Growing up in northern Nigeria, Rock’s community constantly faced threats from the extremist group Boko Haram, the Nigerian branch of Islamic State. The group recruited young boys from schools as child soldiers and kidnapped young girls. The group pressured young men to join and those who didn’t were bribed with money, tablet computers and smartphones
Rock was pressured to join and when he resisted, they attacked him and his family. He hid in the attic and his siblings ran off in all different directions and took refuge in other countries nearby.
Despite the ordeal, Rock’s mother inspired him because she wanted to protect her family. As a Rotarian and pastor, she possessed a strong network which they used to seek refuge in churches in other countries before coming to Australia when he was 16.
“My Mum has been a Rotarian for more than twenty years. She travels extensively to preach and help on Rotary projects. When we left Nigeria we could not go back. We had no accommodation so we lived in churches at which my Mum preached. Fortunately, the next convention at was in Sydney so my Mum and I came here and were granted refuge,” he said.
Rock said that his Mum prays his family will eventually be reunited. His other three siblings live in churches in different African countries.
Rock completed Year 11 and 12 and also worked full time at a burger restaurant. He would go straight from school at 3pm and work from 4pm to 12am.
“Working to support my mother made me grow up faster. I felt like a 30 year old in a teenager’s body and it made me value everything in my life,” Rock said.
Rock found the Humanitarian Scholarship at UTS Insearch, the pathway to the University of Technology Sydney. This enabled him to complete an Accelerated Diploma of Design and Architecture at UTS Insearch. He is now doing a Bachelor of Construction Project Management at the University of Technology Sydney.
“I want to be a project manager in future. I want to support my Mum and reunite our family. My Mum has sacrificed everything. I have not seen my siblings in five or six years,” he said.
“My ultimate vision is to move back to Africa, buy some land and then open a trade school where people will learn trade skills for free. For example, people can learn to be a mechanic, carpenter, plumber or panel beater. I want to give people skills so they are always in demand and don’t have to hustle and struggle for work. My Mum always says about it’s not about giving people fish to eat, it’s teaching them how to fish. I want to apply this principle in building a trade school. People can then perfect their skills and employ people and they pass on their skills – it’s a virtuous cycle.”