Friday, 23 September 2011

THE POINT OF NO RETURNING.

Most children dread going back to school. Nevertheless, they accept it as an inevitable part of being a kid. Unlike regular students, I feared being sent back to my former residential institution for a far different reason. Though I attended a public school in Edmonton, beginning in 1970, and went home on weekends, a nagging worry haunted me that I would again be exiled five hundred miles from my family for months at a stretch.

In Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), I described the ecstasy I felt when I suddenly realized that I would never be sent back to that soul-destroying institution. Here's what I wrote.

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The fear of being returned to Jericho lessened as I attended public school but it never quite disappeared. One September afternoon, a sudden realization struck me. The officials could no longer send me back to Jericho. That school only went up to grade ten. During the past two years, I managed to catch up with the rest of my schoolmates.

Because the public school curriculum was a year ahead of Jericho's, I needed to work hard at first in order to earn mediocre marks. Even so, my report cards conclusively proved that I could learn along with my sighted peers. I suddenly realized that I was fully integrated into the public system and had no need to fear being institutionalized again. The joy which swept over me was palpable. I danced around my housekeeping room for five minutes straight, gleeful that I was home to stay. "They can't send me back!" I repeated to myself. That was one of the happiest days of my high school years.

A teacher at Jericho had once told me that exceptional students did receive tutoring for grade eleven and twelve. I would have refused to go back to Jericho in any case since I proved my ability to learn in the public system. I was almost sixteen and conscious that I was a human being with rights. Though I did not matriculate, I passed grade twelve and received my diploma. My heart swelled with pride that I accomplished such a feat.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this compelling story. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.