By Prisca Sam-Duru
Eze Goes to School, co-authored by Onuora Nzekwu and Micheal Crowder remains one of those classical master pieces by pioneer African writers that may never outlive their relevance in the society.
The legendary work according to Nzekwu before his last days on earth, was born out of the dire need to write a book that focused on the education of children.
It’s clear that Onuora Nzekwu’s generation sincerely imagined a society enhanced by education which is in sharp contrast of what is obtainable today.
The positive impact of the book has never waned which is reason till date it’s one of the recommended text books in the secondary school.
Interestingly, 60 years after the book was written, millions of children in West Africa have read the book and would identify with the protagonist, Eze. Surprisingly and sadly too, the obstacles he went through in an effort to get education are still being experienced by some children in the country. There are still communities in some states today where children travel miles to go to school while many parents lack the fund to give their children quality education.
Although the book underscores the importance of education in the life of every child, it was however written at a time when the essence of education was not well appreciated due to high level of illiteracy and poverty.
It not only harps on the above but also the beauty in African community living- A treasure lost to modernization!
Eze Goes to School also exposes the level of efforts put in by our early parents to ensure they inculcated morals and values necessary for the upbringing of their children.
At this juncture, one must salute the authors’ power of narration. Every detail regarding village lifestyle, culture and tradition of the people is painted vividly to enable readers assimilate and appreciate our heritage. In as much as certain issues brought up in the book such as Okonkwo Adi’s burial, lend credence to African culture, they speak volumes of how wasteful they are and their resultant negative effects on the bereaved.
Set in the Eastern part of the country, the book narrates how 7 year old Eze Adi from Ohia village turns the first child in his community to attend both primary and secondary school. His father, Okonkwo Adi though not educated, is determined that his only son must go to school, having had the opportunity of living in Obodo, the headquarters of their district.
Eze’s enrollment in the school at Ama is therefore a big dream come true for Mr Adi since he was involved in the struggle for the building of the school.
Prior to his death, following the Leopard attack, Okonkwo Adi leaves an instruction that his son, Eze must continue his education. That instruction is disregarded by his brothers who expend all he has, to give him what they term a befitting burial. Eze’s mother’s protest that the wealth would be better used for Eze’s education, falls on deaf ears and the result is better read than imagined.
In spite of the sudden death of his enterprising and brave father, which deals a bad blow on his desire to continue school, Eze through the intervention of his loving teacher, Mr Okafor and few others, made it through, earning a scholarship to further his education.
But before help comes, Eze’s mother falls ill as a result of the death of her husband and ill treatment by her in-laws. While she recuperates, the poor lad busies himself with gardening and making a living out of it. His involvement in such extra workload, pulls him down to the second position in his class.
It becomes almost impossible for Eze to continue going to school due to none payment of school fees. Fate however intervenes through Eze’s teacher, Mr. Okafor, and soldier Wilberforce Ezeilo who comes back from Second World War. Through the duo, Ohia established a scholarship fund from which Eze benefits and realises his dream up to one of the big colleges at Onitsha.
Giving the book under review, a very powerful descriptive touch as well as creatively fusing the core subject matter- education with culture, tradition and colonialism is a trademark that makes works by the likes of Nzekwu, Achebe, Elechi, Emecheta, all of blessed memory etc, stand out.
Digging out Eze Goes to School at this period as a form of tribute to the erudite and legendary writer definitely evokes pertinent poser; what happened to the strong desire to inculcate values in the children as well as for quality education in Nigeria and Africa in general?