Chimamanda Adichie, distinguished Nigerian writer and literary icon, says malaria is to blame for her poor grasp of mathematics, highlighting how the mosquito-borne infectious disease keeps children out of school across the world.
Speaking at the Malaria Summit in London, holding on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2018), Adichie shared her experience with malaria, and how it affected her education and that of family and friends.
“My malaria always came with an unbearable rumbling and aching feeling that I can only describe as anguish with my stomach. It left me light-headed, weak, nauseous, helpless,” she said.
“My brother, Okey’s malaria, came with deeply painful aches at his joints. For my brother, Kene, a bitter taste will cling to his tongue, and his head will ache and feel twice its size.
“We knew malaria so intimately, that we knew the medicines well, Fansidar tablets tasted like paint, chloroquine injections made us itchy everywhere, even beneath our fingernails. Novalgine injections were too painful to bear.”
Expressing how the disease affects schooling in Nigeria, and elsewhere in the world, Adichie said the mosquito-borne disease keep her out of school at 13 and impacted her understanding of mathematics forthwith.
“Each time I had malaria, I didn’t go to school. Once in class two, at the age of 13, I had a very bad case of malaria, that made me miss a whole week of school. My friends came to visit, bearing cards as though on pilgrimage
“When I finally went to school, I felt left out, bereft, because so much had passed me by. It was during that week that quadratic equations were covered in mathematics class, I missed it all. And I have since then never been able to make sense of quadratic
“So perhaps the only good thing I can say about malaria is that I cannot be held responsible for my poor grasp of mathematics, it’s all malaria’s fault.”
ADICHIE’S INTIMACY WITH MALARIA
The 40-year-old novelist said she “knew malaria so intimately that the mosquitoes were familiar”.
“In the evenings when we played outside, we expected mosquitoes to bite and they did, there was the sting and then the itchy bump that would rise on our skin, red and painful.
“There was the delicious sense of accomplishment we got from slapping at a mosquito that had landed on our skin, and then the disgust we felt at seeing that insect swollen fat with our blood.”
Adichie joined Bill Gates, Theresa May and Tedros Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in calling for an end to malaria.