Where Ants are Safe

How do you know your purpose? What are your interests? Do you know the things that you like? How about the things that you dislike? How do we know what our future holds for us? What career path will you choose? Will it satisfy us till the end? These are the questions lingering in the mind of three young but hopeful ladies in their teen years.

Kebe, Tejumola, and Iyawa met in a neighborhood where the land is rich with different kinds of plants and trees. The place was peaceful. Their friendship blossomed since childhood. Since younger years, the young ladies knew what they wanted to be.

Kebe as tough and strong as she was, dreamed of becoming a famous person in politics. Her parents thought she was firm and meant everything that she said. She wanted to lead. As strong as her name connotes, she harboured no fear as long as stood by the truth and was fair in her dealings with whoever crossed her path.

Tejumola, on the other hand, wanted to educate children with her inspirational thoughts. She smiled and her neighbors smiled back at her. As graceful and positive as her aura, she wanted to become a teacher. She knew she wanted to help others through her words.

Iyawa was good at putting pieces together. When it was abought being resourceful, the other kids went to her for help. Her parents thought she could create anything she wanted using her hands and mind. She could imagine anything. Unlike Kebe and Tejumola, Iyawa knew how to assemble simple machines. A bicycle is an example of what she could fix with ease while growing up. She even designed a box for her toys.

The three girls grew up in the neighborhood together, with their dreams in their minds and hearts. Their parents trusted them so much as they seemed to be sisters by heart. Who knew what they would become one day? Only fate and destiny knows what tracks they would choose. The trees and sky are witnesses to their journey together.

Chapter 1 The Ants

It was on the day of their high school graduation when the question was raised again in about their career choices: What do I want to do for the rest of my life?  The question lingered in their minds.

One day Iyawa stood outside of her house as she observed the ants marching towards a hole that most probably they dug a while back. Iyawa thought, “How could they have designed such a hole, durable and strong enough not to crumble? Do they know what they are doing?” Iyawa sighed as she looked at the paper on her hand, saying: “Program/Course to take”. Her thoughts about the ants flew like the birds disturbed by the strong wind that blew across.

“What are you doing outside?” Iyawa was surprised at Kebe as she responded, “I was thinking about the ants.” Kebe laughed as she answered, “What is wrong with the ants, and why are you holding the application for college outside?” Iyawa sighed, “I do not know what I want to take…I do not even know what I want in life.”

Kebe stopped as she watched the ants bring something inside the hole beneath the ground. “Maybe…they think it is safe down there…to keep their food inside…to make them full for the rest of the season.” Iyawa replied, “To be safe. They work to get food and keep everything and everyone safe.” And so, Iyawa thought to herself: “Maybe…I want a career that will keep everyone safe. That is what I want.”

While Kebe and Iyawa were observing, Tejumola came holding her college application form. Everyone knew Tejumola wanted to be a teacher. It is in her personality. She even wanted it since childhood. “What are you doing, you two?” She blurted out. Kebe responded, “Iyawa here is quite confused about the ants. What the ants wanted to become when they grow up.” Iyawa laughed, “Stop being silly. Kebe is joking. Tejumola, you are holding the paper?” Tejumola smiled, “Yes. I chose a program already.”

Kebe and Iyawa got the application form of Tejumola. They were surprised as they read: “Nursing Sciences.” Iyawa told Tejumola, “Really? I thought you want to be a teacher and educate young people?” Kebe seconded, “I also thought you wanted to be a teacher.”

Tejumola paused and thought: “Well, I wanted to teach. I wanted to educate young people, kids. Perhaps, interests change over time. Though I still wanted to educate others, I want to improve their way of living. I want them to know how to live safely. Without sickness. I want to protect them by educating them.”

“I can still be a teacher once I know what I will teach. I want to know more about health and medicine.” Tejumola responded. Kebe seconded, “Right, making everyone safe, by that. Not bad. As for me, I want to be an environmental engineer.”

Kebe added, “All of you thought, maybe I will be a politician. But, I saw where we lived. I grew up here. I saw how our mothers and fathers cultivated this place. I want to protect it as it is. I guess I can do that by studying how it can be preserved. I am fascinated by the environment.”

Iyawa listened as she thinks about Kebe and Tejumola. She imagined Tejumola assisting sick people in the community. Educating about disease prevention. Talking to people about health and safety. “Ah! She fits in that uniform.” She thought.

