I walked alongside my father, clutching his right hand. All my clothes were new: the black shoes, the green school uniform, and the red cap. They did not make me happy, however, as this was the day I was to be thrown into school for the first time.
My mother stood at the window watching our progress, and I turned towards her from time to time, hoping she would help. We walked along a street lined with gardens, and fields planted with crops, pears, and date palms.
"Why school?" I asked my father. "What have I done?"
"I am not punishing you", he said, laughing. "School's not a punishment. It's a place that makes useful men out of boys. Don't you want to be useful like your brothers?"
I was not convinced. I did not believe there was really any good to be had in tearing me away from my home and throwing me into the huge, high-walled building.
When we arrived at the gate we could see the courtyard, vast and full of boys and girls. "Go in by yourself, "said my father, "and join them. Put a smile on your face and be a good example to others."
I hesitated and clung to his hand, but he gently pushed me from him. "Be a man," he said. "Today you truly begin life. You will find me waiting for you when it's time to leave."