My One-Student School Year

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

I was twelve years old when I was told I could no longer attend school. My mother called me to the living room and, for perhaps the first time, I sensed fragility in the woman who devoted her resources unequivocally to the care of her two children. "Iman, I can no longer afford to pay your fees." she murmured. And so, the days of being confined to the school bursar's office, allowing the harmattan dust to settle finely on my arms and knees as I awaited the friend who would surreptitiously provide me with summaries of the lessons I had missed; the days that embodied hope itself; gave way to cold, unfeeling nothingness.

As much as I could, I tried not to feel envious when my brother returned home at the end of each school-day, brimming with classroom anecdotes and complaints about excess assignments. I understood that the cost of tuition was rather high and this conferred the status of a privilege on my education. However, I could not ignore the underlying factors at play when my brother departed for his lessons and I remained at home, attending to the domestic chores. I had recently devoured the novel Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangaremba and had formed sharp ideas regarding African patriarchy and gender inequality. When I...

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