She also imagined Kebe talking to the community about preserving the environment. Surveying lands for cultivation. Teaching people how they can plant trees and use the cultivated lands for good use of the environment. “Oh, she could be a good and successful one!” Iyawa thought.

“The ants are gone. I think it is going to rain.” Kebe noticed the cloudy skies. “Let us go home first and see each other tomorrow.” Tejumola seconded. “Alright, then, I’ll see you both tomorrow,” Iyawa answered.

Iyawa kept thinking about her chosen course of study. She thought deeply until she heard her mother, “Is the water clean? Good for drinking?” Iyawa thought…” Water…it is always important…it has always been important.” She heard her mother again,” How can we fix this faucet?”  “Faucet…water..” Iyawa thought, “I am good at assembling things. I can imagine them even in my head being built.” Iyawa’s mother shouted, “Did you call the plumber for this? The engineer must have thought about this.”

Iyawa had an idea. She searched for engineering. “I think I know now what I want.” She has always been fascinated by simple machines and pipes. Iyawa is also always curious about her surroundings. Like Tejumola and Kebe, she wanted to help the community. Their friendship has always been like that. They have always wanted to help as much as possible.

Writing on the application form, she wrote:” Sanitation Engineering.” She knew she wants to contribute to the prevention of diseases brought about by dirty water. Like Kebe, she wanted to protect the community by educating people on the construction of a building. She wanted to have a clean and safe space like Tejumola.

Iyawa thought deeply as she finished the whole document. She looked outside her window as she gazed outside on the stars in the sky. She wondered how beautifully made the environment was. She thought of the ants in the hole underground. She thought, “I want the ants to be safe. I want us to be safe.” She sighed as she thought about her dream of becoming an engineer. She thought about working with her friends in the community. She wondered.

Chapter 2 Going Into The Hole

            Day of Application. Kebe, Tejumola, and Iyawa submitted their applications with courses that they have chosen. Kebe, with her enthusiasm for nature and surveying, took Environmental Engineering. On the other hand, Tejumola who was known for her motherly instinct and care for education took Nursing as her proposed course of study. Finally, Iyawa, upon her realization, took Sanitation Engineering as a course of study. The three stepped up for the challenge in achieving their dreams. What would happen exactly?

“I am nervous. Do you think I can do this?” Iyawa asked. Thinking of Iyawa, Tejumola responded, “Everything is going to be well as long as we stick together and to our dreams, right Kebe?” Kebe was amazed by how big the school is. She responded, “One thing I am thinking about is this awesome structure. I am really up for the challenge!”

The young ladies entered the building surrounded by feelings of nervousness, enthusiasm, and uncertainty. Starting something new is always difficult but with perseverance and courage, anything and everything is possible.

In their classes, they met other students who have the same target: to graduate with a degree. Their goals may seem to be different but they all aim at finishing the race to graduation. The students came from different places with different experiences. To the three young ladies, learning more from other people is better than knowing nothing. They know how to treat others nicely.

“Hello, my name is Tejumola Sani. It is nice to meet everyone. I hope to know more about disease prevention.”

“Hi! I am Kebe Umar. I like Environmental Engineering. I mean to learn more about environmental preservation and conservation. I would also like to know each one of you better.”

“Iyawa Adamu here! How is everyone? I am a bit nervous about this course but, surely, I will use my knowledge for the improvement of our community.”

The three ladies, indeed, represented their community well. After the orientation, they met for a short talk. They also went together, walking home with today’s sharing.

“Oh, I am so glad I picked this course.” Kebe said. “Everyone seems nice. They, too, love nature.” Tejumola shared the same sentiments, “Me too. Nursing is a tough course as they say but, it seems to be an exciting one.” Iyawa listened to the two as she quietly thought about her course.

Iyawa seems to be unsure. “Am I doing this right?” She spoke to herself. As she saw in Kebe and Tejumola, she seemed to be unsure of how she feels about Sanitation Engineering. She wanted to know more. She wanted to learn more.

“How about you, Iyawa?” Kebe blurted out. “I, too, am happy but curious about the course,” Iyawa replied. Tejumola concured, “Well, I am sure not everyone knows all about the course. That is why we applied. So that we will gain knowledge.” “Yes, take courage. Everything will fall into place. Smile now.” Kebe motivated Iyawa. “I am lucky to have you as my friends.” Iyawa looked to Kebe and Tejumola as she held their hands while walking.

