The taxi driver who returned $50,000 in an act of honesty and how it changed his life
The story of what happened to Emmanuel Tuloe in Liberia has the makings of a modern legend.
The 19-year-old, dressed in a school uniform of a baby blue shirt and shorts, stands out in a class full of students at least six years his junior.
Emmanuel, who had previously dropped out of primary school, feels happy despite their age difference.
Last year, while driving his motorcycle taxi, his way of making a living, he found $50,000 in a mix of Liberian dollars and bills, wrapped in a plastic bag on the side of the road.
He could easily have kept that not inconsiderable amount of cash, but he decided to give it to his aunt to take care of, and when the rightful owner appealed via national radio for help finding his money, Emmanuel showed up.
Although some ridiculed him for his honesty – people mocked him saying he would die poor – his act brought handsome rewards including a place at Ricks Institute, one of the most prestigious schools in Liberia.
President George Weah gave him $10,000 and the owner of a local media outlet also gave him money, some of which was raised from television and radio audiences.
And the owner of the money he found donated $1,500 worth of goods.
In addition to all that and perhaps of greater significance, a university in the United States reacted by offering him a full scholarship once he finished high school.
Academic and moral discipline
That is what Emmanuel is now concentrating on at Ricks, an academic boarding school established 135 years ago for the elite of Liberian society who are descended from the freed slaves who founded that African country.
Its two-story structures sit on a beautiful, leafy campus 6 kilometers from the Atlantic coast.
“I’m comfortable at school, not because Ricks has such a prestigious name, but because of the academic and moral disciplines,” Emmanuel said, smiling and adjusting his shirt collar as he spoke.
Like many Liberian children from poor, rural backgrounds, Emmanuel dropped out of schoolyou nine years to try to earn some money and help his family. That was shortly after his father had drowned in an accident and he had to go live with his aunt.
A few years later, he became a motorcycle taxi driver.
After so much time out of the education system, she needs a lot of extra support at school.
When Emmanuel first entered the sixth grade class, “he felt a little inferior; he couldn’t express himself in class, but we worked with him day after day,” his teacher, Tamba Bangbeor, explained to the BBC.
“Academically, he came in with low fundamentals, so we put him in an educational enrichment program. That has been helping him,” he said.
Now he has six years of high school left and when he is 25 years old he will graduate. But he doesn’t mind the age difference with his classmates, whom he describes as “friendly.”
Emmanuel also enjoys the boarding school system, noting that “dormitory life is good because it’s a way of learning to live on your own one day.”
Looking to the future, he wants to study accounting in college “to prepare himself to help guide the good use of the country’s money.”
His discretion and honesty have been seen as role models in a country plagued by corruption and where public officials are often accused of stealing state resources.
“It is good to be honest”
Reflecting on the way some people made fun of him for returning the money, he acknowledges that he could have used the funds to improve his material situation, “but I would never have given him the opportunities now.”
Emmanuel thanked God for giving him the rewards and also expressed “gratitude“ to their parents to betell him “inculcated to be honest”.
“My message to all young people is: ‘It’s good to be honest; don’t take what doesn’t belong to you.’”
The Ricks faculty appreciates Emmanuel’s presence.
“As a school, not only have we recently benefited from his honesty, he is also the substitute goalkeeper for the school football team,” said Bangbeor of his ward – a die-hard Chelsea fan – who plays on the team with students closest to him. age.
His classmates too celebrate your presence.
Bethlene Kelley, 11, called him “a great friend that we like to hang out with and take care of because he’s quiet and doesn’t like to talk a lot. He is loyal, respectful and honest.”
And from the life that Emmanuel left behind, the other motorcycle taxi drivers seem not to envy their former colleague’s new perspectives.
One of them, Lawrence Fleming, 30, told the BBC he had dropped out of school as a teenager in ninth grade and had followed Emmanuel’s story closely.
“It is good that Emmanuel has returned to school, we are grateful to God for him,” he said.
Standing at a road junction in the western Morovia town of Brewerville, Chinese motorcycle rider Boxer had a piece of advice.
“Stay in school for your future and the future of your children… now has a chance some of us don’t“.
Remember that you can receive notifications from BBC World. Download the new version of our app and activate it so you don’t miss out on our best content.