The Education of a British-Protected Child

by Chinua Achebe
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How did Achebe miss the opportunity to become a "clear-cut scholar"?

Achebe says he missed the opportunity to become a "clear-cut scholar" because he was rejected from Trinity College, Cambridge.

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In "The Education of a British-Protected Child," Chinua Achebe says that he does not want readers to expect his work to be that of a scholar. He says that labeling him a scholar would be a mistake because he missed the opportunity to be one. He got his first degree at University College, Ibadan but wanted to leave Nigeria and get another degree at Trinity College, Cambridge like his sponsor from Ibadan, James Welch. But Trinity College rejected him in 1954.

Looking back on his life and career, Achebe views the rejection from Cambridge as a major turning point in his path. He explains that because of the rejection he decided to stay home and write novels. Cambridge's decision thus kickstarted what was to become a successful career in writing. He notes that if it was not for that decision, his audience would be reading scholarly essays by him today instead of his stories of growing up in British colonial Nigeria.

It is interesting to consider how he transitions from the discussion of his academic history to his experiences with colonialism. After he explains what happened with Trinity College, he says:

As you can see already, nothing has the capacity to sprout more readily or flourish more luxuriantly in the soil of colonial discourse than mutual recrimination. If I become a writer instead of a scholar, someone must take the rap.

His career trajectory is inevitably connected with his experiences with colonialism. It is also important to note that while he might not be a "clear-cut scholar," his essays and novels are groundbreaking works that provide critical insight into African identity.

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