Dr Olu Wilkey moved from Nigeria as a child with her family, during these early years she had spent some time in a private fostering arrangement as a form of childcare. In her interview, she discusses growing up in London, her university career and progress into healthcare, and the Nigerian community in Britain.
Motherhood and Family
I think it’s being, um, a mum. So having two kids and also being able to um, achieve what I have achieved now which is to become a paediatrician, a consultant pedestrian in a local hospital, looking after children with sickle cell and leading the service and also becoming a paediatric training director.
My children regret not learning my language because my husband and I come from different parts of Nigeria, so we always spoke English at home. And so, they feel like they have missed out because they can’t speak either language.
But in terms of Nigeran food, they eat Nigerian food, they have Nigeran friends, Ghanaian friends and we have friends and family, so we are always interactive. And they don’t particularly like Nigerian clothes all the time but they do sometimes wear Nigerian clothes when they go out.
Early Life, Childhood and Fostering
You know I can’t remember where they lived exactly. I’m sure it was outside London somewhere because I remember not seeing my parents all the time but I was used to them and I used to called them mum mum and dad dad so and I was with them for a long time. Probably for a couple of years, at least until I was like 4 or 5. And I remember my parents used to say that when they used to pick me up I used to cry because I didn’t want to go home with them which is funny. And I only probably went there for a weekend and they would bring me back because they were both studying and working and I remember – there are certain things you just remember – I remember my favourite biscuits were bourbon biscuits. I remember that – and I remember that they had two sons and I remember that I really liked the place – I loved being there.
So whereas my siblings maybe – my brother rather he was fostered but my mum had to go pick him up so he wasn’t there for a long time and then I kinda thought then how come you managed to pick up my brother and then also look after my sister who came a lot later but you left me where I was, was it maybe because I like it so much – I don’t know. Maybe they felt, I can’t cope with 3 of you but I can cope with 2 children, I can cope with 1. I never really asked that question. Maybe one day I will, making me think about it now but I’m probably – I’m grateful for the people who looked after me and the fact that I felt loved and I can’t remember it being traumatic at all.
I think my hair was quite short from pictures because I remember my 1-year old picture where they celebrate it in their house, so I didn’t go celebrate it in my parents house. I celebrate my 1-year birthday with my foster carers in their house. And I remember my hair being really short, I don’t have a lot of hair now so I’m not surprised so – I remember that but I can’t remember how they managed afterwards, I think they used to but a bowl on my head and cut off the afro.