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‘V’ for victory!!

Sun, 10 May 2020 Source: Cameron Duodu

We were all outside the classroom, enjoying the “recreation” period.

We were proud initiates of “Class One”!

A chap called Afoakwa ran to my side.

He was very excited. He pulled me to a patch of sand, bent down and wrote something in the sand.

He challenged me: “What does this mean?”

I couldn’t make head or tail of what he’d written.

He then traced the characters one by one, articulating, ‘V’ for Victory. 8 May 1945”!

I still didn’t get it. What was ‘Victory’? What was ‘May’?

At that time, we in Class One were still learning to read and write in Twi. But what he had written was in English. It left me completely baffled.

He said, “I was taught it by my father’s sister’s son, Kwaku ‘Beng. He is a student of Achimota. He is there on government scholarship.”

Achimota was the most famous “college” in the Gold Coast. If someone was privileged enough to be studying there, then he must have brains in plenty. If, additionally, he was there on “government scholarship” (which meant he didn’t have to pay school fees!) then he must be a proper “break”!

So, I paid attention to Afoakwa.

He explained that ‘V for Victory’ meant that the British, under their leader, Winston Churchill, had beaten the Germans, under Adolf Hitler, in the war that had been raging in the world for the past six years.

This got me interested. What he had said meant that we would stop having to go in to the bush every morning to look for “palm kernels”, which we brought to school to be shipped to England to be turned into margarine and soap for “our” soldiers fighting in the war – for the British.

Our teachers had been taught how to do propaganda well, and they had told us that if the Germans won the war, they would kill all our chiefs and bring White men to become our chiefs!

So each class vied with the other classes to collect more palm kernels than anyone else to bring to school. Now, whenever we in Class One managed to beat the more senior classes, in the volume of palm kernels we brought to school, our teacher and our head teacher praised us to the skies. This flattered us, and we tried as hard as possible to do better each time. So, when Afoakwa said “we” had achieved victory against the Germans, my pride knew no bounds. The Germans wouldn’t be coming to our villages to rule us! Great stuff!

As soon as the “recreation” period was over and we resumed classes, I put up my hand and in my usual precocious manner, asked the teacher, “Please sir, is it true that the British have beaten the Germans and the war is OVER?”

An uproar occurred in the classroom!

We had been warned against spreading “rumours” and my classmates were sure this was a “rumour” and that I would be beaten for having spread it.

But I believed in Afoakwa! For he was a wonderful chap who often “conjured” nice, unbroken, new pieces of chalk, from banana leaves, and gave them to me for writing on my “slate” with!

He claimed that they were brought there for him by “dwarfs”!

I was so thrilled (because I normally only had broken pieces of chalk!) that I never paused to question whether “dwarfs” really existed or not, and if they did, why they didn’t take Afoakwa out of school and teach him the lessons he was finding it so difficult to absorb, and which he depended upon little me to help him with.

My question brought a smile to the lips of our teacher, Mr. Kwasi Akwa. He didn’t deny or confirm what I had said. Nor did he show any sign that he was about to beat me for “spreading rumours”. He just looked at me in the way he had of looking at me whenever I did something clever.

He now said, “The head teacher will soon call us to assembly. And he will have something to tell you when we get there!”

The huhuhuhu [hubbub] that had broken out in the class when I asked my question broke out again.

“QUIET!” Teacher Akwa commanded.

Everyone became silent.

Mr. Akwa left us and went to the head teacher’s office only about ten minutes after I had asked my question.

Soon, the assembly bell rang.

Muttering to ourselves, we trooped out.

We looked at the assembled teachers.

They looked at us.

Then the head teacher said: “I know some of you may have heard the news we’ve received from Accra. The British Empire has defeated the Germans……”

“YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” we yelled our heads off.

Questions began to be hurled at the teachers: “Have they caught Hitler?”

ANSWER: “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

“Will Winston Churchill come here?”

ANSWER: “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

“When will our brothers and uncles who went to fight in Burma come back home?”

ANSWER: “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

The teachers marched us to go and join the senior school at their assembly ground – something we never did except on “Empire Day”, when we joined them for festivities of all sorts, including sports events.

We marched with the senior school pupils up and down the main streets of Asiakwa.

The people turned out in their hundreds to cheer us. Some waved British flags at us.

We didn’t know where they got their “Union Jacks” from, and we didn’t care!!

After the route march, we were given the day off as a holiday.

That’s what took place that day – a good seventy-five years ago!

Am I glad to be here to give you an eyewitness account of it!

www.cameronduodu.com

Columnist: Cameron Duodu