I was fortunate enough not to start school right from the bottom (the nursery). I was a bit too old, about four to five years, when I officially started schooling. My mother says I clung to her so much as a child, hence her inability to send me off to school early. Unlike my elder sister who I heard started school way before she even turned two. My mom says she was a very enthusiastic child who was excited about school that she had to send her earlier before time. I, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. I hated school as a child up until a certain stage. But I did not have the luxury of crying or throwing tantrums or protesting when my mom finally decided it was time for me to go. You don’t get to do that when your mom is my mom—trust me, you know better. Even before I had stepped foot in a classroom, as is the custom in most Ghanaian homes I’d guess, I had my personal home teacher. Yeah, you guessed right—who else but my lovely elder sister whom I prefer to call as Maabena in this story because she’s a Tuesday-born. She was a skinny seven year old, and probably in primary three at the time.
Now in order for you guys to fully understand the entire story, I’m going to have to describe where we were living at the time. We were living at my grandfather’s at Anloga, just not inside the main house. Our compartment was a small room on the outside of the main compound with a door linking the two sections, and you could literally see the streets from our veranda. My aunt, Auntie Doris, had her blue kiosk right in front of our room, some few inches away from the veranda. We used to reach out and remove strange things from the rusty roof of her kiosk all the time, just to see who was taller and whose hands could reach farther, totally disregarding our mother’s constant warnings. My aunt is a hairdresser and that kiosk is there, currently, and that is where I even braid most of my hair. Another thing to note is that the veranda was not leveled with the ground. You’d have to climb a few stairs to get up there. The distance from up there to the ground wasn’t that far though, just that if a child fell from there accidentally, they could get hurt.
Having established this fact, shall we now return to my unofficial homeschooling with my sister cum Teacher Maabena?
Now, imagine my little four-year old self propped up on a chair on that veranda—a little too close to the edge—with a table, slate and chalk in front of me, ready to divulge the English alphabets and numerals. For starters, Teacher Maabena diligently took me through the twenty-six letters of the English alphabets drawn on the slate. She’d point to the letter, say it out loud and have me repeat after her. After about three rounds of this exercise, I was asked to enunciate the letters on my own, unassisted. I couldn’t recall even one, and Teacher Maabena got annoyed at me. She could not comprehend why I was unable to recall even one alphabet after all her efforts. I also got pissed and told our mom she was rushing me through the whole thing, which is why I could not assimilate the lesson. She calmed the both of us down and coaxed Maabena into starting all over, asking her to teach me slowly this time round.
An already impatient Maabena began the process all over; pointing at the letters one by one, enunciating them as many times as she could, with me repeating right after her ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ till the very last letter, ‘Z’. I was asked once more to say them alone and I failed. Try as I did, I just could not remember even one of the alphabets, which only fueled Teacher Maabena’s irritation. She complained to our mom, that I was not being serious with the exercise, and that that is why I couldn’t recollect what she’d taught me seconds ago. I also shot back furiously in my defense saying that, the letters were so many and so how could she expect me to grasp them in such a short time. To settle matters, Mom suggested she teach me the letters in sets of four to make recalling easier for me. Thus, we started with the first four. Teacher Maabena turned the back of the slate and hastily scribbled the first four letters down, making sure each was legible enough. We repeated the usual cycle and once again, I still couldn’t reproduce a single one of the four alphabets on my own. That was the last straw.
Teacher Maabena had had enough!
She poked me angrily in the head, demanding why I was so daft. I didn’t stay on that veranda long enough to fight back. I’d been sitting too close to the edge of the veranda and not well balanced on my chair either-which happened to be one of those kitchen stools. Before I knew it, I was toppling down that space between my aunt’s shop and the veranda. I landed with my head stuck under the kiosk. My terrified mother chased my sister into the streets, yelling insults at her, saying she’d kill her if anything happened to me. Of course she wasn’t going to kill her literally, it’s an ‘African mother thing’ to say when furious.
I remember my aunt,—who was in the shop at the time—alarmed by the sound of my fall had rushed out to find out what it was. She panicked and rushed into the main house to get some grown men to come and displace the kiosk, so I could lift my head out from beneath it. All the while, my mom kept telling me to be patient, asking if I was hurt or bleeding anywhere, at the same time hurling indiscreet curses at my sister. My neck had gotten stuck at an uncomfortably painful angle under the shop, so I kept turning my head slowly, hoping to at least get a better position till the kiosk was moved. My mother screamed at me, asking me to keep still or I’d injure myself. I too was beside myself in tears, saying that my neck was hurting. I don’t know how, but I would manage to get my head out somehow, by my constant twist and turns, even before my aunt would arrive with the men.
My mom and aunt, who were dying from panic some few minutes back, now took to laughing at me. By the time I got back up on the veranda, Teacher Maabena was drenched in tears, standing as far off from mom as possible. She had not expected me to fall and had gotten scared when I did. My aunt told her to stop crying since I was fine. I had sustained some minor scratches on my arms and legs and the part of my face that faced the ground during the fall. Apart from that, I was okay. Now that I look back at it, I think if my head had not gotten stuck under the kiosk, I could have hit it hard on those rocks or stones and that would have been very fatal. A regretful Maabena apologized to my mom and me that afternoon.
‘Park the books and everything. You won’t break my daughter’s neck because of one teaching. Her teachers will teach her when she goes to school,’ Mom ordered.
That was the sad and abrupt end of Teacher Maabena’s career. Actually I was kind of happy, because I’d found the whole thing stressful and worrisome.
Later, I would start school officially and for my first two years, I wouldn’t do so well. But somewhere along the line, I would start picking up and well, here I am today.
Is there a moral to this story?
Maybe. I guess the moral is to not rule anyone out completely, especially children. Their brains are still developing so they need a little time. Also, if your family happens to assign you the unofficial task of home teacher, please be patient!.
Don’t be like Teacher Maabena😁.
Hello! Hello! Hello there!
Happy to be back with another one of my wild but humorous childhood experiences. I laughed so much writing this particular piece because it took me on a roller coaster of many wonderful memories with my elder sister especially.
I dedicate this lovely piece to all of my siblings—Bella, Vic, and Julius—and to all my enthusiastic and committed readers as well. Thank you all for always having my back. It means so much🌹
Love you all❤