The First Day of School


Name: Chinedu E.

Country of Origin: Nigeria

You know, one of the things I really miss about my childhood in Nigeria was the emphasis on education. I feel like in America today, school is just something you have to do for 12 – 16 years of your life. Back home, school was so much more than that. I remember the first day of school every year; I would jump out of my bed at the crack of dawn, disturbing my siblings in the process. Rushing to the door of my parent’s room, I would make as much noise as I could in order to wake them up to prepare breakfast. Such disturbance would be punishable by a few slaps to the cheek on other days, but on this day the old folk actually got out of bed and started preparing us for school. In retrospect, they were probably just happy that we would finally be giving them some room after spending 3 months at home.

I’m sure you’re probably wondering why in the world I got so excited for school. Well, there are multiple reasons. The most important reason to me was the intrigue that every day brought. Some days we would get very interesting new students who could potentially shake up the existing power structures among us kids. Other days we would have our little wars against the girls and their very painful rulers in order to determine who would control the playground. Some days, if you were lucky, you would get the pleasure of laughing at your peers as they got flogged by the teacher for forgetting to do their homework; if you were unlucky, you were the one that got flogged while your so-called friends laughed at your pain and misery.

A lesser, albeit still important, reason was the rewards that came with school. On the last day of every quarter, we would get our report cards. Before this day, we would have had an idea of our relative position in the class,but no one was ever sure of their exact position; thus, we all anticipated the day with a mixture of both nervousness and excitement. When the time came for the report cards to be handed out, we would all crowd the teacher while jostling eagerly to receive the coveted prize. As you got yours, you would run away from your peers in order to open it in secret. We always knew that a kid had done good by the huge smile on his face as he came running back to the crowd.

Now, I had an over-achieving sister so the only good score in my family was 1st position. I remember the rare quarters when I got 1st position. I would immediately sprint to my sister in order to compare scores, in the futile hope that I had done better than her, I was always disappointed because she always got 1st. After getting over the momentary disappointment of not beating her, we would run back home to show our parents our report cards. If you got 1st place, they gave you 50 naira (about 30 cents) which was an enormous amount of money to us kids; with that money you could buy enough chewing gum or jamilla ice cream to make you happy for a while. If you took 2nd or 3rd place you got 20 naira, and if you got anything below that they would smack you for being stupid (I got plenty of those smacks).

So, with both the excitement of novelty each day and the anticipation of the reward/punishment at the end of each quarter, it’s no surprise that I was always looked forward to every school year.

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