ten (10) years.
“M.A. special” as her children and some of her friends fondly called her was a recipient of many honors. Amongst all of them, the PAPAL HONOURS, BENE MERENTI of 1993 was very special to her. This is reflected in the appendix of her book. In recognition of her noble contribution to Edo state’s Educational Development, she was given an award of excellence on 7th march, 2006, by the President’s Inter-state Secondary School Debate, Edo state chapter.
The strong and courageous lady M.A. Osunde passed on, on 26 November 2008.
Our 2016/2017 Second Term Newsletter can be downloaded for free at the link below. Thank you for your love for Auntie Maria.