Recap: We saw in PART 3 the excitement of shopping for boarding school. Welcome to College life.
PART 4: College Days (contd)
I did not participate in shopping for the remainder of the items that made up my boarding school list of things to buy except for the provisions, which we bought on the day I left for school. Rather, my father took my measurements for the house wear and made them by himself while he bought the other items in bits and pieces. The provisions consisted of a packet of Tate sugar, a tin of Pronto cocoa beverage, 4 tins of Peak milk, a box of Cabin biscuit and a small sack of garri. My mother packaged the garri for me and the other items were bought at a shop not far from the motor park. My mother said goodbye to me in tears. I don’t remember whether my siblings and friends were happy, sad, angry or envious to see me go. I did wonder though why my mother should be crying instead of being happy that her son was going to boarding school. But I soon found out why.
Our journey from the motor park to the school was uneventful or more accurately, was hardly of interest to me. My mind was occupied with the things in my box in the boot of the car. I couldn’t stop imagining how I would enjoy my provisions. I pictured the white teacup in my hand with hot tea in it. Tea was not an item on my family’s menu although I had enjoyed it at my uncle’s place whose kind-hearted nurse-wife indulged us with it once in a while when we visited. Then again it was not in tea cups but in little plastic cups. I had been told that in boarding school you had study timetable and food timetable. Even in primary school we had study timetable but food timetable? That was a new one. They even said you ate three different types of meal in a day. I couldn’t wait to see how that worked out.
We got to the school compound in the late afternoon. The taxi driver dropped us off at the gate where my father enquired of the residence of the Vice Principal, Mr Ojobo, with whom he had managed to strike some kind of acquaintance previously. He was a cousin to one of our neighbours who linked my father up with him. I carried my box on my head and my father helped with the foam and pillow rolled into one and tied together, as well as the bucket containing a few other items. The Vice Principal’s residence was a short distance from the gate and we soon got there.
The first thing I noticed about Mr. Ojobo was his somewhat oversize eyeglasses with thick lenses. He was a neat, slightly built elderly man with what I thought was a slight stoop. I took all that in within the few minutes following my greeting of “good afternoon sir,” which received no answer. Rather, he went into a short conversation with my father in our language after their own greeting, to the effect that he had nothing to worry about as I would be well taken care of. My father thanked him, muttered a few reassuring words to me, and turned to leave. I made to follow him but the VP called out to one of the boys we had passed in his compound and instructed him to take me to the hostel. My father did not look back. If he did, he would have seen tears in my eyes. Perhaps there were tears in his own eyes too as he left. It was at that point that I realised why my mother was crying when I left the house earlier.
“Follow me!” The boy’s voice snapped me back to reality. I followed him to the veranda where my belongings were waiting for me. He lifted the box onto my head, put the foam and pillow on top of the box and took the bucket as we left the VP’s house. He asked my name, consulted a typed sheet of paper in his hand and said, “College House.” With my short hands barely holding on to the foam on top of my box, I followed him to College House, which turned out to be my hostel.
At the hostel he handed me over to the house prefect who fixed me up in my ‘corner’. The corner was a space containing a double-bunk iron bed and two lockers. He told me to put my box on top of one of the lockers and my foam on the upper spring-bed. I was seeing a double bunk bed for the first time. The base, with similar coiled springs had no foam on it and I wondered why he didn’t tell me to put my foam and pillow there. I didn’t have the courage to question him and even if I did, I wasn’t sure I had the right language. Of course I could speak some pidgin English but I had no idea whether my pidgin English was good enough for college so I kept my mouth shut and simply obeyed instructions; some of which were for me to put my provisions and other small items in the locker, ‘dress’ my bed with my bed sheet and pillow case and put my bucket under the bed. He left me to go back to his post in front of the hostel. I had no idea how to dress a bed that was taller than me but luckily there were some boys climbing the squeaky things to dress their own beds so, while pretending to arrange things in my locker, I spied them and managed to dress my bed thereafter.
Later that evening, I heard a bell ringing somewhere not far from the hostel. “Dining Hall everybody!” the house prefect shouted from his corner. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that so I watched out to see the next move of other members of the hostel, most of whom I realised by then were older students who were used to the system. I saw them taking their plates and cutlery and didn’t need to be told what they were going to do with those. I took mine too and followed them to the dining hall with great expectation.
Guess what I found in the dining hall. We shall see in Part 5…. coming soon.
Excerpt: It amuses me these days when my children would come home late from school and tell me that they were serving punishment for lateness to school or some other misdemeanor – that punishment being ‘detention’ in the class for an hour or two during which they are made to do their homework under the supervision of a teacher or just sit there with the teacher until detention is over. In South Africa, corporal punishment is punishable by the authorities.
In our days, a teacher like Mr. Uwogu, who was rumoured to be an ex-soldier, would make you to ‘smell your yansh’ if he caught you in a misdeed by administering some blistering strokes of the cane to your buttocks. In fact, Mr. Uwogu used to box some students, as in physical blows to different parts of the body, including the head. Or was it Sergeant Abariwo? Sometime during the military dispensation, the authorities thought it ‘wise’ to post soldiers to schools to help maintain discipline. Sergeant Abariwo, a tall, dark man with bloodshot eyes was posted to our school. Whether it was true or not could never be confirmed but it was speculated at the time that Sergeant Abariwo did not like bread and tea for breakfast. Instead, he preferred Ogogoro (local gin) and Indian hemp. God save your soul if after such a sparking breakfast Sergeant Abariwo caught you (day students) coming late to school or was invited by the principal to teach you (an aberrant student) a lesson. He would first march back and forth, salute the principal before descending on you with his koboko (horse whip/sjambok).
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