One morning at dawn, my mother went to get a loan to help me stay in school. The deadline for complying with the new PTA levy was fast approaching. Mom was restless.Back in 1983, the PTA levy was about 500 Francs CFA, (about $1USD). She returned empty-handed from the village loan shark. Mr. Barnes turned down my Mom‘s request for a small cash loan.
Beyond that, he questioned her motives for the loan. Not only did he question Mom’s intent, but he also made a mockery of education. He chastised my mother for wasting money on a son with little or no promise. Ouch! He was not alone.
He was part of the chorus of village detractors who taunted my mom frequently about her faith in education. For believing that her kids could read or write; a skill she never had in the 1930s. On another occasion, Mom took her letter to a neighbor’s son to read it for her. The neighbor chided her, “Get your own kids to read your letters for you.” Once again, Mom returned with a heavy heart from yet another mission. She was distraught but not destroyed. Upon her return, she summoned me to read the letter.
Back then, I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I could barely read and I did not care much. Tired of the insults, shame, and humiliation, she encouraged me, “Please, read for me.” That morning, as I fumbled through the letter, I felt a rush of emotions. As I struggled through it, she looked at me and said something I will never forget. “Your inheritance is your education!”
Beyond the insults and taunts, she wasted no time supporting me through school. She out-worked, out-planted, and out-harvested all her peers. She used all her savings to help me in school. Over time, I developed a love affair for reading.Though she did not live long after I earned my first graduate degree, I know without her love and support, I won’t have gone beyond elementary school.
Though she did not have the financial means, she taught me that what propels a person is the purpose, not the physical.Yesterday, I reflected on my mother‘s passing on October 25, 2012. Though she is gone, every day I recognize that all that I am, and all I hope to be, I owe to her. As she put it, “Over time, your education becomes your inheritance.”