In this week’s What She Said, Aramide Kayode is a 21-year-old economist and teacher. She talks to us about switching to education after a 21-day prayer and fasting revelation, going to Harvard and getting married at the age of 21

What’s your earliest memory of your childhood?

I’ve always been talkative. I remember when I was six, I’d run home after school to arrange my mum’s empty bottles of soda and teach them what my teachers taught me in class that day. That followed me to secondary school. I was pretty good at math, so I taught people.  

My mum was a hardworking and ambitious banker. I loved that she always had a job or something going on, and I wanted something like that for myself. So, I decided I was going to study banking and finance at university. 

Did you study banking and finance? 

In SS3, I decided to study something much more central because I still wasn’t sure what I wanted. I wanted more than what banking and finance could give me, but I didn’t know what “more” was. I decided to go with economics.

So, when did you realise what more meant for you?

In my third year at Covenant University, people kept talking about their purpose and how they knew what they wanted to be. I was so lost because I didn’t know what my purpose was.

My school had a 21-day fasting and prayer period, and I prayed for direction. I needed to know what I was created to do. While praying, I kept hearing the word “teach”. 

It’s been years, but I am still unravelling what it means to teach. I feel like my role is more defined. I know I am meant to educate people. 

But you were studying economics. How did you plan to teach? 

Well, I was hosting a tutorial thing, and I was so good that someone mentioned me to the registrar of the school. He then appointed me to teach struggling students. By the time I coached some of them, their grades improved.

Watching the improvement in some of the students’ grades made me realise that my teaching was a talent.  In my final year, I took a course on human capital development and knowledge economics. I was so fascinated by it that I did my final year project on it. 

All the research I did on the project made me realise how important it is to invest in human education. I found out that there’s a part in Economics that covers education, and there is a direct link between the economy and education. That’s how I diverted into education. 

This seems so amazing. When did you enter university? 

I entered university when I was 14. When I was in Primary 3, at the age of 7, my parents decided I was to write the common entrance exam. They believed I would pass. After I passed the common entrance, my parents did not see any reason why I should take primary 5 and 6. After I did primary 4, I went to secondary school. Now at  21, I am married, done with Harvard, and a graduate of Covenant University. 

Wait, which happened first? Marriage or Harvard? 

Well, I started dating the man I married before I got into Harvard. 

I was teaching at a fellowship programme, interested only in learning and achieving my goals. I was very ambitious, and I felt I would not have time for my children. I didn’t want anything to get in the way of my career and also didn’t want anything to stop me from being present in my home. So, I decided that when I got my life right, I would start thinking of men. 

However, I met this guy, and the love was so strong. He’s someone that pushes me to go for the things I want, and I deeply appreciate his sense of self-awareness. Even though I was 18 when I met him, I was very sure of what I wanted. The peace in my spirit when it came to him was just a sign. It was so good to see someone who had so much interest in supporting me every step of the way. 

How did your parents react? 

Well, we started dating when I was 18 and I didn’t mention it to my parents until six months in. Before then, I had never mentioned any of the previous guys I had been in relationships with to my parents before. 

My parents liked everything about him, so when I told them he proposed to me when I was 20, they just told me not to let the engagement drag for too long. My parents are very forward-thinking people, and they consider me mature enough. They didn’t have a problem with it. 

That’s amazing. Now, about Harvard

Well, at the fellowship I mentioned earlier, during our training, the head of HR came to me and told me she thinks I’d be able to get into Harvard. Harvard was never a plan of mine, and it was so interesting to see how much another person believed in me. 

I decided to try it because I wanted to see how it went. So, I applied, got in and now I’m done.

Do people ever bully you for being so young?

I really don’t look or sound my age. A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them I am currently 21, and that’s how it was when I was younger as well. So luckily, I never got bullied for my age. 

Barriers exist, but I have always wanted people to see me for more than my age. I am Aramide Kayode; someone that does the work and adds value. 

What’s next for you now?

Well, having children is not yet in my plan, but I do work with children in low-income communities. I have partnerships to make sure that children in low-income schools get quality education. 

I am also working on a mentorship programme for teenagers. Growing up, I wish I had more mentors to look up to that weren’t my mum. I want to build my mentorship platform for teenagers in Africa and make sure that those low-income children get quality education. 

I don’t want to be the only young person breaking barriers. I believe there are a lot of people out there even greater than I am, and all they need is a little push and guidance. I want to provide this opportunity for them so I’m no longer the only rising star in the room. 

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