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                                    “I have a register with your names in it. It will take some time before I put a face to every name...

“I have a register with your names in it. It will take some time before I put a face to every name, but we will have to start from somewhere. I would like each of you to stand up and say your full names.” She was still smiling. Her emerald gown accentuated her gorgeous smile. She was in her early forties, although her beauty belied her age. She wore a brown pair of leather slippers to match. Her hair was newly permed, and it glistened under the influence of hair cream. She was slightly fair in complexion. “Yes ma,” they replied ebulliently. Within minutes, she made her students feel at home. Their walls of uneasiness and fear of their new environment were peeling away fast. “You are the best students in elementary one, which is the reason you are all in the A class,” she continued, providing no evidence to back up her theory, but her pupils relished the statistic.

“I am sure we will all have fun this year. “I will start the introductions. My name is Mrs. Amadife. I am from Mbaise local council in Imo state. I have three children, a boy and two girls one of whom you will all meet today. I live in New Haven. So, now that you know a little bit about me, let’s start with you at the extreme right. Kedu afa gi? (What is your name?)” There were four pupils per desk. Each desk was about five and a half feet long. Mrs. Amadife had paired two boys and two girls on almost every desk. The girl seated on the extreme left of the first desk on the left row stood up. Nzo had noticed her earlier on during the morning assembly. She smiled practically about everything and her smile was warm, wide and honest. She was a plump and fair-complexioned girl with neatly braided hair. He had sensed that she must be from a well-to-do family given her expensive braids and self-carriage. Her school bag seemed expensive too.

“My name is Uzoamaka Aguluchi. I am from Oji River local council of Anambra state. We live at Fire service quarters, near New Haven. I have one brother and two sisters.” “Thank you very much Uzoamaka,” said Mrs. Amadife. “Now everybody say welcome to Uzoamaka.” “Welcome!” “My name is Chisom Nnona. I am from Nkanu local council of Anambra state. I have four brothers. We live at Atiza quarters.” The introductions continued. None of the spupils could keep track of the names of their thirty nine classmates. “And finally you at the back,” Mrs. Amadife gestured at the girl on the edge of the last desk in the classroom. “She was a petite girl, smaller than most pupils in the class except for Chisom Nnona, who was quite slender and short. She was slightly fair in complexion with an oblong face and an innocent smile. She spoke rather softly. “My name is Oluchi Amadife.” The whole pupils stared hard at her and then at Mrs. Amadife. Now, they could see the resemblance. “I am from Mbaise in Imo state.” “Oluchi is my last daughter. It is my pleasure to have her in my class. Please welcome her to Elementary 1 A.” They let out a loud “welcome!” “Thank you,” Oluchi replied softly, smiling.

He was becoming more convinced that his new teacher was a warm and loving woman. “Our first lesson today is English language. We will be reading from McMillan English textbook. Does everyone have their text?” “Yes!” They echoed, including Nzo who happily brandished his text. The thought of not being able to read did not bother him. The warmth and kindness exuded by his new teacher, and the excitement of meeting all the pupils in his class had left him copiously satisfied. Mrs. Amadife however noticed that some pupils did not have the recommended text. “If you do not have one, please feel free to share with your neighbors. Is there any desk where nobody has the text?” They all looked around. Every desk had at least two copies of the textbook.

“Open to page six. I want you all to pay attention and repeat after me. Obi is a boy.” The class responded in unison, “Obi is a boy.” “Ada is a girl.” Ada is a girl,” they replied, yelling. The rest of the lessons were fun and lively. “Let me have a word with you Nzochukwu,” Mrs. Amadife said as Nzo was leaving the class at recreation. He turned and stood before her. “I want to let you know that if you have any problems with class, you should let me know, okay?” He was surprised. He wondered if it was a good thing or a bad thing. Did she think he was not bright enough? He looked at the ground shyly, afraid to look her in the eye. “You don’t have to feel bad Nzochukwu. Oluchi my daughter struggled with learning in the past. For some people, it takes time and for others, it comes naturally.

“In the end, both sets of students often end up in similar categories with nurture and attention. I was told that you had a difficult time in kindergarten. I want you to be happy here.” “You will not beat me if I don’t get some answers correctly?” “No Nzochukwu. I will help you the best I can.” “I used to very afraid of going to school because I knew my teacher would be beat me every day. I spent more time worrying about getting in trouble that I never really concentrated in class. I want to learn ma. I really want to be like others. I want to be able to read and write and make my parents happy. Please don’t beat me if I don’t do well at first.”

“Not in my class. You will not be beaten. I will try my best to help you as much as possible. You must pay attention and try your best too.” “I will ma.” “Okay, go and enjoy your break time.” “Thank you ma. I am so happy now. Please can I give you a hug…I am not very afraid anymore.” An elegant smile appeared on her face as she grabbed his little body and pressed him against herself. He held her tightly, smelling the sweet scent of her hair. A few specks of tears dropped from his eyes as he held onto to Mrs. Amadife. “Thank you ma. Thank you very much,” he said from the bottom of his heart. As he walked home later that day, he felt on top of the world. He kept scrutinizing his sandals as he walked the same path home with a gallant smile on his face. The weight was off his shoulder. “Did you like school Nzo?” His dad asked as soon as he entered the living room. He smiled and said, “I love you so much daddy. Thanks for talking to my teacher.” He had thrown his school bag down as he hugged his father with equal passion and joy. “Did she say something to you?” “She said she had been told to be nice to me. I knew it was you. Thank you! Mrs. Amadife is the best teacher in the world. I am never running from school again.” His dad almost cried out of sheer relief as Nzo continued to hug him.

Uzodika and Iheoma were awestruck. Iheoma who was headed for the kitchen to dish Nzo’s lunch stopped at the door in sheer disbelief. She was transfixed. Staring at each other, they could hardly utter a word. Their eyes were filled with contentment. Smiling, she turned and made for the kitchen. Nzo had earned himself a resounding victory, at least for the day and Iheoma was intent on rewarding him accordingly. She fished out the biggest bowl from her dish basket and filled it to the brim with yam porridge. Uzor stumbled into the kitchen just as she was finishing off. His eyes widened as a fresh sting of hunger took hold of his stomach on sighting the mountain Iheoma had dished for Nzo. “Is that all for Nzo, mom? He inquired; his voice was laced with jealousy. “You already had a big lunch, Uzor. I see no need why you should be eyeing your brother’s lunch.” “But mom, my lunch was not half as big as his.”

“You are not as old as he is. He spent a few hours longer at school. Now go play with the twins and stop whining.” Grumbling, he reluctantly plodded out of the kitchen. Grinning from ear to ear he gobbled down his lunch, piece after piece. “Ezigbo nwa, etua ka I ga esi na eme ubosi n’ile (Good boy, keep up your good performance),” Iheoma rained encomiums on him, and he relished every moment of it. “I will no longer run away from school. I like my new teacher and most of my classmates are very friendly and nice.” “I am sure you no longer will my boy,” Uzodika chipped in. Soon after his lunch, he sped outside to join other children playing bottle top football in front of their neighbor’s house.


Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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THE TRIALS OF NZOCHUKWU - Episode 8 An African Literary Blog
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