The semester has passed and it seems everything seem to be running so fast. Years of persistent studying and learning have finally paid off. Graduation is nearing and the three young ladies have finally realized their calling. They wanted to do something meaningful for their community, the place they lived in as they took courses that will help improve.

Tejumola plans on celebrating the moment with her parents in a restaurant. Kebe, on the other hand, wanted a weekend getaway while Iyawa seems to be planning something wonderful. “Why don’t we prepare a nice feast for our small community?” Iyawa called Kebe and Tejumola. “I know you both have plans after graduation but can we plan something for our community?”

Tejumola thought about creating pamphlets about hygiene for girls in the community. Kebe wanted to prepare something to feast on, food and drink perhaps. Iyawa plans on setting up a short talk about sanitary and hygiene as well as nature with the three of them as speakers.

Iyawa spoke, “Why don’t we invite children in our community?” Tejumola responded, “Brilliant idea!” Kebe smiled, “That would be great.”

Chapter 3 Storing Food for the Rainy Day

Graduation Day has passed and the three young ladies were preparing for the short talk. “INVITATION: GIVING BACK TO OUR COMMUNITY” Iyawa has been preparing for the short talk. She created an invitation for everyone in the neighborhood. The invitation looked good as it is aligned with the color of the leaves with the hue of the water. She wanted a natural clean look for the invitation.

Kebe created an outline for the talk. She made sure a portion would be storytelling about having good hygiene with Tejumola as the storyteller. She also included a note on the importance of nature and planting trees in small spaces. Kebe wanted to let the kids experience planting trees. The last part was included for Iyawa. She knew Iyawa will talk about sanitation and conservation of water for kids and parents.

Tejumola handed the invitation to their neighbors. She also talked to her parents about using the big space in front of their house for the event. As she handed the invitation, she was congratulated for finishing the degree. She gladly thanked them as they became part of her childhood. Who would have even thought about her being a nurse?

The event, for Iyawa seemed like the food ants stored in the hole. Storing knowledge among young women is like prevention from diseases and disasters. “Teaching young women to take care of themselves and their environment is important.” Tejumola mentioned.

And so, the day of the event has come. There were three to four girls who came at the exact time. “Why are there only four?” Kebe asked. “Well, I distributed the invitation well,” Tejumola responded. “You guys, do not be in a hurry. We can wait.” Iyawa answered.

As expected by Iyawa, waiting for ten minutes resulted in 20 young girls attending the event. The event started with the storytelling of Tejumola about a girl who did not want to wash her hands. Kids laughed at the story as they also got scared about getting sick. Tejumola then concluded the story by always observing hygiene and the habit of washing hands.

 The storytelling was followed by Kebe’s activity. They prepared small pots with soil for the planting activity. She mentioned the importance of planting trees in their neighborhood. She told a story of how once their neighborhood had flowing water on the side. Kids were in awe. They continued planting as they went on with the activity.

After the first two parts, Iyawa gathered the parents as well and spoke about having clean water, good plumbing, and water conservation. She mentioned that it was important to have proper waste disposal as well in connection to Kebe’s talk for the kids. The neighborhood enjoyed the activity. Little did the three young ladies thought, their neighbors prepared a congratulatory surprise. With their parents’ initiative, there were banners prepared for them saying: Good luck on your next journey, Ladies.

Tejumola, Kebe, and Iyawa hugged each other as they thanked their neighbors and parents for the surprise. They thought about their childhood as well as their community. Growing up in a healthy community and surviving healthily is important in a child’s life. As they say: It takes a village to raise a child. The three young ladies are off to embark on an unknown but exciting career journey.

After the event, the young ladies gathered together for a short talk, like they always do. “Do you think the world will be good for us?” Iyawa asked. “Of course, we are good and we will be successful,” Tejumola answered. “All I know is that I am excited for my first job as an engineer,” says Kebe. “That is true!” Both Iyawa and Tejumola laughed.

Thinking about their future, Iyawa, Tejumola, and Kebe looked up to the sky and wondered. What is in store in the future for us? Like the ants going safely underground while securing food and shelter for everyone, the young ladies wanted to secure a safe and good future not only for themselves and their community but also for everyone. They wanted a better world for each person with dreams and aspirations.

