TRAINING AKACHUKWU

By Joy Nwankwo

I gaze from the balcony and sight her trotting down the lonely lane. I have never walked down that path, but I have been told that it led to a shrine.
Where is she going to? I wonder.
“Ozioma!” I call out to my roommate, who like me have taken it upon herself to train Akachukwu.

Akachukwu is the granddaughter of our Landlord. She is a girl of about a year or two, who for some reason found the joy of taking walks early in life. Her name is quite popular in the village as she is usually missing, only to be found in one compound or another.

Ozioma and I decide to go bring her back home, armed with weak stems from plants serving as whipping canes.
As we walk down the lane, I pray we don’t get to where the shrine is located, Ozioma on the other hand is walking as one on a mission. She likes exploration of new terrains. This was fun for her.
We find Akachukwu before we get to the shrine, she is surrounded by about five other children with most of them older than her, and yet she was fighting with all of them, unafraid.

I feel a surge of pride but I quickly kill it; I must not forget why I am here.
“Akachukwu!” Ozioma and I call simultaneously, startling her.
She starts crying immediately as she turns to run back home as fast as her little legs could carry her. She knew what would happen as this was not the first time she was being fetched by us.
Ozioma and I follow at a slower pace, there was no need for hurry.

We got home and went straight to where she still cried, knowing what awaited her. She was not supposed to wander off. She knew the rules.
As we whip her butt with temperance, I ignore her grandfather’s plea. I was not about to allow another child live out my past. Not if I can help it.

We have a third roommate, Lydia, who wasn’t so keen on training Akachukwu as we were. I attribute her indifference to a lack of the experience Ozioma and I had as children; Ozioma fought off a child abuser. I was not so lucky.

I wish someone had kept an eye on me in my parents’ absence, life would have been predictably different from what it is now. I was not about to sit back and allow the possibility of a repeat on Akachukwu, even if it means ignoring the pleas of an old man.

The next day, Akachukwu’s grandmother has to go to market, her mother has work, and her grandfather has a meeting.
We, the Corp members are the only option to watch her.

I and my roommates exchange glances at how dirty the child looks, even though that was how she normally looked. This time she was going to be spending hours in our flat.

We dillydallied for a while, but we knew what had to be done. While I bathed Akachukwu, Ozioma washed her clothes and Lydia prepared food for her. Before long she was crying, as expected, for ‘Papa’, her grandfather.

Taking turns, we rock her to sleep and entertain her until her family returns.
It was like an unspoken rule, that we had to do our part as temporary indigenes of the village in which we were to live in for a year.

We knew deep down that it took the joint effort of each villager to effectively train a child, and we did our part with Akachukwu.

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TRAINING AKACHUKWU

By Joy Nwankwo

I gaze from the balcony and sight her trotting down the lonely lane. I have never walked down that path, but I have been told that it led to a shrine.
Where is she going to? I wonder.
“Ozioma!” I call out to my roommate, who like me have taken it upon herself to train Akachukwu.

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