ALEXANDER CHIANU: The Man Who Taught Professor Ozoke

By Ikenga Chronicles September 24, 2017

ALEXANDER CHIANU: The Man Who Taught Professor Ozoke

I was 8, about to start 4th grade.

In the first week of a new school year, a day was set aside for teacher/pupil class assignment. The procedure was as simple as it was random. At the open-air Assembly ground, where civic and religious devotions were held every morning, kids moving into a new grade were randomly assigned from a pool of that grade cohort to teachers for that new grade. The teachers stood in front of the assembly- spaced out. The headmaster, assisted by a couple of other teachers, then assigned the kids, randomly, one after another, to their new teachers.

For the first time since my early childhood education, and, perhaps, a tribute to my 4th grade critical reasoning ability, I realized that even though a master list of the new grade cohort existed, the kids were not already pre-assigned. Instead, after the random assignment, each teacher led their assigned new kids to their classroom where the kids were now entered into the large blue folder which also served as roll-call register. That piece of knowledge was critical to my first 4th grade major violation of discipline and what seemed like an orderly process.

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One of the 4th grade teachers, standing on the teachers’ side of the Assembly ground, spaced out, and waiting to have their 4th grade kids assigned, was AC (Alexander Chianu). He was characteristically clean dressed. His shirt and slack pants (trousers), crisply ironed. His burgundy loafer shoes were polished and shiny. He was the only teacher in tie. But, above all, and this is where it gets ironically weird, his switch (we call it cain in Nigeria) looked serious. It wasn’t the spaghetti broom sticks that some of the other teachers wielded. He looked polished in his appearance and serious in his switch. I was instantly drawn to him. I wanted him to be my teacher. But there was a potential problem. Luck was not something I counted on as a kid; therefore, I was not counting on the luck that I would be randomly assigned to him. And I was right.

Some badly and annoyingly dressed lady got me. But I wasn’t going to spend my 4th grade in misery and depression. I needed to make my move. So, as each teacher led their assigned kids to their classrooms, I boldly decamped into AC’s line. He saw me. But he let me be. He did not out me. And that was how Alexander Chianu became my 4th grade teacher. That was how I had the best 4th grade experience. 4th grade became a turning point in my elementary education. For the first time, educational instructions made sense. I started liking math. I found myself able to understand basic rules of grammar. I began mulling the idea of going to college.

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AC wrote with amazing calligraphy. He insisted on his chalkboard being darkened every morning before class. A couple of female kids were assigned that role, and because he commanded strong influence among his peers, AC was able to secure exemption from other school labors for those female kids who darkened our chalkboard every morning. He was respected by his peers and kids alike. It was a great privilege to be in his class. It felt like an honor class. Even though he wielded the big switch (stick), he hardly deployed it.

When AC’s son announced his father’s death on social media, the first memory that hit me was how I became a pupil of his father’s. It was a memory that had been dimmed and blurred by the smudge of time. But that memory, as beautiful as it is, quickly yielded to even deeper and broader reflection on what AC represented for many generations in my community. He was a consummate community builder, an educator extraordinaire, a selfless mentor, a simple role model, and, above all, a good man! AC touched the lives of everyone in my community. He taught and molded kids who are today lawyers, doctors, professors, priests, and successful businessmen.

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Men like AC do not die; they transition. His memory lives through his legacies. I am proudly one. As my small effort to keep the memory of his name and legacy alive, I hereby announce an award in his name for the best male and female graduating pupils of my community’s primary school. It shall be called Chief Alexander Chianu’s Memorial Prize for Excellence (ACMPE). Each candidate for the prize will receive N50,000.00 (Fifty Thousand Naira). The award starts in the 2018 school year.

To his wife, Apollonia; his son, Chibuzo and his siblings; his brothers, Jonas, Calli, and Inno, please accept my sincere condolences. I pray and hope that you find consolation in the knowledge that your husband, father, and brother touched and taught many lives. May the good Lord comfort you and grant him eternal rest.

Prof. Vitus Ozoke, LL.M, PhD
Maryland, U.S.A