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Tracing Chinua Achebe’s Background – His Earliest Life and Schooling in Nigeria
Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe, famous for his first novel. Things fall apart In what is one of the most widely read and discussed books in modern African literature, his writings are an attempt to set the historical record by showing that Africans were not the first to hear about culture from Europeans, that their societies were not unintelligent. But they had a deep and profound philosophy of value and beauty, they had poetry and above all they had dignity.
Achebe’s novels, especially Things Fall Apart, which is now 50 years old, focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the impact of Christian and Western influences, and the conflict of values during and after the colonial period. Achebe’s works depict communities in Nigeria. The trauma of colonialism and moving into a nation in crisis. In bringing together the political and the literary, they do not romanticize indigenous culture or apologize for colonialism.
Achebe, who unlike his Kenyan counterpart, Ngugi Wathiongo, wrote his novels in English, has defended the use of English in African literature, even though it is the language of the colonialists. Achebe’s keen ear for the spoken language has made him one of the most respected African writers writing in English. His style relies heavily on the Igbo oral tradition and combines straightforward narration with representations of folklore, proverbs and rhetoric.
Raised by Christian parents in the Igbo village of Ogidi in southern Nigeria, Achebe excelled in school and won a scholarship for undergraduate studies. He 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 took him to the metropolis of Lagos.
Achebe’s parents, Isaiah Okafo Achebe and Janet Annenechi Iloegbunam, converted to the Protestant Church Mission Society (CMS) of Nigeria. The elder Achebe was a teacher in a missionary school, he stopped practicing the religion of his ancestors, but he respected their traditions and sometimes incorporated elements of their rituals into his Christian practice.
Chinua’s short name, Chinualumogu “Let God fight on my behalf”, was a prayer for divine protection and stability. The Achebe family had five other surviving children, who were named in the same mix of traditional and English names: Frank Okwuofu, John Chukwuemeka Ifenichukwu, Zinobia Uzoma, Augustine Nduka and Grace Nwaneka.
Chinua was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe on November 16, 1930 in an Igbo village in Ogidi, Neobi. His parents instilled in him many values of their traditional Igbo culture, although they were devout Protestants. They then named him Albert after Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. Standing at the crossroads of traditional culture and Christian influence, his parents exerted a significant influence on the boys, especially Chinualumogu. As a result Achebe was raised in both the indigenous and colonial worlds.
After the youngest daughter was born, the family moved to their ancestral village of Ogidi, which is now Anabra. State
Storytelling was a mainstay of Igbo tradition and an integral part of society. Chinua’s mother and sister Zinobia Uzoma told him many stories as a child, which he repeatedly requested. His education expanded further with the collages his father hung on the walls of their house, as well as almanacs and numerous books – prose adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and an Igbo version of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Chinua also looked forward to traditional village events, such as the frequent masquerade ceremonies, which he later recreated in his novels and stories.
In 1936, Achebe entered St. Philip’s Central School. Despite his protests, he spent a week in a religious class for young children, but was immediately moved to a higher class when the school principal noticed his intelligence. He is said to have good handwriting and good reading skills in class. He also attended Sunday school every week and special evangelical services held monthly, often taking his father’s bag with him. Controversy arose during one such session, when apostates from the new church challenged the catechists about the tenets of Christianity. . Achebe was later to include a similar view Things fall apart.
At the age of twelve, Achebe moved away from his family to Nekede, a village four kilometers from Owerri, where he enrolled as a student at the Central School, where his elder brother John taught. In Nekede, Achebe gained 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 came time to switch to secondary school, in 1944, Achebe sat entrance exams for both the prestigious Dennis Memorial Grammar School in Onitsha and the even more prestigious Government College in Umuahia. He was accepted in both places but ultimately chose the Government College, Umuahia.. He received a scholarship to the Government College, Umuahia, where he studied with some of Nigeria’s future political and cultural leaders.
Modeled on British public schools and financed by the colonial administration, the government college was established in 1929 to educate Nigeria’s future elite. It maintained strict academic standards and was vigorously egalitarian, accepting children only on the basis of ability. The language spoken at the school was entirely English, not only to develop proficiency but also to provide a common language to students from various Nigerian language groups. This Achebe describes as being later ordered to “put aside their different mother tongues and communicate in the language of their colonizers”. The rule was strictly enforced and Achebe recalls that his first punishment was to ask another boy to pass the soap in Igbo.
There, Achebe received a double promotion in his first year, thus completing his first two years of study in one year, spending only four years in secondary school instead of grade five. As Achebe was unfit for the school’s sports system, he attached himself to a group of six very studious students. whose study habits were so intense that the headmaster banned reading textbooks between five and six in the evening (although other activities and other books were allowed).
Achebe began exploring the school’s “wonderful library” and Booker T. Invented Washington. Up from Slavery, the autobiography of an American ex-slave. Although Achebe found it sad, it showed him another dimension of reality.. He also read great novels, such as Gulliver’s Travels, David Copperfield And Treasure Island H. with tales of colonial derring-do such as Rider Haggard’s Alan Quatermain and of John Buchan Prester John . Achebe later recalled that, as a reader, he “favoured the white characters against the savages” and also developed a dislike for Africans. “The white man was good and reasonable and clever and brave. The savages arrayed against him were terrible and stupid or, at best, cunning. I hated their courage.”
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 in the entrance exam that he was admitted on a scholarship to the university’s first intake to study medicine. However, after a year of hard work, he decided that science was not for him and switched to English, history and theology. Because he changed his field, however, 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 left money to go home from his job as a civil servant so Chinua could continue his studies. Since its inception, the university has 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 Clarke, poet Christopher Okigbo and playwright and academic, Kole Omotoso.
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