The incredible journey of Augustine Kanjia continues … Will My School Dreams Become a Nightmare?

All my classmates in Motema, and even in Daru, had secured placement for their next school year, but I remained locked in battle with what was next on my agenda at home.

Augustine Kanjia

My brother’s friends were all astonished at my excellent school exam results, but none of them could help me gain acceptance to a good school. Maybe they could help me get to Bo, where the school officials from Segbwema suggested I should go for high school because my mom and step-dad lived there.

I did all my brother Duran’s domestic work for him. He was not married, and lived alone before convincing my grandmother I should move to Daru and attend the nearby secondary school. He was always ready to flog me for simple mistakes. I was only 12, but he expected me to behave like a mature man.

I decided to walk to freedom one day, just five days after my interview at the Wesley Secondary School. I went to the military barracks junction looking for any military personnel going to Freetown — Bo, in the center of the country, was on the way. A truck was going by at11 a.m.

My brother had gone to work at the barracks by 8 a.m. and he’d asked me to bring his lunch by noon. I had spoken with Mr. Lahai, his bingo comrade. He gave me the hint about the 11 a.m. truck. I took Duran’s food to him and I sat a little. He blasted me for bringing his food early. He asked me to go back home and wash his uniforms. “Yes, sir!” I said, and ran out quickly.

I pretended I was heading home. He looked toward the back of his office to watch me go by. My direction quickly changed, and soon I was in the military truck ready to set off. It was 11. We left and I looked back at the barracks and River Moa. I said I will never return there. But was it true?

Augustine’s last chapter: Beyond My Limit  Or scroll down to catch up on earlier posts in the remarkable tale.

The incredible journey of Augustine Kanjia continues … Beyond My Limit

I had only one pair of short pants, with two visible holes in the back.

Augustine Kanjia

They were overused, but I needed to dress up that morning. It was a Monday. My brother would not help me buy secondhand clothes, he rather gave me his big, old long-sleeved shirt — too big for a small boy like me. I was 12 years old then.

I tried to not worry about these superficial problems, because my grandmother had told me to be patient. “Your day will come,” Sobba Peppeh would tell me. She would give me examples of those who have succeeded and how they fared when small. Jesus was her biggest example for me to copy.

My brother did not bother worrying about my success; for him it was mine alone. He never asked about the marks I had scored in the test that had brought me here in the first place.

Augustine’s last chapter: A Good Result Leaves Me in Tears  Or scroll down to catch up on earlier posts in the remarkable tale

Augustine Kanjia’s incredible journey continues … A Good Result That Left Me in Tears

Our test results were around the corner. Life was still difficult at home.

It felt like there was no way out.

Augustine Kanjia

My grandmother still did not have a regular job, but she continued selling her food stuff. Many had called her by her nickname, “Soba Peppeh,” meaning the real pepper in the Creole parlance of Sierra Leone.

My garden work with Soba Peppeh had increased as her sales at the market doubled. I would cook for the house when the market occupied her. Mondays were very busy days for me. Fridays were for the market, too. My grandmother prepared more food and brought raw cassava, potatoes and their leaves. Boiled cassava and beans were on the side for sale.

Of course, we did not relent on the “Omolé” trade. Its money was coming in fast.

Soba Peppeh was versatile.

We did all these things, but always had time for prayer. I rejoiced when it was Sunday. Her church, the UMC church, depended on me for its bell. I would ring it before leaving for my own Roman Catholic church at my primary school, R.C. Motema. There was enough prayer for me in my grandmother’s church to help me pass my exam — but not to pay my upcoming high school fees.

Augustine’s last chapter: Another Lesson in Perseverance  Or scroll down to catch up on earlier posts in the remarkable tale

Worcester World Cup is where city’s melting pot truly bubbles over

The Worcester World Cup, now approaching its 12th iteration, has evolved from a novel idea into a force to be reckoned with.

Organized by Cultural Exchange Through Soccer, a neighborhood-based soccer program at Elm Park Community School, Worcester World Cup was established in 2006 to bring youth together and to promote good health and understanding in the community.

For Worcester, a hub for immigrants and refugees from all over the world, this volunteer-driven initiative has become a vital component in the city’s ongoing development and its efforts to break down walls between the myriad cultures it has welcomed over the years.

“The Worcester World Cup, as the name suggests, was created specially to bring people together. We wanted everyone to come together,” said Adam Maarij, a volunteer and 2017 graduate of South High Community School.

