He was eleven-years-old. The short brown-skinned boy carried within his honey-coloured eyes a mixture of hope, excitement, and fear as he was going to attend his first class in school. He could read and write Arabic properly for he attended the Mahdra for five or six years. The boy started schooling straight from the 3rd grade. However, he was unlucky.
As he put his first foot in the classroom, he started shivering and goose bumps invaded his skin when he saw a round fat black woman with wide red eyes carrying a long whip and teaching children in French. The boy was able to recognize the French alphabet but he could not read or write it correctly; therefore, he sat down shyly and opened his mouth with no words. He was trembling and you could hear his molars grinding. These were the longest two hours of his life. Tears started falling from his eyes but he struggled to keep them running under his cheeks and never wiped them out. Then, he tried to calm himself by gazing at the wide blue windows and children’s paintings on the walls.
Encouraged by his mother and his sister, Mariam, the boy quickly acclimatized to the new school life and passed the next three years. As he reached the secondary school, another challenge appeared: English. Unfortunately, Mariam could not help him this time for she knew nothing about this language. Along with his friend, Eyoub, the boy determined to know and master the English language. The best they achieved, however, was determination itself. Their first secondary school year ended catastrophically, none of them passed the English tests.
During the summer holiday, Mariam came home with interesting news. “Come in brother,” she said, “I have something to tell you.” Carelessly, the boy asked “What is it?” With great knowing of her brother’s needs, Mariam replied, “Well, it’s about acquiring English but it doesn’t matter since you are not interested,” she said while turning her face to the switched on television. Mariam knew her words would pull her brother’s curiosity. This was exactly what happened. The boy flew over and sat under Mariam’s nose, “Please, tell me the news you have.” With great excitement, Mariam replied, “There is a group of American volunteers sent by the UN to teach English.” Staring at her with his full attention, the boy asked, “When? And Where?” Mariam, then, replied, “They’ll start within two weeks in Carrefour ’s secondary school. The boy grasped the news and rushed to his friend, Eyoub, who showed no interest. “I’m going to Aioune in few days and I am not ready to postpone my trip,” he answered.
Hand-in-hand with his sister, Mariam, whom he always saw as the highest example in studying, the boy started attending intensive courses in English for two weeks, for six hours a day. This was his beginning with English. The next year, the boy got the best grade out of everyone in the English tests. The boy started to love this language and felt as if it was in his blood. One year later, as they grew up, the boy and his friend, Eyoub, started paying less attention to their studies. The boy was about to be completely lost. Girls, music, and night parties became his essential priorities.
Despite being the most brilliant pupil in English among his classmates, the boy could barely pass the following years and his general averages were far from being stellar. The turning point came when the boy reached his BAC . This is the most terrible year; not only for him, but also for the overwhelming majority of Mauritanian students. It is the decisive point between success and failure. Few weeks went by without any sign of change in the boy’s behaviour or lifestyle. His mother called him one night. She was sitting on the bed in her room and looked very upset. He immediately knew that there is a matter to be discussed and he asked, “You wanted me, mother?” Without answering, she put her right hand on the bed beside her and ordered him to sit.
The boy sat down and gazed at his mother’s sad eyes and asked, “What is the problem, mom? What is the matter?” After a short moment of stifling silence, the mother cleared her throat and said, “Dear son, I’ve always dreamt and longed to see you become a mature, honourable man. The years are passing and I’m still tying a thread of hope on you. It’s not your age that determines how important you are, but rather your deeds. Dear son, you have to be afraid of being a failure for only he who does carries within his ribs an honourable soul.”
The boy was just listening with a deep sense of bitterness and his eyes were down on the floor. Suddenly the mother added, “Your father and I brought you up and taught you to be a successful man. Now, if you feel OK with failure you prove that we have failed to seed success within you. Please, dear son, prevent us from such a fake.” The boy’s eyes got full of tears and his throat was tightly closed by sorrow. He could not do anything but to rush outside the room without saying a single word.
The next morning, the boy came to see his mother before going to school and said, “I would like to add one thing to what you said last night. I shall satisfy you and save your face. You just ask Allah for me and leave the rest on my shoulders.”
The boy’s determination was rewarded, after a very hardworking year, by acquiring the BAC in the first session. His promise to his mother was proudly saved. The next year, motivated by his growing love for the English language, he registered in the English Department at the University of Nouakchott and passed the next four years without difficulty.
During his last year at the University, professional life dominated the boy’s mind; especially by regarding the dramatic changes that have happened at home. Directly after the summer holiday, there was an announcement done by the Ministry of Education to select new teachers. This idea gradually attracted the boy’s interest and he began to consult with his friends, one by one, about it.
Among all of the boy’s friends, Eyoub was the only one to refuse the idea by asking, “Why don’t you complete your studies?” With sharp and quick words, the boy answered, “Because the whole universe drives me to take a job.” Then Eyoub asked, “How?” The boy got very close from Eyoub’s face and said, “You are a witness and you can see how all my sisters got married and left home and my father is about to retire; then my eldest brother’s salary won’t be able to cover all the family needs.” Then Eyoub put his hand over the boy’s shoulder and said, “That is reasonable. I wish you good luck.” In fact, the boy did not tell Eyoub that he choose this job also because it would enable him to develop his English, as he knows that Eyoub would not listen to such a reason. The boy passed the entrance exam and became a trainee teacher at ENS .
Now he looks forward to the future and hopes to participate in creating an educated generation of Mauritanians ready to serve Mauritania with their sweat and protect it with their blood. This hope is, for him, like a sun that lights his future, but it is a sun of different nature. It’s a sun that never sets.