My father is the best teacher I ever had growing up. Like many children, I believed that he knew everything and I could ask him anything I wanted. In a society that feared father figures because they are very strict, he was my friend and teacher.
Some 26 years ago, Ethiopia was going through huge political unrest after a change of government saw most officials who served in the previous government thrown into prison and my father was one of them. Once he was released, he spent some time at home as he ventured into a different lifestyle.
If there is anything that makes my father ecstatic, it is sharing what he knows and seeing his children read books. I guess it is because of his background that he has a high regard for education and for people who excel in it. He grew up in a remote village and didn't go to a formal school until he was a teenager, but he learned how to read and write in the traditional schools run by Orthodox priests at an early age. When they saw that he had a sharp mind, they sent him to a formal primary school to take an exam from grade 5. By only studying textbooks and student notes, he was admitted to grade 6 after being top of a class he never attended.
My childhood memories are full of him kissing our foreheads as we came home from school and asking what we had learned that day. He patiently listened to my long account of the day and checked through my notebooks and homework with me. He never said he was too busy for my million and one questions and was always glad to explain things I did not understand. My best memory is from that time he spent at home. My mother had opened a small shop in our home where we sold different household things. I don't remember a day where I saw my father without a book in his hands as he sat in that shop. My brother and I were struggling with remembering some words and multiplication at some point. So he made us memory cards from cigarette packets in the shop. My memory is so vivid that I even remember he used Roseman brand cigarette packets. They made studying interesting and he made it feel like a game he played with us. A few days later I was proud to stand in front of my class and recite everything I studied.
I was lucky to get very good teachers in primary and high school, but no one comes close to my dad. He taught me the value of education, how to use different teaching aids (made from simple things) to make studying interesting and set an example by introducing the culture of reading the house, amongst many other things. But most of all he was (and still is) a loving father who was ever supportive and present at all school functions with flowers for me. Nanash, I am sorry I said I was "too old" to have you around at high school and told you not to bring me flowers. I hope to be as passionate and dedicated with my daughter as you were with me.