Augustine Kanjia’s incredible journey continues … Exam Day Distress Becomes Lesson in Perseverance

Our production of the illicit home-brewed liquor “Omolé” did not take a backseat to my education anymore.

Augustine Kanjia

My grandmother had depended on Duran Kanjia, my military half-brother who came to help fill out my entrance form to high school. He also said he would help pay for the necessary exam, but he stopped responding to our letters to him. I was left to wonder about the change I could make in my life after I would have passed.

Sobba Peppeh (my grandmother’s nickname) had prayed for me at night and gave me the blessing we thought I needed to pass. She had even tried to convince me that blessed water (“from Bethlehem”) would help me be as smart as Suma Musa, the girl who had always topped our class from Grade 1 to 7. I would eventually find out it was only well water, from outside our new house, that was not quite finished, but doing fine. It was big and nice by our town’s standard.

I was anxious that night to get to sleep and dream of passing my exam with flying colors. But it was not possible. I only became more anxious. As we finished our nightly prayer, my grandmother wanted me to eat nothing to avoid having to go to the toilet during the exam. She thought perhaps they would not allow me to leave the class.

Our exam center was far; we walked for over an hour to get there. It was a big school called U.M.C. [United Methodist Church] Secondary School, Yengema. The buildings were big. For some of us, it was our first time entering the campus. I was timid and stayed close to some friends. Our teacher, Mr. P. S. Bobor, encouraged us to avoid panic. But I was visibly panicked. I feared the unknown.

Augustine’s last chapter: More Hopes, Less Success  Or scroll down to catch up on earlier posts in the remarkable tale

Augustine Kanjia’s incredible journey continues … Part 43: More Hopes, Less Success

I had prayed for my grandmother to start preparing to pay my school fees in time, but she was also compounded with several problems. Besides having to foot all the bills, she’d recently had a death in the family.

Augustine Kanjia

My brother’s choice of high school for me was a setback.

Duran Kanjia was one of the many children Pa Kanjia had from his many wives. He was the third child of the family and I was the last, having been born a few months after our father suddenly died in 1963. Duran was in the military since I was a little child. He had earned no promotions, and I was now in the seventh grade. He was simple and did not care.

He had just returned from Daru, Sierra Leone, where he was stationed. He was clearly a strategist but lacked follow-through. I loved him in his uniform and his love for his people. But I think our father’s death may have deterred him from continuing his education.

Duran was home with us on vacation. He did not care whether he had money. He put off everything to the future. “When I return to Daru I will send some money for that purpose or this purpose,” he would say to requests for help. Even when I was needy, especially for my school, Duran did not give a cent.

My grandmother at first was happy that he had come to our home in Motema, and so she called on him to help. He postponed the talks for two weeks — which was the deadline for paying the full amount of school and exam fees my grandmother had been trying scrape together.

Augustine’s last chapter: One Problem Opens the Door for More Problems  Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

Augustine Kanjia’s incredible journey continues … Part 42: One Problem Opens the Door … For More Problems

Our parents were supposed to choose a high school for us.

With my father dead and mother remarried in another village, I had my grandmother, who was uneducated and didn’t know much about school. She depended on me for most information.

I had started writing letters for her since the fifth grade. She respected what I wrote and got responses from what we sent. She had a special way of dictating her letters. She would call me into her room and explain everything to me in our local language, Kono. She would not allow me to take notes.

I managed to memorize all she would say — my first letter was understood and there was a positive response. I feared my English may not have been anything to write home about, but my spelling was great.

She was boastful about me in the market or in cars on her way to see her family for food. Grade 7 brought out the good, bad and ugly in me.

We were given the documents needed to be filled out for our choices of high schools all over the country. The forms were distributed to everyone in the class, except for me. My exam and school fees were yet to be paid.

My grandmother was away, but she was still grappling with how we would pay my school and exams fees, and keep me in school. We were given a month to pay all that we owed. Life was critical at this point.

Augustine’s last chapter: Major Problems Won’t Dissuade Me  Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

Augustine Kanjia

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 41: Major Problems Won’t Dissuade Me

The whistle blew. Komba Bottom ran toward the ball. I knew where it was going. I stood there, and the ball came with a vehement speed. I stretched my arms and punched the ball with my two hands. My right hand then broke.

