[A short story]
It was my first day in school as a language teacher. I was about introducing myself, when I began to hear the teachers and the proprietor sounding an alarm.
“Every student…o ya…to the assembly ground!”
These teachers were with canes, just like the warders of a prison with their riffles, parading the lobby of the classes with enthusiasm. Some were with the impression, “God catch you today…you guys have been doing it uncaught for long.” Before I knew what was happening, every student was already on different straight lines, according to their classes. The teachers too were equally ready to flog, with bunch of canes in different shapes and sizes. Staring through the window with a gulp in my throat, I began to imagine what must have gone wrong. Maybe one of the students has killed the proprietor’s first son or rapped the principal’s daughter. Or can it be that the fellow has robbed on the highway? Because all I could picture, with the way the students were paraded like prisoners, was a deadly offense, if there is anything like that in the court of law.
The proprietor was more active in the school, unlike the other proprietors I have met. You know what I mean? They are always acting as the stainless CEOs who would only give instructions and orders; however, these orders never bind on them because they gave them. But the proprietor here was very active and committed to service. The principal was an academically ambitious woman, but passive when it comes to flogging. So the proprietors and some teachers did that. Just like the prison system, any student that crossed their boundary would pay in severe torture. Pathetically, the students would be the ones to bring the canes to be punished by. You just can’t stop laughing!
While I was still pre-constructing the crime and the criminal, I saw the proprietor coming to the podium of the assembly ground, with his sleeves rolled and tie loosed, just like one of the office men summoned to push the MD’s car out of a miry part of the road, and behind him, were selected male teachers with bunch of canes on their shoulders. There was nothing one could do than to pity the victim(s) of the moment. He mounted the podium and there was graveyard silence from the murmuring students.
“None of your secrets is safe, except the ones that God is not yet ready to reveal…”He said and stared into the eyes of the students for about thirty seconds then continued,
“Some of you think you are so smart that you can mess around with our Intelligence. You think you can make it by playing on the IQ of your principal and the rest of the management? Then you must be joking.”
The words resounding in my ears, like my pastor’s sermon. And so I got more attentive to the speech of the proprietor, even more than the students would. While he was still talking, there arose a rumble of murmuring from the students who were trying to ward the directness of the accusation off their personalities.
Some were saying, in a very ‘low key’, “Is not me o”, some others, “We are not playing on your intelligence o”. In the course, a girl, inconspicuously, pushed her colleague, who was timely looking back at her and, angrily, said,
“Stop looking at me joor! Am I the one he is referring to?”
All of a sudden, a teacher shouted, with a cracked voice,
Just like court proceedings, everywhere, immediately, became dead silent. The silence was so coordinated that one’s wink could be heard by the nearest person. Then the proprietor continued.
“Where is Ademola John?”
The students, just as the parted Red Sea, quickly paved way for the clear view of where Ademola John was standing. He, like a sacrificial lamb, humbly walked through the parted way, to the assembly podium and knelt without being ordered.
“…and Kafayat Agboola?”
The students began to look for her amidst them but could not find her because she was with her father in the proprietor’s office. Her father, without mercy, drew her to the assembly ground and there ensued another “royal rumble” of murmuring from the assembly of students. It was then I began to fathom out the possibility of the crime committed. My intuition quickly told me, “it takes the two to mingle” but the kind of game it was, I did not know. Kafayat’s father was a driver of one of the school buses. Though a stack illiterate, he loved education for his children and, he was obviously trying all he could to achieve his goal.
“I have always told you that no matter how early a child wakes to beat others to the farm, he shall surely meet the stump ahead.” The proprietor continued.
“These two students are into love affair, practicing immorality with each other. Haven’t I told you not to use phone in school or at home? Maybe these two students did not hear when I said it. They even kept their phones from their parents and sent messages to each other until Kafayat’s father caught the phone with her. This phone was ‘pass worded’ and after so much effort, she decided to unlock it. Guess what we found on it? Love messages, the ones from her to Ademola and the ones from Ademola to her.
While he was still saying this, he took Kafayat’s phone and ran his finger through to the messages. After searching for the worst of the messages to convince the students, he sighed confidently and calledMr Kasali, one of the teachers to read aloud one of the messages sent to her by Ademola.
