One thing is true. One thing I do not regret about school is introducing me to books. I loved the reading tests before we crossed over to upper school. Delicately licking up new words like they were new tastes. I was hooked from when I was young. The ability to read and leave your current abode, albeit tentatively, to go into distant lands, to meet and gain friends while you waited for someone to finally disrupt your lonely existence at school, was to look forward to.
When you have few friends, or none, there is nothing better than being invited into the lives of others, freely, to both suffer and enjoy life with them. It could be as banal as wanting the red car that belonged to Peter in a 10 page book, or following closely the adventure of Ali Baba, or beginning to like what Benjamin’s name actually meant when you read his story in the Bible.
You may not even do it as often as you’d like. Wanting to own your own TinTin or He-Man comics but being unable to because you’ve not badgered your parents enough (?) or maybe they feel other things matter more than coloured drawings and words. At least they always got me the Bible comics when the missionaries came to school. Come to think of it, what happened to those missionaries, their Gideon Bibles and colourful Bible story comics?
Once in a while as you grew up you’d discover a book at school or at home that made you curious. Like that yellow covered book What Does A Man Want? With AWS written downward across its cover. Or Song Of Lawino – Song of Ocol whose importance you get to understand a few years later in literature class. Or Moses and the Farm which leads you to memorise an author’s name forever – Barbara Kimenye.
Later when your choices of subjects narrow, you’re introduced to Rubadiri, Sophocles, Ruganda, Meja Mwanji, Koestler and your awe rises higher.
For a few days you know you get to escape your existence and live with a watchful eye over others. Sometimes it helps you forget some physical pain that won’t dull. Or some mental pain. Or some emotional pain. You live with Rubashov until you mourn his demise, you’re surprised Haraka actually died, you are amused how one would call another the Sun and on and on and on…
There is no regret, really in learning this world of literature that I am in. And every new story I gouge up, I know I do because of school. Whether it is a journey to Iran, an affair in Johannesburg, a murder investigation in Rome, a Ppookino’s journey to Masaka in the 1700s, I know I am privileged to read these stories because of school.
So no, school privileged me. It did not not make me better.