Augustine Kanjia

The house issue had just started settling down. We were getting ready to live in our new home even though it was incomplete.

My grandmother wanted us to be there, but I was not happy because the house had a lot of work yet to finish and the family’s “omole,” or moonshine, production had ceased due to the police getting wise. We were trapped and handicapped. It was not a pleasant situation for the family.

My uncles, though, were anxious to return, especially Aiah James so he could have a room to bring his girls. He was well supported by his mom, “Sobba Peppeh” — my grandmother — because he was the youngest of her four children.

Sun Serials | Ray Mariano | Free to Read

I remember when my uncle had come from Pakidu, their home village. He was big and looked older than he was. He was not fit for an elementary school. I was in Grade 1 when he arrived. He had no skill in anything and was unwilling to learn. He was sent to a school in another town called Yengema. He was the biggest at the United Methodist Church School. But people understood his situation.

My grandmother took much interest in my education, but she did not trust, at first, that I’d been assigned to the right class. The trend in the school in those days was for children to go through three levels — the A, B, C — of the first grade to enable younger children to mature before they reached Grade 2.

I was quite young, younger than many if not all. I was only tall. The method of placing students could not always be done by age because some of the children had no birth certificate. My grandmother had kept mine in our iron suitcase, old fashion. Acceptance in those days was based on two factors: birth certificate, and by putting your hand over your head to try to touch your ear. If you could, then you qualified to attend school. I was a tall boy. My hands overlapped my ear, so I qualified to be part of the school.

I was active and useful, but I still had to go through the A, B, C of the first class. I succeeded and made a mark in my first grade. I loved the singing, the drawing, and the spellings we did. The school was interesting. The early grades had been exciting, but I started realizing that there was a long way to go.

Augustine’s last chapter: Poverty Strikes Hard as Mother Returns  Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 40: Poverty and Punishment Strike Hard as Mother Returns

My short pants had been torn into pieces. My friends, Sahr Allieu and Emmanuel Gbandeh, could only bow their heads in shame. When Dominic put me down I was forced to run away and go tell my grandmother.

Augustine Kanjia

My school was demanding. We paid for every little thing — and not always with money — even though the Sierra Leonean government had declared primary education free for all.

Parents — or in my case, grandparent — were all forced to pay 30 cents per semester, and then some. The other charges would be for books that were never there, or for the food that was supposed to be free from the U.S. government. It was difficult for me to eat at the school due to the lack of money.

There were loads of competitions in my class. We had spelling, math, civics, current affairs and general knowledge pop quizzes. The teacher, Mr. A.B.S. Bangura, was a tough guy and would know everything happening in the class.

He called me aside one day and asked who pays my school fees. I unfortunately told him, “God pays.” He said I was being sarcastic. I did not mean so, but he was adamant and I had to succumb. He was furious and decided to give me a good beating. I was certainly afraid because my grandmother did not want anyone to beat me, not even my teachers, though it was accepted that children could be beat at school.

Mr. Bangura took me out in front of the class to teach me manners, as he said. I was mounted on somebody’s back and given a good beating, a beating I have always remembered.

Augustine’s last chapter: Skipping School and Fooling the Police  Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 39: Skipping School and Fooling the Police

I removed the omole to the back, behind the outdoor toilet, and put some raw grass on top. One of the policemen during his search came to the toilet area not long after I’d finished hiding the [illicitly made] liquor.

Augustine Kanjia

The family was happy with the “omole” sales. From our illegal brewing, Grannie had earned enough money to start buying building materials for a new home.

She had made the plan, and it was elaborate. She wanted a big house with rooms for each child. I was not counted. She claimed I was the owner of the house. Her intention was to keep me in her room as I grew up. And it was so. I slept on the same bed as my grandmother day in and day out.

I was sometimes ashamed when we discussed matters of home in our writing and composition classes, such as where we slept. I never told the truth, but I scored high marks. I started realizing that writing out of the ordinary and fashioning tall tales can boost one’s writing skills.

There was a big problem with our trade. Police had come to raid our hidden operation when we had just finished our brewing in the bush. No raid saw us that night. It was hot, and I was ready to play with my friends as the moon rose and we trekked back to Motema. My heart was not in brewing, but centered on my school and play that night.

I had a long way home, but something dangerous awaited us.

Augustine’s last chapter: Illicit April Brewing Rains on My Parade  Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale