Chronicles of Jangalla boy - Part 2

" I was just more experienced"

I was considered a brilliant chap in primary school and i absolutely carried loved carrying that toga. In reality, I was just more experienced than younger kids at doing what they were mostly doing for the first time. I didnt know that at the time though and the adults who did never bothered to share it with me. They all just fed into the “outstanding chap” routine. At least all but one!

When i was 4 my parents decided it was time for me to get into Nursery school. It was the normal evolution after 2 years attending the local creche where unqualified teachers taught subjects they could barely grasp for tokens sufficient enough to enable them look their husband in the eye from time to time and call his bluff.

At the time the Naval Officers Wives Association had set up a Nursery school to rival that owned by the larger Navy which had turned into a mass market. My parents always valued top notch education. They also, albeit i think to this day not delibrately, understood the importance of growing up amongst a certain class even if you were clearly not part of the class. They were not that kind of people but they did feel education was one area where you should keep up with the joneses. They therefore obtained the application form for the elitist Nursery school without the fall back option of the mass market.

I have never understood how the selection was done but i clearly remember standing beside my father in a large hall one day whilst names were reeled out with jubilant parents hauling their successful kids shoulder high until those calling out the names stopped.

I recollect walking out of the room that day wondering why i was never hauled shoulder up. Did i do something to upset my dad? Everyone knew he never really needed a reason to be upset. He himself even exclaimed one day in the full glare of all my friends – You know i get upset easily.

Anyway we took the short walk home where my dad whose cooking skills have always gone unappreciated even though they were never bad for an African man born in the 40s quickly fried 2 eggs and made a large bowl of tea all for me. If this was the substitute for being hauled shoulder up, then i was loving it. It was the first and only time that my dad would reward me for failure!

Anyway i was stuck at home for at least another year before i could try again during which i enrolled in a much more advanced creche. Advanced if you consider the fact that the teacher here probably and i stress probably completed a grade 2 certificate somewhere even her possibly couldnt recollect. I joined the new creche in Nusrey 1. So by the time the next year came along and i was finally admitted into the mass market (i suspect they knew their place at this time) i was in nursery 2 at my creche.

I had therefore completed the Primary 1 syllabus by the time i officially got in to that class. It was therefore not surprising that i came tops of my class in my first 5 terms in school. The Government scrapped the 6th term in order to change the school calender but i like to think i came tops then too.

At the start of my 7th term, we had moved houses which meant i had to leave my creche. My parents wanted me to continue in one given the huge success i had gotten so far so enrolled me in an after school sessiom run by my current class teacher. I came second that term.

For the first time in a long while i was doing work specific to my actual class after school and it showed.

This was the point i should have suspected as my Dad’s immediate response was to move me from the after school lesson to one near my new house where i again was enrolled in a class higher than the one i was officially at in school.

The results were immediate. I came first again the next term. What was more striking was that i had been beaten by a girl whose family had just returned from a posting in India in the first term. At the time she was attending the same extra lessons near my house and switched to the after school sessions hosted by our teacher at the time i was making the opposite switch.

Our extra mural lesson teacher was elated. His hardword was now open for all who cared to see. The child he coached the first term came first and when she left, the child which replaced her came first also. He could not share enough of the testimony and i proudly beamed while he told all who cared to listen of my prowess under his tutulage.

At least until we ran into the mother of the girl. I have always been a tall person, comfortably taller than my mates. So if you then compare me to those younger i clearly dwarfed them.

My lesson teacher proudly called out to this woman to come see as if he was showing off the 9th wonder of the world. See the kid who beat your daughter. I trained him, he bellowed! I continued to glow expecting her to shower me with more econoniums. Thats what everyone had done after all.

She looked up at me with smiling eyes and shook her head. This one is an old man she said. If he cannot beat his kids then what will he saying he is doing at school?

I knew it then. I wasnt that good. I was just more experienced.

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The Author teaches Control Engineering at the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He is a lover of literature at its elegant finest, a crude musical vocalist, an unrepentant dancer, a sprinter of diminished skills, a fan of Arsenal football club and an encourager.


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