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Tracing Chinua Achebe’s Background: Her Early Life and Education in Nigeria

Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, best known for his first novel, things fall apart which is the most widely read and discussed book in modern African literature, he described his writing as an attempt to clarify the historical record by showing that Africans did not first hear about culture from Europeans, that their societies were not meaningless. but they had a philosophy of great depth and value and beauty, they had poetry and above all, they had dignity.

Achebe’s novels, especially so Things Fall Apart, now 50 years old, focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the effect of Christian and Western influences on it, and the clash of values ​​during and after the era. colonial. Achebe’s works portray the communities of Nigeria. going through the traumas of colonization and entering a troubled nation. By bridging the political and the literary, she neither idealizes indigenous culture nor apologizes for colonial culture.

Achebe, who unlike his Kenyan counterpart, Ngugi Wathiongo, wrote his novels in English, has defended the use of English, even though it is the language of the colonizers, in African literature. Achebe’s keen ear for spoken language has made him one of the most highly regarded African writers writing in English. His style draws heavily on Igbo oral tradition and combines simple storytelling with performances of folk stories, proverbs and oratory.

Raised by Christian parents in the Igbo village of Ogidi in southern Nigeria, Achebe excelled in school and won a scholarship to university. She then became fascinated with world religions and traditional African cultures, and began writing stories that were published in campus publications.

After graduating, he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service, which caused him to move to the metropolis of Lagos.

Achebe’s parents, Isaiah Okafo Achebe and Janet Anaenechi Iloegbunam, converted to the Protestant Church Missionary Society (CMS) in Nigeria. Elder Achebe, being a teacher in a missionary school, stopped practicing the religion of his ancestors, but respected his traditions and sometimes incorporated elements of his rituals into his Christian practice.

Chinua’s unabridged name, Chinualumogu “May God fight on my behalf”, was a prayer for divine protection and stability. The Achebe family had five other surviving children, named with a similar amalgamation of traditional and English names: Frank Okwuofu, John Chukwuemeka Ifeanyichukwu, Zinobia Uzoma, Augustine Nduka, and Grace Nwanneka.

Chinua was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe in the Igbo village of Ogidi in Nneobi, on November 16, 1930. His parents instilled in him many of the values ​​of their traditional Igbo culture even though they were devout evangelical Protestants. He was later baptized Albert, after Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. His parents, who were at a crossroads of traditional culture and Christian influence, had a significant impact on the children, especially in Chinualumogu. As a result, Achebe’s education spanned both the indigenous and the colonial worlds.

After the birth of the youngest daughter, the family moved to their ancestral village of Ogidi, in what is now Anambra. condition.

Storytelling was one of the pillars of the Igbo tradition and an integral part of the community. Therefore, Chinua’s mother and sister, Zinobia Uzoma, told him many stories when he was a child, of which he repeatedly asked for more. His education was further enhanced by the collages his father hung on the walls of their home, as well as almanacs and numerous books, including a prose adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and an Igbo version of The Progress of the pilgrim. Chinua also eagerly anticipated traditional village events, such as frequent costume ceremonies, which he later recreated in his novels and stories.

In 1936 Achebe entered St Philips Central School. Despite his protests, he spent a week in the religion class for young children, but was quickly transferred to a higher class when the school chaplain took note of his intelligence. He was said to have the best handwriting in the class and the best reading skills. He also attended weekly Sunday school and monthly special gospel services, often carrying his father’s purse with him. A controversy broke out in one such session, when apostates from the new church challenged the catechist on the principles of Christianity. . Achebe would later include a similar scene in things fall apart.

At the age of twelve, Achebe moved away from his family to the village of Nekede, four kilometers from Owerri, where he enrolled as a pupil at the Central School, where his older brother, John, taught. At Nekede, Achebe gained an appreciation for Mbari, a traditional art form that seeks to invoke the protection of the gods through symbolic sacrifices in the form of sculptures and collages. When it was time to switch to high school, in 1944, Achebe took entrance exams for both the prestigious Dennis Memorial High School in Onitsha and the even more prestigious Government College in Umuahia. He was accepted to both but ultimately opted for the Government College in Umuahia. He received a coveted scholarship to the Government College in Umuahia, where he studied alongside some of Nigeria’s future political and cultural leaders.

Modeled after the British public school and funded by the colonial administration, the Government College was established in 1929 to educate Nigeria’s future elite. It maintained rigorous academic standards and was vigorously egalitarian, accepting children solely on the basis of ability. The language spoken at school was entirely English, not only to develop proficiency but also to provide a common language for students from different Nigerian language groups. This Achebe was later ordered to “put aside his different mother tongues and communicate in the language of his colonizers.” The rule was strictly adhered to, and Achebe recalls that his first punishment was asking another child to pass the soap to him in Igbo.

There, Achebe was doubly promoted in his first year. Therefore, he completed the first two years of studies in one, spending only four years in high school, instead of the standard five. Achebe, who did not fit into the school’s athletic regimen, joined a group of six highly studious students. whose study habits were so intense that the principal prohibited the reading of textbooks from five to six in the afternoon (although other activities and other books were allowed).

Achebe began exploring the school’s “wonderful library” and discovered Booker T. Washington’s book. Up From Slavery, the autobiography of a former American slave. Although Achebe found him sad, but it showed him another dimension of reality. He also read classic novels, like Gulliver’s Travels, David Copperfield Y Treasure Island along with tales of colonial exploits such as that of H. Rider Haggard Allan Quartermain and John Buchan Pay John . Achebe later recalled that as a reader he “sided with the white characters against the savages” and even developed a dislike for Africans. “The white man was good, reasonable, clever, and brave. The savages arrayed against him were sinister and stupid or, at best, cunning. He hated them to death.”

In 1948, in preparation for independence, Nigeria’s first university, now the University of Ibadan, opened as an associate college of the University of London. Achebe scored so high on the entrance exam that he was admitted on a First Class Scholarship to the university to study medicine. However, after a year of grueling work, he decided that science was not for him and switched to English, history, and theology. However, because he changed fields, he lost his scholarship and had to pay his fees. He received a government scholarship and his family also donated money; His older brother, Augustine, even gave money for a ride home from his civil service job so that Chinua could continue her studies. From its inception, the university had a strong English faculty and includes many famous writers among its alumni. These include Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, novelist Elechi Amadi, poet and playwright John Pepper Clark, poet Christopher Okigbo, and playwright and academic Kole Omotoso.

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