A Prolific Teacher
Her outstanding reputation stemmed from her role as a woman of substance and the esteemed headmistress of Nigeria Navy Primary School, located in Borokiri, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. Throughout her career, she demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to education, making her a prominent figure in the field.
Mrs. Isolima Tamunamiebi Dateme (formerly Ibanibo) was born into a privileged family on November 6th, 1938, at the Port Harcourt General Hospital in the Eastern region of colonial Nigeria. Her father, the late Chief Stanley Sokari Ibanibo, came from the renowned Okolobo House in Ogoloma, Okrika Local Government Area, and was a direct descendant of the famous Chief Toinpirima Ibanibo. Her mother, Mrs. Nelly Ibanibo (formerly Daniel Kalio), was the granddaughter of Chief Oju Daniel Kalio, who held the esteemed position of paramount chief of Okrika. Mrs. Isolima Tamunamiebi Dateme was the second of seven children.
During her formative years, Mrs. Isolima Tamunamiebi Dateme, affectionately known as Kalatiti or Kaiti, along with her late sisters Sotonye Jamabo, Eremina Obiora, and Alali Ibanibo, were raised by their maternal grandmother (fondly called Opu-mama) in Chief Oju Daniel-Kalio’s compound. This arrangement was made by their father, who worked as a customs officer in the Nigerian Federal Civil Service and often traveled for his job. By living with their grandmother, disruptions to their studies were minimized, ensuring a conducive environment for their education.
Kalatiti, a determined and resilient young girl, began her primary education at Okrika School in the early 1940s. Her education took an interesting turn when her father was posted to work in the southern part of Cameroon. During their time in Cameroon, she continued her primary schooling at Government School in Victoria and later at Tiko Native Authority School.
Upon her father’s transfer back to Port Harcourt, Kalatiti resumed her primary education at St. Cyprians School in Port Harcourt. Eventually, she completed her primary education at the very same Okrika School where she initially started her educational journey. Instead of pursuing a conventional secondary education, Kalatiti decided to embark on a career in the teaching profession.
Journey Through Teaching Career
During one of the Synod meetings organized by the Anglican Communion in Okrika, there was a significant encounter that shaped Isolima’s career path. The Rivers State Education Secretary at the time, Mr. R.I Uzoma, attended the meeting as a guest and coincidentally visited Isolima’s father. As part of his official duties, he was conducting inspections of schools in the area.
While on the school grounds, Mr. R.I Uzoma observed Isolima and her friends engaged in a netball match. He was impressed by Isolima’s leadership skills and her team’s victory. This admiration led him to have a conversation with her father about the potential for a teaching career for Isolima.
Following their discussion, Mr. R.I Uzoma recommended that Isolima pursue teaching as a profession. As a result, he referred her to the Preliminary Teacher Training College (PTC) in Aba, Umuocham, where she underwent a year-long training course. Upon successfully completing the program, Isolima was posted to the Girls School in Okrika to embark on her teaching career.
Following her time at the Girls School in Okrika, Isolima transferred to St. Martins School in Ogu, where she held a teaching position for a year. It was during this period that she received admission to St. Annes Women Training College (WTC) in Umuahia, located in the eastern part of Nigeria (Abia State).
After completing her Grade 3 Teachers’ Certificate, Isolima, also known as Kalatiti or Kaiti, moved to Omuoba in Abia State, where she taught under the guidance of the renowned late John Omuku for a period of two years. Following this, she worked at Bishop Crowther Memorial School (BCM) in Abonnema, where she first encountered her late husband, Daniel Abibo Dateme. However, their time together was interrupted by the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War in 1967.
After the conclusion of the Nigerian Civil War in 1969/1970, Isolima returned to the Girls School in Okrika. Subsequently, she was assigned to St. John’s School on Bishop Johnson Street in Port Harcourt. During this time, Isolima gained admission into the Rivers State College of Education, furthering her educational qualifications. Upon completing her course, she proceeded to fulfill her mandatory National Youth Service at the UPE Primary School in Borokiri, Port Harcourt, in the early 1980s.
