Posts Tagged ‘Alu Azege’

A week ago my friend and senior media colleague Alu Azege invited me to read to the children in her book club. I said yes, even though for some reason I was super excited and nervous at the same time. You see, anyone who knows me knows I love children, I absolutely adore them; I believe that children (babies especially) are proof that God still makes beautiful things. My niece, my nephew, children I know, and even those I don’t know, I just love.

Let’s put my gushing on hold and go back to that Saturday morning. I had agreed to do the reading at 10am, to enable me catch a flight to Lagos for 1pm for a few engagements.

I got to the venue and found about 16 children aged 6 to 12 seated in a circle, and I was told the immediate challenge was getting them to agree on a book to read. After we were introduced, we held a small ‘election’ (gotta catch them early) and settled on reading ‘Eze Goes To School’, written by Onuora Nzekwu and Michael Crowder in 1963. Mr Nzekwu died in April this year (2017), at the age of 89. Interestingly, I read Eze Goes To School at least 20 years ago (good luck trying to figure out my age).

Anyway, off the top of my head, I decided we would read two pages, discuss them, answer any questions, and then take on the next two pages. I wanted to be sure the children followed the reading, and also to accommodate the younger children because the class was combined.

The first two pages had me cringing at the blatant patriarchy and thought patterns that existed in those days. Eze’s father, a successful warrior, was illiterate but believed that his son Eze would benefit from an education, and so he pushed till he went. For Ulu, Eze’s sister, however, education was not on the cards at all, simply because she was a girl and girls didn’t need to go to school. The entire book is therefore centred on Eze’s education and the hurdles he faced in his quest for education.

Another thing that gnawed at me was the advice Okonkwo gave his son Eze as he set off to start school. He said, “You must beat all the boys in any examination you take. You must take first place always. And if you are stupid enough to let a boy beat you, never, my son, never let the girl, Chinwe beat you.”

On the 3 mile trek from their village Ohia to Ama where his school was located, a young Eze soon became tired, but he couldn’t say, even to his mother because it was out of place for boys to show any weakness. Even in exhaustion, lol.

In between questions, the younger children being unable to sit still (cue countless trips to the restroom), searching Google for words we didn’t understand and for a picture of African Garden Egg, we could only read one chapter before I had to leave. If I could, however, with total respect for the authors, I would change quite a few things in that first chapter, maybe even in the entire book.

Our culture, tradition, even the media we were exposed to created a generation of men who were afraid of their/to show emotion, for whom tears or the slightest expressions of vulnerability were seen as weakness; a generation of men bred to suppress their feelings.

Any wonder it seems like the majority of the men around are unfeeling? It is what they were conditioned to be from childhood! They were taught to play and explore and be adventurous while the girls were raised to be subservient homemakers, forgetting that it takes two to tango, and two to make a home.

This is why I say our generation of parents and would-be parents have an incredible responsibility to raise children that see themselves as equal, not superior by reason of class or gender; who strive for excellence with healthy doses of competition and camaraderie. So that Eze can go to school with Ulu, and do well at school because he’s applying himself and not because he wants to do better than a girl.

PS: I can’t wait to read to them again, and I’m taking my nephew with me. Not taking my niece biko, before she scatters the place. It’s a bookclub after all, not a nursery.