Though a septuagenarian, Sudhakaran Unnithan still finds pleasure in teaching. He was one of the Indians who taught in Nigerian schools in the 80s. He taught English and Literature in English at Ijebu Ife Community Grammar School, Ogun State along with a number of other expatriate teachers.
Since 1986 when he left Nigeria back to India, he has not dropped the chalk. Presently, he is an instructor of the International English Language Testing Scheme. It is a test conducted by the British Council. A good score in IELTS is required for those who want to study or work in the UK, the USA, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia. He is the author of Writing Tasks 1&2.
Born in an aristocratic family as the second child of his parents in the Kerala State of India, Unnithan says in an online interview with Church Times that he did not enjoy the love and care of his father as he had passed away when he was only two years old. But that did not in any way affect his education. He earned his B.A, M.A, and B.Ed degrees and afterwards took to teaching for some years in India before he moved to Kenya to head a Secondary school and then Nigeria.
He flew to Nigeria in 1978, having been offered an appointment by the then Ogun State Central Schools Board. He had expected a respectable job, a comfortable living experience with a new culture and civilization.
Unnithan got to Ijebu Ife Grammar School and was not disappointed. He was really at home with both the staff and students. He was not the only one. Several of his kinsmen were also teaching alongside in that community school. “I must categorically say that there was no disappointment whatsoever. I enjoyed teaching to the fullest. Special mention has to be made about the then Principal Mr. Segun Sosanya (now late) who had given me a warm welcome as well as Chief Olajide Adebanjo who accommodated me and my family in his beautiful and well-furnished house. The faces of most students are still lingering in my mind. I still remember Mr. Olusada, Mr. Onabanjo, and others.” He said.
His impression of Nigerians is that of “hard-working, self-respecting people, who love independent life. I love this style of living.”
According to him, “The Nigerian educational system is commendable.” He believes “a graduate of a Nigerian university is as knowledgeable as the graduate of any university in the so-called West.”
Unnithan whose daughter has also taken after him in the teaching profession said his coming to Nigeria was necessitated by the shortage of qualified teachers in Nigeria then. But beyond that, he said “Indians love teaching, which is a field, where there are opportunities aplenty. Teaching makes me active and keeps me young even in my 70s.”
He expressed deep satisfaction about many of the students he taught noting that many are living and working in different parts of the world. “I am proud of them.” He said.
Though he had a good time in Nigeria, he had to leave for India in 1986 after eight years in the country. “I left Nigeria in 1986, as I had to fulfil my obligations to my family back home in India. Of course, Nigeria will remain in my heart forever. Never have I had a bad experience with Nigerians. They always had only love and respect for me.”