Making Of A Head Teacher
In 1984, towards the end of her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program, Isolima came across a job advertisement by the Nigerian Navy for teaching positions in their newly established primary school in Port Harcourt. Eager to seize the opportunity, she applied for a classroom teacher position. To her delight, her application was accepted, and she was invited for an interview conducted by a panel of Naval Officers. Isolima’s performance at the interview was exceptional, impressing the panel to such an extent that they recommended her for the position of Head of School. As a result, she became the pioneer and sole civilian head teacher of the Nigerian Navy School in Borokiri. She served in this role for a remarkable 13 years, during which she also pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Port Harcourt.
During her tenure as the head of the Nigerian Navy School in Port Harcourt, the institution thrived in both academic pursuits and extracurricular activities. Isolima’s leadership contributed to the school’s success, fostering an environment where excellence in education and various co-curricular endeavors were encouraged and achieved.
Her Exit From Service
Around 1996 or thereabouts, a controversy arose concerning the leadership of Navy schools nationwide. It was decided that these schools should be headed by Naval Officers instead of civilians. Consequently, Isolima gracefully handed over her position as head teacher and ceremoniously transitioned the role to a Lieutenant Commander. However, due to her exceptional work ethic, integrity, humility, and by the grace of God, the Naval Officers with whom she had worked spoke highly of her and recommended her to the Naval Headquarters. Instead of becoming redundant, she was appointed as the pioneering supervisor for all the Naval Schools in Port Harcourt. Isolima held this position until she made the decision to transfer back to the Rivers State Public Service, where she was assigned to the Primary Schools Education Board (now UBE Board).
At the Primary Schools Board, Isolima continued her career as a School Supervisor but at a more senior level within the state. Her responsibilities took her to all 23 local government areas of Rivers State, overseeing and providing guidance to schools in various locations. She ultimately retired from her active working career on January 1, 2005, holding the position of Deputy Director of Schools Supervision.
Mrs. Isolima Dateme had a deep and unwavering faith as a devout Christian. Throughout her life, she remained a dedicated member of the Anglican Church. Her journey of faith began at a young age when she was baptized at just 3 months old. During her time at the BTC in Aba, Umuoacha, she was confirmed by Bishop Bara-Hart, further strengthening her commitment to her Christian beliefs.
Regardless of the places she worked as a teacher, Mrs. Isolima Dateme made it a priority to attend Sunday services regularly. During her tenure at the Girls School in Okrika, her punctuality and consistent attendance led to her being appointed as an usher at St. Peters Church Okrika, which is now known as the cathedral. She also served as a Sunday school teacher and actively participated in the Girls Guild, demonstrating her devotion and dedication to the church from a young age.
In her later years, Mrs. Isolima Dateme became a member of St. Johns Anglican Church on Bishop Johnson Street in Port Harcourt. Within this community, she joined the Women’s Guild and Mother’s Union, engaging in various church activities and ministries. She played a pivotal role in the establishment of St. Johns Montessori Nursery and Primary Schools Board and actively participated in Sweeping Group One and St. John’s Harvest group. Despite her commitments and responsibilities, she remained committed to her home church, St. James Church in Ogoloma, fulfilling her obligations to her faith community.
Isolima Dateme entered into matrimony with the Late Daniel Abibo Dateme at St. Cyprians Church in Port Harcourt. Daniel Abibo Dateme was the eldest son of Chief Honest Bibi Dateme from the Georgewills Compound in Abonnema. Unfortunately, their union was cut short by the untimely death of Daniel, marking the end of their brief marriage which lasted for six years. Together, they were blessed with three beautiful daughters.ers.
Isolima Dateme possessed a remarkable and outspoken personality, making her stand out among her siblings. She had a deep aversion to any form of oppression and injustice, and she fearlessly voiced her opinions whenever she observed such situations. Although her strong beliefs sometimes led to misunderstandings, she never hesitated to express herself when she deemed it necessary. She was truly a unique and remarkable individual.
The relationship Isolima had with both of her parents was truly special. She would often recall the care and support she provided to her father during the war until his passing. The bond between Isolima and her mother was particularly strong, and they remained confidants throughout their lives. Isolima Dateme was a mother to three daughters and was blessed with two grandchildren. She cherished her role as a mother and maintained a close and protective relationship with her daughters, always looking out for their well-being.
Isolima Tamunamiebi Dateme, a woman of substance, departed from this world on the 4th of October, 2019 in Abuja, Nigeria. Her passing was a result of natural causes.