Chapter 4 Roly Poly, Worms and Birds

            After days of rest, the three young ladies prepared their application forms to look for a job. Tejumola, being organized as she has always been, already had her form filled out to assist in the hospital nearby. She wanted a hands-on experience to feel the vibe of a hospital. Though she was still preparing for the licensure examination for nursing students, she wanted to see an application of the things she learned from books. Kebe and Iyawa, on the other hand, prepared their forms for clerical tasks near the community. Like Tejumola, they were also preparing for an Engineering licensure. As most say, it is not an easy examination. The ladies were preoccupied with the job experience.

Passing by Tejumola, Kebe and Iyawa greeted, “Tej-…” Tejumola was in a hurry for application. She just waved good-bye to the ladies. “Well, she IS busy,” Iyawa said. “Oh, applications again. Seems like we will be doing this for the rest of our lives,” Kebe exaggerated. “Haha! At least, we will be together for this part-time job.” Iyawa agreed. Indeed, Kebe and Iyawa will go together for a part-time job in a non-government organization protecting wildlife and tree conservation. It may be far from their dreams but it is one step closer.

As Tejumola passed by Kebe and Iyawa, she thought about wishing a safe journey for everyone. Her mind was roaming around. She juggles the interview and experience. She waved to the two as if a habit. Now, she crossed roads she never thought existed outside their community. Well, they were comfortable within the community. “Hi! I’m Tejumola…” “For interview?” a man in a suit asked. “Yes, for the interview. Clerk.” Tejumola answered. The man assisted her in a small room in the hospital. The room seemed small in a hospital but enough for three people to work in. On her left were cabinets fit for a hospital. Folders were stacked and papers could be seen from afar.

On the right were two desktop computers on a long desk. Tejumola sat on a chair beside one of the computers. “Wait for a moment.” The man in a suit left. Tejumola saw that the man in the suit had a long white lab gown on his arm. “Seems like a laboratory person assisted me.” Tejumola thought. After five minutes, a woman went inside the small room. She was wearing a long, white coat with a name patch that read: Muhammad, Sade. Tejumola handed over her application form. As soon as the woman reached for her form, she asked, “So, when do you plan to start? Can you start now? Oh, by the way, you will be working with hospital records. Confidentiality is a must.” Tejumola gladly answered, “I can start now.”

“Shall we begin?” Kebe smiled at Iyawa as she glanced at the work area of the non-government organization called Grow Incorporated. They saw a space provided for a tree nursery and mini forest. A small house was located in the middle of the place. The young ladies’ eyes were surprised by the land area of the agency. Who would have thought this could be a place for an organization? Kebe was left in awe as they reached the house with rooms. Iyawa read the signages: For Tree Planting, Human Resources, Communications, Staff Only. “Let us go here where it says, Staff Only. I bet we are called staff.” Iyawa giggled. Kebe agreed as they knocked at the door. A tall woman appeared smiling, “Welcome to Grow, Inc. We hope that you will grow here together with the plants.” Kebe and Iyawa smiled widely as they handed their application forms. “Call me Lily.”

The woman introduced herself with her first name. Both young ladies shook hands with Lily as they introduced themselves. Calla toured them to the area and their office for clerical work. She told Kebe and Iyawa that she could teach them about Engineering in general as she also graduated and held a license. She took the same course as Iyawa which is Sanitation Engineering. “I hope you will enjoy the work and most importantly the place, the way I enjoy it. As peaceful and close to nature as it is, please have this as your relaxation area as well. Do not hesitate to ask me for a break time.”

Chapter 5 The Earth

The world of work seemed to be a taste of reality itself. The young ladies were not confined in four corners. While waiting for the real tough job through their licenses, they received a pinch of training and practice. Ants work for their lives together with the other insects and animals. They worked individually and diversely. Nothing in the world can stand alone. Maybe that is why there is a term called Biodiversity. People may live alone but interconnected. What may be in store for young people? The answer is A LOT. Just as Kebe, Iyawa, and Tejumola searched for their careers and interests, as they wandered, so are the young men and women in the world population. Just like ants digging a hole and securing their life and bringing food to eat, so are the men and women toiling each day with the work they have. The balance between human work and nature relies on the different sectors in the community. Calla taught Kebe and Iyawa to commune with nature as they worked for the betterment of the environment. Sade taught Tejumola on the importance of practicing early for the real hospital work with the records important to the health of the community. Two different areas but one aim: Securing the health and safety of the community. Have you ever wondered what you can contribute to the community and the rest of the world? Ants will teach you how.