My Lovely Teacher

“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.”

- Galileo Galilei

My class was primary 3S (third grade) or was it 3R I’m not sure anymore, you have to understand, it’s been over a million years since I was tottering in school uniforms (yea yea, I’m that old, but so are you hon!). Anyway, no matter how long it gets, I’ll never forget an experience I believe that had a monumental negative impact on my life.  You have to picture me at primary three (third grade) to fully understand my ordeal, I was a very lanky (don’t ask me where all the fat came from now), slightly effeminate and shy pretty boy, who if left alone would prefer his own company, but if not, would rather read a book than roll in the mud with the guys (don’t worry I toughened up and got pretty rough later after I enrolled in an all-boys secondary school).  I remember I hated school, not the slight dislike of someone who would rather be doing something else, but the passionate abhorrence of someone who would rather do anything else, and for good reason, as you would soon see. My hatred did not stem from being bullied by my peers, although I got my dose of that, it was not from not doing my homework on time, although I was not guiltless in that regard, it was because of my sweet lovely class teacher, who had the ability to make the sweetest subjects ‘English and religious studies’ taste like bitter herbs, imagine then what she did with ‘mathematics and primary science.  Mrs N. was as gentle as concentrated acid and as sweet as bitter kola. To top it all, I think she liked to pick on me, or maybe she just picked on anyone at random. I can remember a day we were told to each stand and introduce our parents. Everyone started by saying their fathers title or profession, I can remember clearly the boy in front of me said “Doctor something” the pretty fair girl beside me said “Engineer something” too, but when it came to my turn I stood up and said “Barrister C.J. Anie…” just to be cut off by “stupid boy, barrister,… now spell barrister, spell barrister” I was in primary three for heaven’s sake, and at that time, we were not genius brilliant like kids these days. Now that I think about it, she must have had something for me.

Being pretty much a loner of sort, I developed a liking for comic books of super heroes, and devoured them in droves. My passion did not end there; it extended to reproducing them for my walls and lockers, I also developed a knack to draw them. So my room at home was covered from wall to wall, with herculean figures with barrel chests, tree trunk arms and spidery legs. my experiments soon made me very good with sketching, so good that my sister use to tease me that I’ll become an artist (not funny for a kid who dreamt of being a doctor in an era where only professional courses were considered legit).  My problem reached crescendo when Mrs N. gave us an assignment to draw an animal of our choice for our fine arts continuous assessment.  I considered it an opportunity to earn some extra marks. So that weekend, I threw myself into producing nothing short of a masterpiece that even Picasso would have envied. I was sure I was getting my twenty marks, not even Mrs N. in all her wickedness could deprive me. I drew a duck that you would have sworn was alive, accentuated with a background pool and faded garden. I came to school that Monday, almost happy, almost liking the thought of school. Twenty minutes after submitting my assignment I heard Mrs N’s shrill voice cut through the classroom like hot knife through butter

 “kanayo Aniegboka , come here”

I approached her table with the confidence that comes from lack of sin, but her next question stopped me on my tracks

“Who drew this for you?”

I let a slight smile cross my lips at the thought of how good my work was that she felt someone did it for me, but I quickly regretted it as her hand flew across my face taking the smile with it.

“Who is smiling with you?” she barked, “do you think I’m joking?”
By now, my confidence had departed from me like unfaithful friends in a bar fight, and in a voice shaking like a naked child in harmattan cold, I replied

 “I drew it, I did it myself”.
Enraged by my answer, in one swift motion, she grabbed her four foot tall cane, spun me around and delivered three warning swipes on my back, as effective as the Americas warning bombs in Kuwait. I screeched in pain but held my ground, the pain of being disbelieved hurting more than the searing of the cane. As classmates who had already uuh’d and ahh’d over the work now glared in suspicion, I felt my newly budding love for school swiftly evaporate. Seeing my resolve as an affront rather than a declaration of truth, she threw both drawing book and caution to the wind and rained down hell on me, all the while repeating

“I know what you can do, you could not have drawn that, it’s not you”

My friend, Ari, always makes fun of the kind of beating you receive where your ultimate goal becomes to do anything to make the pounding stop, well that was me, after about three minutes of trying to hold my stand and integrity, I could take no more, I could see in her eyes that she would not back down. So out of the need to end the abuse, I agreed I did not draw it, I made up a name and gave her. I failed that test, served a gruesome punishment, but it was nothing compared to the bruise it left on my psych, and the damage the humiliation did to my self-esteem. For one, I never drew again, and today I wonder if I could have done something with that talent had it been nurtured, and number two, It corroded the self-confidence a child who was already struggling with it, and I’m sure I never learnt anything in primary three. Thanks a lot Mrs N.

I remembered this today because I have a young friend who has marvellous skills in the area of show business and public relations. She’s made very impressive strides in the short time she has been in the field and promises great success if given the opportunity. Unfortunately, she is receiving so much resistance from her family because she is yet to gain admission into the university; seeing her dabbling into such things only as a distraction. They lovingly clamp down on her and every activity she desires to embark on. We’re working extremely hard to see she gets into school, but at the same time I worry that the pummelling from her family will do to her what Mrs N. did to my artistic ability. I wish they could learn to guide rather than rule and balance rather than oppress.  As for Mrs N, I’m glad I didn’t turn out bad; thank God for the other mentors and teachers I met along the way, but as far as moulding young mind goes, she was a dismal failure. It is sad that we have people like that still in our school of learning, on every level, who destroy rather than inspire potential. We are in a ‘yes we can ‘generation, let’s get rid of all the  ‘No you can’t’ attitudes destroying all the greatness God has blessed our generation with that still resides  in the lives and minds of innocent looking young  folk.    
“Adults constantly raise the bar on smart children, precisely because they’re able to handle it. The children get overwhelmed by the tasks in front of them and gradually lose the sort of openness and sense of accomplishment they innately have. When they’re treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kids’ hearts are malleable, but once they gel it’s hard to get them back the way they were.”
- Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
"Image courtesy of Sicha Pongjivanich/"

Kanayo Aniegboka

Kani is a Nigerian born and based minister, public speaker, entrepreneur and life coach. His keen and unique perspective to life issues makes him a refreshing voice to listen to. He currently serves as the Executive Coordinator of House on the Rock - Word House and sits on the board of a number of companies.


  1. Hahahahaha, wow. Most of us are victims of this. Wrong foundations are being laid, the early and delicate stage of life taken for granted. I had my fair share PK, trust me its not funny. Not in school though, who had time for teachers? Lol.
    I can't stand the likes of Mrs N, hope the N is not in anyway Nancy?

  2. Very funny and intresting,Yet very true and inspiring. "mistakes our parents made". Hmmmmmmmmmm. We know better now.

  3. i am wondering what would have happened if you said ok let me draw another in front of you, it's all a pity i love to dance but never do cos my brother made me believe i was the worst dancer God ever created i still hear their mockery everytime music is on and it keeps me paralysed on the spot. meanwhile my hear is doing all manners of acrobatics

  4. Ha! She probably would have slapped me across the face, but more importantly, I was so scared I'd probably would have found it difficult drawing a straight line. Its that fear that keeps us from trying even after our tomemtors are no more.

  5. Funny..ur teacher really had smthin for u dis is so true, infact these days parents r nt helpin atall.i guess we dont have the likes of Mrs N anymore