By Ekenedirichukwu Anselm Alita
I had to gather many days into a basket, before I understood that in those essays I wrote as a pupil, where I had to describe my father as having a pointed nose, and desperately wanted to make him white in my works, was nothing but a flamboyant fern and fad, meant to embellish my work.
For I have seen Whites and understood, what we actually mean when we say pointed nose. Maybe if my teacher had explained better, that people of my kind are gifted with flat nose, I wouldn’t have done that great disservice to my father. But that was the mind of a child; it was an opportunity to create my father in a write-up, so I decided to make him in the way I thought was best.
When I described him in my essay as fair, not fair as we know, but as the white. It was love that pushed me. When my Dad saw those essays, he was happy at the marks, he wasn’t bothered that I had bleached neither his skin, nor that my words have taken him to the theatre for a plastic surgery on his nose. What mattered was the marks.
Perhaps if my teacher, on that day she taught us puberty, hadn’t made it a verbal attack on the boys, as if puberty was exclusive to girls, and boys were but a sexual chandelier of draping bombs, that would detonate in the body of every girl they touched, we would have understood better what puberty was all about. But that day, her fingers dug into our innocent eyes and accused us, as if holding us all responsible for all the many girls who have been doubled after premarital sex. The ghoulish frown that sat in between her brows, when she went into the details of menstrual cycle, the changes in girls during puberty and the involuntary sexual emission of boys, tried to make puberty a heinous stage of a person’s life.
We ended up being divided along sexual lines. Girls saw us as the predators, and they were the unfortunate prey, or better still the game. Yes the girls avoided us and we avoided them and life continued. My teacher had meant well I suppose, but maybe, her faith made talking about puberty in a non aggressive and uptight way immoral, so that day, we had to be the sacrificial lambs on the altar of her catcalls, so she could end up driving home her point. At the end, she ended up making of the girls, nectarines and the boys thorns, thorns that will always rear their ugly heads.
When I reminisce on these not so interesting episodes of the past, I begin to imagine, the many different ways our teacher could have taught puberty without not just spewing it all under the canopy of sex. How she could have told us about the beauty of this nascent stage of maturity. How she could have told us the boys to be careful when we came to its threshold, since most of us were barely ten years at the time, four years away from our puberty age, while the girls were already almost at the threshold. But she already condemned us even before then, and made puberty seem a time when girls become the endangered species rather than when they see the face of womanhood and the time boys become not adolescents, but marauding sexual predators, ready to claw at the unsuspecting prey.
My teacher was one of the best I think I have had. She was a good teacher, but she followed the spirit of the time, baked in the enclave of stereotypes. She gave us a single story of puberty. In talking about these things, there’s no victor and no vanquish. But education is not all just about learning, it involves also unlearning and relearning.