Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CXXIX. My Education – (5 of 13)

Primary classes

Madame Bonin was also responsible for 1st primary. The previous year, I had a confrontation with her and was punished physically. My parents became aware of that and there was a big row in the principal’s office. However, long before my preparatory year was over, I was getting along with all my teachers.

First primary proved to be an easy year for me. Indeed, I was coasting and was managing to get good marks with a minimum of efforts. In time, that proved to be my downfall, for the following years were more demanding and required a greater degree of application.

In 2nd primary I came down with typhoid fever and was out of commission for 3 months. Repeating my grade was a near certainty. However, with the help of my teachers and parents, it didn’t happen.

It was in 3rd primary that problems started. I needed help on all subjects except for French. My mother had so far helped me and supervised me closely. While she continued to do so, she was becoming more and more limited in the help she could provide. Arithmetic was becoming difficult and included fractions and more involved problems. My mother, by her own admission, was never good with numbers. Her classical Arabic was non-existent. She didn’t know any English. It therefore fell upon my father to provide me with the required assistance.

But dad was never a patient man; he also came tired after a long day at the store. There were minor and major confrontations; a lot of yelling and tears; and the ever present danger that this situation would in time affect my self-esteem. It therefore quickly became evident that we had to find another solution.

Despite the aforementioned limitations, my mother took over again, but this time with some help from Lilly (the neighbor’s daughter).  But this was a stopgap measure; for Lilly was in high school and was herself very busy with her studies.

The straw that finally broke the camel’s back was the day when I had to memorize an Arabic poem about a little boy and his top. With my help, my mother transliterated the poem in French so that I could recite it back to her. Her pronunciation was awful and we laughed a lot. But it wasn’t funny, and serious consideration was given to engaging a tutor.

My mother started inquiring about a good Arabic tutor. Here again, the neighbor, Mrs. Levi, came to the rescue. She knew of a good tutor who was presently instructing her niece and nephew. And so it was that professor Khamis, and eventually his brother, Hamid, entered our lives and stayed there for 6 solid years!

Khamis was supposed to tutor me once a week for one hour. That never happened. Almost from the beginning there were two weekly sessions of at least one and half hour each. As you have guessed by now, he went beyond Arabic.

Khamis was a very patient teacher. The only thing that drove him to despair was my handwriting. In addition to being an Arabic teacher, he was a khatat, a top-notch calligrapher, the type that can write Koreanic verses with the letter interlaced. He was also good in drawing, and I needed help there too, for my artistic ability was – and still is – very limited. Since he was also good with numbers, he helped me with my arithmetic homework. His job description now included, Arabic, calligraphy, drawing, and arithmetic. English? No, his English was limited; there, his brother, Hamid, could help. Hamid taught drawing, therefore he could also take over this subject, he also volunteered his services for arithmetic.

That must have cost a fortune? Not really; remember that labor – even educated help – was cheap. At any rate it was worth it for it brought peace to our household.

With this kind of support, 4th primary went well except for one problem. My typhoid resulted in myopia; I could no longer see the blackboard and had to sit really close; the principal was alerted, and in turn my parents were asked to get me prescription glasses.

Despite all that help, my report cards were never an occasion for great rejoicing!

Being shy, I did not relate well to other children. Halfway through my primary years, I noticed that I was not the only one who had no friends; there were other kids in my predicament. I approached two of them, Freddy and Hanna, and offered my friendship (and some shiny marbles to help my case); it was accepted, and the three of us would become good friends; a friendship which was to last until halfway through high school.

It is worth reminding the reader, that back then, unless I was allowed to use a pencil, my work was written with a steel pen (inserted in a wooden penholder) that was dipped in an inkpot, and dried with a blotter. Actually, I was in good company: Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo wrote their masterpieces with a steel pen! On the other hand, Jane Austen wrote her celebrated novels with a goose quill! (I am not – heaven forbid – comparing myself to those giants; we only shared primitive writing implements!)

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