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 – CXXVIII. My Education – (4 of 13)

Preparatory class

On the first day, a teacher walked in and introduced herself as Madame Bonin. She also informed us that she was the wife of the principal, and that she would teach us French, the rudiments of arithmetic, and some basic science. Finally, she apprised us of the fact that there would be two other teachers: One for Arabic, and another for English.

Next, Mrs. B. went to the blackboard and wrote in big letters and numbers: Le Lundi 4 Octobre, 1943 (Monday October 4th, 1943). She then stated that this was today’s date; she elaborated by explaining what a date was, and why time was important.

Something clicked in my mind when I saw 1943. This was the year we were at. Really, this was my first conscious year; before that, time was of no import. And, indeed, for many of us, we begin marking time at the age of 7.

French went reasonably well, and I became one of the star pupils of Bonin. However, as we shall see, the relationship was destined to sour.

The Arabic teacher (I’ll call her Fahima) was the bearer of bad news. We were to forget – at least in school – the Arabic we knew! This was the popular Arabic, you couldn’t use it to read and write. Fahima was going to teach us the nahawi, or classical Arabic. Nahawi, she informed us, was what tied the Arab world together; other Arab nations had their own popular Arabic, but you could still communicate with its inhabitants via the classical Arabic. When it came time to learn to read and write, she told us that Arabic was written from right to left. Here we were at 7 exposed to two diametrically opposed languages! To say that Fahima’s efforts were appreciated would be to lie. But the worse was yet to come.

A teacher (I’ll call her Bea) walked in one day and started talking in a strange language. Introduction and other details were delivered in the same language. She then, with a smile, translated her speech in French. She was Bea, and her mission was to teach us English. We looked at each other, for as far as we were concerned, at 7, there were only 2 languages in the world! But Bea was oblivious to all that. In French, she explained the importance of English; it was the language of trade, and would be very important when we started to work. As if we were going to get a job and write business letters at 7!

We learned English through the Dick and Jane books (primers). These primers were, at the time, used to teach the rudiments of reading and writing to British schoolchildren. The difference was that British children concerned themselves with English only.

But it could have been worse. Right behind our school was another French school, Le Collège Des Frères. Les Frères were Christian Brothers; the only comparison I can find is to Nuns’ Schools (or Sisters’ Schools) in North America, except that it is for boys. The nuns have a reputation for being strict disciplinarians that follow a demanding curriculum. And that was also the case for the Brothers. And, yes, we did have Les Soeurs (The Sisters), and their reputation was just as fearsome as their North American counterparts! If I am not mistaken, there were also boarding schools run by the Sisters or Brothers.

My dad’s partner, Maurice, send his children to Le Collège Des Frères; and these poor kids burned the midnight oil to keep up with the demands of their teachers.

Many times my parents threatened to send me to Les Frères if I didn’t shape up. However, I quickly figured that these were empty threats; it was clear to me, even at a young age, that my parents did not subscribe to Les Frères teaching philosophy. In case I had any doubts, my grandmother informed me that my parents had no intention of sending me to this “terrible” school!

Whatever the case, after a few short years, at either Le Collège Français, or Le Collège Des Frères, you acquired an education that placed you miles ahead of the Public Schools’ pupils, or indeed the education delivered nowadays at European and North American schools.

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