This week, we decided to visit our formal primary school in Yaoundé Cameroon, and it brought back so many lovely memories.
Michele and I attended Government Bilingual Primary School Biyem-Assi. As far as I can remember, the minimum number of pupils in my class was always around a 100. To people from the developed world or private education, this might seem a lot but it was quite 'normal' for a public government school in Cameroon as the school fee was really cheap.
We always sat 3 or 4 in a bench to my greatest happiness as it meant I could easily copy during exams. To be honest, I wasn’t a very clever pupil, I was always among the last to pass, whilst Michele always managed to be among the top 10! She knows I still hate her for that as she was considered the 'clever' one.
I never felt any pressure from my mum though to be among the top 10, as long as I didn't repeat a class, that was fine!
We always called our teachers ' Madam' or Aunties', When the teacher entered the class we always stood up to greet ' Good mooooooorning Madam' while emphasizing on the morning LOL. Don’t you dare be caught sitting down when everyone is standing to greet, though, or you will receive 10 strokes of the cane on your bottom! Another instance you will be beaten is when you arrive late at school or you didn't do your homework. Michele and I never got into trouble though, our mum always made sure we were polite and well behaved - be it at home or outside.
The last two years in primary school were the most difficult. During those years, we lost our father and eldest brother. It was a very difficult time for our mum financially as she was left with 6 children to raise on her own. It was hard for us seeing her struggle to buy us school textbooks especially as we had to write Government Common Entrance.
It is during that time, I had the idea to sell sweets in school to help our mum with her daily expenses at home. Michele and I will buy sweets at wholesale and sell it to our classmates and other pupils at a cheaper price compared to other retailers. Since our classes were so large and we had so many pupils per class, our teachers could never catch us. We will simply sneak under desks to 'deliver' the sweets while collecting our money at the same time.
It was not uncommon for pupils to sell but we were quite few and to top it up we never got caught selling.
The best part was at the end of the day when Michele and I would hold hands walking home with smiles on our faces eager to show our mum how much we had sold. With the money from the sweats, we were able to buy pass exams papers and take care of our breakfast at school.
As I write this, I can't hold up the tears running on my face, thinking how grateful I am that we have reached this far with Grass-Fields!