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Words Change the World

By Julie Opoya

As a child, I travelled widely. There’s hardly any corner of this world that I did not go to; I visited China, Ghana, Canada, Kenya, the list is endless! I went on countless adventures and met all sorts of interesting characters like Zuma the mine boy, Snow-white, Cinderella and even visited Wonderland in the Company of Alice. I also visited Zoos, rode in Canoes, Climbed mountains, swarm in streams, visited caves, rode on horses, visited castles and even lived in a tree house. I went where ever I wanted whenever I wanted. All this I did through my imagination while reading books. I was the luckiest girl in the world!

I read countless books, and for me to read a book was to visit a place , spend time with the characters in the book, to mingle with them, to play with them and sometimes to sit quietly in a corner or peep through a little window and watch them. And every time I came to the end of a book I felt a little nostalgic; it was as if I was saying goodbye to friends, family I had visited for days weeks even hours, Right from the Lady bird books to the Nancy Drew mysteries, James Hardley Chase and Agatha Christie .I was the little detective that was always with them. For me, letters words all came together and became my ticket to visit a different world. It was a childhood filled with adventure! I was raised in a humble home, but from that place, and through books, I was able to traverse the world and it didn’t cost my parents a penny.

Well, things had not always been this way. I went to Nursery School with my older sister Harriet who was in Top class at the time and I was in the equivalent of baby Class, Unfortunately for me, she had to go to p1 the next year and so I lost a friend and a playmate. That was the longest year of my life, I was bored and restless. School lost its appeal to me. “It is time to leave”, I thought to myself. Oh, how I pestered my Mother to take me to P1. I was rellently about it and so at the end of my middle Class year,she finally she gave in. However, I could not get a place in any of the good schools because I was underage. Luckily for her, a small school in a relatively rural setting was willing was willing to take me so off I went to P1. In that school, I visited the mango forest, roamed allover the village after class it was all so much fun! There’s little wonder therefore that I went from P1 to p3 with out being able to read anything except for three words: Book, Cow and God. So you can imagine sitting exams without even knowing what the questions were about. It was only natural that I was always at the bottom of my class never mind that I was the youngest in my class.

Towards the end of my P3 my Dad took my sister and I to what was arguably the best school In our town. Of course I failed the interview for P3 but was admitted anyway, on account of my boldness and willfulness. That year I failed my exams and it was with a lot of pain that I watched my classmates go on to the next class. Something very pivotal happened a few weeks to my exams that year. One morning we read through a passage as a class and for no special reason at all, I crammed that passage word for word. Later after the teacher left class I continued reciting the passage from memory as I looked at the book and started to pair what I had memorized with the words in the book. And so by the end of that year, I was able to read and spell from memory, all the words in that passage. Unfortunately for me, I failed P3 again. I was very sad!

When I returned the next year however, I was armed with a new too: I Could read! There was no looking back for me. It was like a new door; a whole new world had been opened up to me! I started to string letters together to form words and words formed sentences and began to mean something to me. It was very exciting for me and suddenly my class work was interesting. I literally short from the bottom iof my class to the absolute top. Because i had started getting things right, I was very keen on letting the teachers know that this time round, I knew the answers to their questions. My hands were always up, eager to prove myself. I excelled in English, Maths, Science, Geography and History. I loved school and couldn’t wait to go to go there each morning.

One of my old friends from back then occasionally teases me about the fact that the first time he heard the word ‘allergic’, it was from me. When asked by a teacher why I had a plastic chair as opposed to the rest of the class that had metallic chairs, I told the teacher that I was allergic to the metal. I particularly remember in P7 when in preparation for our PLE, the headmaster took our class through an English Course called 100 Exercises in English. In my year, because I knew all the answers to the questions, I was only allowed to answer a question if the entire class failed to get it right. Because I was able to express myself freely in English, I won a debate competition and the then Minister of Education , Amanya Mushega while presiding over the award giving ceremony asked me what I wanted to be in future. “A lawyer,” I answered. My father who was in the audience later held me to my words and made sure I went to Law School and graduated as a lawyer.

I can proudly say that for me, learning how to read changed my life. Indeed, words change the world. They changed mine, they can change yours too.