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How my 11-year-old earned £100,000

PRESTIGIOUS: Cambridge University

I WAS sent to work at a store at the age of 12 to help with the family finances. I didn’t fool my work colleagues at the time, but I would have sworn an affidavit there and then that I was the requisite age of 16, so proud was I of being able to help my folks out at a time of crisis.

In such circumstances, the superiority of that African heritage understanding of family and duty, and the respect you have to show your parents, shines through. Add to that the improvisation of the poor to make ends meet, and I suppose any child would have gone to court to swear an affidavit that all known birth records were lost in a fire in Lagos, Nigeria. I would have said: ‘I, Oludotun Adebayo, swear that I was born four years earlier than I actually was, and the fact that I look like I’m not old enough to be a teenager is neither here nor there. And neither is the fact I, unlike any other 16-year-old, haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about when you ask me about my O’ levels.’


Who feels it, knows it, and unless you’ve been destitute in a hostile country, you won’t understand how much that £2.83 I earned every Saturday made a difference to a family with five or six hungry boys. I wasn’t the eldest, but it was on my slender shoulders that the family depended.

So you can understand how emotional the moment was when my wife called to tell me that my daughter had got in to Britain’s top grammar school.

My friends laughed at me and said I was wasting my hard-earned money when I and my wife re-mortgaged our family home to fund my daughter’s first seven years of private education. They called us pushy parents‚ and compared us to the multi-nationals which are exploiting children in Africa and South Asia.

Like a lot of buppie parents who have done the same, I have wondered every day of those seven years whether I would be able to continue paying those school fees. So you can imagine how I now feel, knowing that she was one of 93 girls out of 1,600 applicants who managed to pass the 11-plus well enough to get into the school.

But she worked hard for it. And that hard work has done her no harm. I don’t see anything wrong with hard labour of the mind for kids. They’ve got a lot to learn and, as I’ve now learned, a little intellectual child labour can be extremely lucrative.

My neighbour, whose son failed to pass his 11 plus, summed it up. He told his wife that the rejection letter was a £100,000 bill, as they would have to continue paying private education for their son. I had the opposite experience. My daughter’s acceptance letter was a £100,000 cheque. We won’t have to pay the exorbitant and exploitative private education fees any longer.

My daughter is on a fast track to Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Morehouse – or wherever she chooses. And my wife and I can take that well-earned cruise that we could never afford whilst we were paying for private education.

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