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Thursday, 27 December 2012

Living the dream

Though she grew up in a town where there were scarcely educated people, the resilience in her to break away from the chronological circle of illiteracy and re-write the story of education in Mmili-Oma village motivated her to carve out a career path. She loved teaching; it was a natural gift from Offor- the village deity that gives gifts and defines one’s destiny in life. Her dream was to become a professor in the university. That fetched her, the appellation prof. as she was fondly called. She was an avid reader. Despite the marital and associated domestic challenges Chizor insisted on pushing forth her dream of becoming a professor unlike otherwise similar girls in Mmili-Oma who would abandon their education once they got married. Men of Mmili-Oma were historically known for their adverse disposition towards educated women. As Obigbor, the town crier, would say, most men don’t like women who are educated as those women often oppose their husbands and always want to be thick madams- women who always want to be in charge. But Chizor was of different species; her story was different. She loved Eke to pieces. Her love for Eke was blind; it was unreserved and immeasurable.

Chizor met Eke when she was 18, on the brink of her desire to enroll in a university. But no one is willing to bankroll her education. She was an orphan; her parents died when she was four and left her in custody of her father’s only sibling, Okpara. Unfortunately, Okpara was an advocate of never-marry-an-educated-woman. He tried all he could to thwart Chizor’s efforts to go to the university, even to the extent of bringing a man to take her hands in marriage when she was 14, but all was a wild-goose chase. University education was not affordable. You could not attend a university unless you were from at least a well-to-do family as lifestyle in the university was swanky and reserved. Motivated by her desire and resilience to keep her dreams alive she started toiling to raise fees for at least her first year in the university. She worked as a bricklayer in a local construction company in the neighbouring town, Osisi-Oma.

Eke had a notion different from otherwise similar men in Mmili-Oma who dreaded educated women. Though he was a blockhead, he liked hanging out with educated people. Eke liked breast milk so much that her mother breast-fed him until he was three. Among his peers he was the last to stop breast-feeding. Even at the age of three he did not want to stop until his mother started rubbing ndole- bitter leaf on her teats to make the taste sour in his mouth so he would not ask again. He managed to pass his primary six when his mates were already taking their junior secondary exams. Having known too well that education was not in any way his calling, he joined his father in his Okrika business- selling of fairly used clothes. By the time his mates were writing their senior school certificate exams Eke had become a rich man. It was in one of his return to the village for Christmas celebration that his eyes caught the adorable and lush Chizor whose waistline set up ruckus in the mind of any man who set his eyes on that part of her body. Her convex and tube-like cascading breast ignited un-quench-able amorous pleasure on Eke’s mind and that aroused his supple and tubular lower body. He started asking questions about Chizor but the feedbacks were not encouraging as he was told that Chizor was not interested in any love affair with any man and that her interest was to go to the university and become a professor. That acted like a catalyst to Eke’s amorous feelings towards Chizor. He swore to do anything possible to win Chizor’s heart, even if it would cost him a fortune, after all I am a rich guy, says Eke.

Eke gave his best shots to Chizor and she fell in love with him, and they started dating. He respected her wishes to go to university and assumed the responsibility of taking care of her. They got married after nine months of their successful relationship and were blessed with a baby girl they named Mma. Chizor’s daughter, Mma, was an epitome of beauty just like her; a chip off her old block. Prior to Mma’s birth, their love was extraordinaire; it was likened to that of Romeo and Juliet. But their love took a twist turn after Mma was born. Eke had wanted a first male child. Chizor had become unavoidably busy with academic studies. Eke had become an international business man, always jetting off to negotiate businesses around the globe. He had been exposed to a different style from his business associates he mingled with. He had been introduced to different beautiful women with figure eights. He had seen different hotties whose L-shaped figures were enough to get a man’s adrenaline pumping to burst. And he had become licentious!

Two years after Mma’s birth, Eke suddenly fell ill after he had come back from his usual business trips. He went to the hospital and was diagnosed; he found he was HIV positive. He didn’t believe it as he barely had any knowledge of the dreaded disease apart from the stifling stigmas. He couldn’t bear the agony of living with HIV. He couldn’t help it, and he took his own life!

Chizor didn’t know she was HIV positive until six months after her husband’s death. She had just rounded off her degree at the university and had secured a graduate assistantship in her department as she was the best brain in her department and faculty in general. A non-governmental organization (NGO) had come to her campus on a campaign about HIV/AIDS and had offered a free medical test for HIV to students and staff of the university. Though Chizor had been living an academic life, she had no inkling of the disease. She was tested and was found positive. She was surprised and devastated. She had never made out with any man in her entire life except her husband, Eke. She was well known for her fervor in keeping up a good hygiene. She never had any reason to inquest her husband’s death as Eke alluded in his suicide note to a failed business venture that gulped his fortunes. But her HIV status had warranted her to launch an inquest. And there she was told at the hospital by Eke’s doctor who claimed he acted on Eke’s wish not to reveal his HIV status to anyone.

Caught up in the labyrinth and jumbled thoughts of whether to live with the most dreadful disease or not, Chizor cried all the time and felt sorry for herself and her only child. She felt her days were numbered; she was sure she would soon die. But her consolation was that Mma was free of HIV. It took her several months to accept her condition and coupled with Alero’s counsel to her that living with HIV is not the end of life. Alero, who co-ordinates the NGO’s HIV programme in Mmili-Oma, had been living with HIV for a decade. Alero’s counsel assured her she could live with the disease. Chizor attended all the NGO’s campaigns and seminars and started to feel more confident. She was involved in so much training that she became a trainer herself. Thus she was offered a job at the NGO as a social worker on their HIV programme. Her life took a positive transformation!

As a graduate assistant Chizor was offered a full funded scholarship to do her graduate studies, which she concurrently ran with her position as a social worker with the NGO. With her good sense of humour, there was so much trust in her that people could talk to her. She met people with different problems on top of their health issues. She counseled them overtly and in-discriminably; she never kept her own counsel. She helped single mothers like her who were struggling to feed their children and at their wits’ end. As a psychologist she provided emotional and practical supports to them. She set up an informal group that provided reciprocal supports to each other- a platform where people living with HIV were able to meet on a regular basis. She showed people that they could live like her; that they were not and would never be alone. She taught them many ways to cope and carry on living a normal life.

Chizor got her PhD and two years after her groundbreaking doctoral research she was granted professoriate, which was her life’s dream. She loved teaching and counseling, particularly when heavy-hearted people would come and thank her and tell her they had been inspired. She lived happily and rewardingly.


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