It's never too late to learn says 50-year-old Nigerian school pupil
Ilorin, Nigeria
Photography by
Temilade Adelaja.

Reporting by
Seun Sanni.
Updated 7 April
21 images
Shade Ajayi had never set foot in a classroom until middle age. Now 50, the businesswoman is happily learning to read and write alongside students nearly four decades younger than her.
Donning the pink dress and bonnet that make up her uniform, she joins hundreds of similarly dressed pupils at a school in Ilorin, in Nigeria's western Kwara state.
"I'm not ashamed that I wear a uniform," she said.

Left: Shade Ajayi works in her shop.
Right: Ajayi shops for thread at a store.
As a child, she worked in her aunt's shop instead of attending school. She now runs her own business making and selling purses and bags, but believes her inability to read or write is holding her back.
Ajayi signed up to attend school in the last academic year, only for it to close due to the coronavirus pandemic. But schools reopened in January and Ajayi finally got her chance.
Ajayi stands up during class at Ilorin Grammar School.
Sitting at a wooden desk, surrounded by pupils aged 11 to 13, she politely raises her hand to answer questions.
Ajayi's teacher, Nasrat Busari, said the mature student appeared completely undeterred by the age gap.
"She has been coping well with them: playing together, talking together and discussing things together," he said.
Ajayi shows old photographs of herself to Shola Adeboye.
It has been hard to juggle school and work, and deal with the stigma. Her daughter, Shola Adeboye, said she was initially embarrassed that her mother attended school alongside children, but later came around.
"She has always wanted to be educated but she couldn't," Adeboye said sympathetically.
Ajayi poses for a portrait in her shop.
Ajayi still makes bags and purses after finishing classes at 4pm, and an apprentice serves her customers during school hours.
She intends to continue her education for four more years, saying it will help her business.
Ajayi chats to some of her classmates after class.
"People around me can read and write and they are succeeding in their businesses," said Ajayi.
And of those who might ridicule her efforts, she said: "It's my duty not to pay attention to what they're saying."
1 / 14

Houses stand in Shade Ajayi's neighbourhood in Ilorin.
More from
Temilade Adelaja
Subscribe to the week’s best stories
A drone's eye view of the Holy Land as Christians look to Easter
Ein Kerem
Editor’s choice
Death in the Himalayas: Poverty, fear, stretched resources propel India’s COVID crisis
'You don't belong': land dispute drives new exodus in Ethiopia's Tigray
More Stories
'Can't take this pain': Rohingya mother searches for son after refugee camp blaze
Cox's Bazar
By catching bats, these ‘virus hunters’ hope to stop the next pandemic
Seen from the sky: polluted waters around the world
'Here it is, the truffle, a blessing from God!'
The last children on South Korea's ageing island
A year without fans lays bare soccer's true soul
'The best job in the world': a Madrid ambulance doctor's dedication after a year of COVID
Capturing the moment a Texas state trooper reaches out to a young migrant
Turkish olive farmer battles to save her land from coal mine
Editor’s choice
Brazil women suffer in silence as COVID-19 sparks domestic terror
Duque De Caxias
Japan's tsunami survivors call lost loves on the phone of the wind
Otsuchi Town
The man who saves forgotten cats in Fukushima's nuclear zone
Back to Top
We have updated our Privacy Statement. Before you continue, please read our new
Privacy Statement and familiarize yourself with the terms.
Follow UsLike UsFind Us Editor's Choice Interactive Behind the News Cultural Atlas Forces of Industry Living Planet Moment of History Perspective Shifting Society Tales of the Unexpected StoriesPhotographers Latest Reuters photographer Danish Siddiqui captured the people behind the story Recommended 2017: A picture and its story Follow UsLike UsFind UsSubscribeiPad AppAboutFAQsContactRSSBack to reuters.com