Born to missionary parents
Monday March 30, 2009
Dear Alice Miller,
I have read many of your books, which have deeply affected me & for which I am most grateful to you.
I am delighted to have recently discovered your web-site & to read some of the letters sent to you, which has encouraged me to send you my story. which I would be happy to have posted. if it is of general enough interest, but I would like it to be under my pseudonym Ekim Nala.
I was born to English Medical Missionary Parents in the heart of Africa at the end of 1939. As the fourth boy in the family I grew up in a family where the decision to send us to Boarding Schools had been made long before my arrival & by the time I was five years old my elder brothers were already having to travel hundreds of miles from our home in Uganda to the nearest suitable schools, which were in Kenya. All the other missionary families did the same. The tyrany of “God’s guidance” that my parents claimed after praying about the issue of sending us away to boarding schools was later sent to us in a remarkable letter, quoted in my father’s biography: “We have found peace again knowing that you belong,each of you, to one who can look after you much better than we ever can.” So I first started Boarding School from the age of six, which I found a shocking & miserable experience.
It was when, at the age of ten, I had to go to Kenya, a journey of three days & two nights, to my first single-sex boarding school, that I discovered the shocking reality of the violence & the threat of violence that pervaded the place. At a formal level, we had a sadistic headmaster who not only caned boys regularly & for all kinds of minor offences, but evidently enjoyed doing it. At an informal level, bullying was rife & unchecked. Also there was a constant threat of sexual abuse, especially fro certain masters, including the school chaplain! As letters home not only then took more than a month, but were also often censored, not surprisingly I could not easily write about what I really felt: fear, sadness, anger & rage, which to survive I buried & only began to be able to explore in therapy over 25 years later.
Secondary schooling was even worse for me, because I had to travel more than 5,000 miles to England, but being a typical English Boarding school of that time (1950’s) the pratice of caning was widespread & not only done by masters to boys, but by senior boy Prefects to younger boys. I had developed many strategies for keeping out of trouble, including behaving myself & working hard, which as I was bright meant that I succeeded in passing exams. However, one highly unjust beating that I received from my housemaster, charmingly called “six of the best”, has affected me deeply. ( As well as therapyI I have found some other creative ways of addressing this, which I would be happy to send as an attachment, if you are interested).
I thought that my story might be of interest to you in that it combines both the well known English Boarding School tradition but with an unholy alliance with the missionary world! Incidentally, my father had also been sent to Boarding Schools himself, which he had hated but like so many of his generation rationised it with saying such as “it never did me any harm” & sent all of us boys to his old school! When my father was dying at the age of ninety, even though he suffered with dementia on my last visit to him in a nursing home at one point he was dozing & evidently started having a nightmare & cried out “stop them, stop them” & when I asked him what it was about he said he was back at school & witnessing bullying.
Finally I would like to strongly endorse your concept of the “witness” & the vital role of giving support & self-esteem in an otherwise abusive environmet. I was most fortunate to have had some teachers who did that for me. Again, if you are interested, I could give you more precise delails.
With my very best wishes & thank, MC
AM: Thank you for your letter. Fortunately, you clearly see today the destructive pattern of your family and the schools you were sent to, so you can combat this system wherever you will meet it again. And you will not be compelled to blindly repeat with others what your father has done to you. He inflicted so much pain on you, only to please his God (Father?). How much cruelty needs this God to feel well?