Personal Stories

Nonye Onyima’s Journey From Hawking Banana To Lecturer And Ph.D Holder


The death of her mother led Nonye Onyima to the streets. At just 15 years old, she had to stop schooling to help her dad provide for the family. She sold food and iced and also hawked banana.

She knew she was risking getting raped by road-side mechanics, other male hawkers and costumers, or hit by speeding vehicles, she had no option. That was her only means of survival.

SEE ALSO: Dr. Lattisha Shares Her Journey To Becoming An Orthopedic Hand And Upper Extremity Surgeon After Many People Told Her NO

One day, while trying to cross from one lane of a busy road to sell, she was suddenly hit by an impatient female driver, who zoomed off after realizing what she had done.

“I heard people shouting “motor don kill person” and a crowd started running towards me. I had bruises on my body and my arm was broken, twisted anti-clockwise and swollen like a balloon. My bananas and about N5, 000, being the sum of money that I realized from selling bananas and groundnuts on that day, had vanished. They were stolen.” Nonye said.

Some military men who witnessed the incident gave the driver a chase, apprehended her and asked her to take Nonye to the hospital, but she drove to a swamp and wanted to drop her there.

While Nonye was pleading for her life in Igbo language, the driver’s brother in-law demanded to know more about her, and then insisted that the driver took her to the hospital.

A few days after that incident, an uncle living in the United States, who came home and heard what happened to her, returned to the US and persuaded his siblings to send her and her siblings to school.

SEE ALSO: Laurie Idahosa Shares Her Journey To Motherhood Through Many Years Of Infertility

At 23, Nonye gained admission to study Cultural Anthropology at the University of Ibadan. Aiming to be a lecturer, she sponsored herself for a master degree programme after her university education. And immediately after her Masters degree programme she bought a PhD form.

In five years, Nonye sees herself as a post-doctoral researcher in an international research centre working on developmental issues related to health care for marginalized populations, analyzing the complex problems of government’s inability to provide quality and affordable health care for all.

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