“If the creator calls me personally to ask for a desired thing,
I would ask for the Garden of Eden, the second time
And convince God not to plant any trees or beautiful roses
But allow you and me to be together in the Garden of Love
Till death do us apart. I miss you always.”
Mr.Kasali was the only male teacher with the special assignment to flog disobedient students. Most times in the school, parents would recommend him for the merciless punishment of their wards. I might not be able to say if the proprietor paid him, specially, on that, but he takes delight in beating students. Immediately he finished reading the text message, there arose a noisy flattery from the assembly of students and some teachers joined in too. One could hear that of the teachers clearly than the students who were murmuring theirs.
“Hmmm…OSHOMO!” Mrs. Bamgbose flattered.
“…Abi now. Lover boy!” Mr. Obinna, the Mathematics teacher also chipped in his flattery.
When the teachers realized the noise was becoming overwhelming, they quickly cautioned the students and immediately, there was silence. So the proprietor continued.
“The teachers, you see behind me and I will give these students the beating of their entire lives and that will serve as a lesson for you all.”
Then he called students to hinder the criminals from running, in order that their backs and buttocks be convenient for chastening. Before the teachers started, I painstakingly counted the canes assigned for this assignment and to my shock; they were up to twenty five, evenly distributed by the five disciplinarians, including the proprietor. Before everyone realised, the trousers of the boy was torn from the to and fro movement of the canes. The girl too was just run up and down the assembly ground, shouting,
“Tutor pl…ea…se, I beg you in the name of God!”
And with those words, as a young graduate, I just found it difficult to believe the fact that our secondary schools, both private and public, still employ primitive or traditional method of instructing and teaching their students. I can remember, vividly, how I was mercilessly beaten by Mr. Ibrahim, our History teacher, because I had not paid my P.T.A fee. You can imagine! Why would a student be beaten for some school fees, when the teachers know, quite well, that his parents are responsible for such. It is never in the power of the student owing to pay. Pathetically, students are no longer sent home with letters of reminder, but scars to remind their parents that they still owe their schools. The latter is not the subject matter here, but something to hammer on later.
Now, if you ask my point of view, I would tell you that the proprietor and his ‘traditional’ school management are just being somewhat primitive. The issue of relationships or love affairs cannot be handled with cane or thorough punishment. It worsens it and even makes the hearts of the illicit lovers hardened. These children are so naïve and new to the world of affections. However, the law of anatomy demands that when a child is fifteen , he/she begins to relate what they have seen in the relationship between their parents,in movies, stories, novels, such as Romeo and Juliet, etc. with the relationship between them and their classmates, neighbourhood friends, church/mosque peers, and so on. If his/her parents have made it a tradition to always peck each other’s forehead before dinner and when departing for work places, the child will roger that signal and would not want to wait in practicing it with his/her selected friend. At this growing stage, a child only has to assume he/she is already in a boyfriend and girlfriend relationship with his/her preferred friend. No wonder, if you could recollect from you teenage hood, we fight our close friends because they have started talking or playing with another person that we did not trust, and when we were asked, maybe by an elderly person, the cause of our malice, we would not be able to give reasonable reasons, why.
Do not let us forget also that it is at this age, and older, that every child realizes how wicked their parents are. They would complain more on how their parents usually beat them without letting them give explanation to justify their actions. They are not allowed to solicit for their cause, and so, they will begin to find a way to emancipate from this so called ‘parental slavery’. That is why; if you have not forgot your teenage hood, a child would be very happy to spend his/her holidays with his/her liberal aunties or uncles because they just want to be free! I remember crying when I was denied a visit to my uncle’s place after my Junior WAEC. They just want to be away from home. They would not want to be with someone who has the right to punish them without explanation.
So, coupled with this fact, every child would like to have a special friend, mostly opposite sex, in whom their solace is found whenever they are not given food as a punishment at night, or lunch pocket money at break time in school, maybe because some had broken plates in the morning, and so on. In this kind of a relationship, they only assume they are in love. None of them will be able to come out blunt with the words,
“Will you be my girl?” or “I’m in love with you”.
Unlike the adults’. They sometimes, indirectly express their feelings in messages and complimentary cards. You find concluding words like,
“…To the one my heart longs” Or “…success to my rose”, etc.
The word, LOVE will be too heavy for them to use, except they are quoting from love notes, movies or literatures. At this point in time, some parents, guidance, and teachers apparently commit the mistake of extinguishing a fire outbreak with pure petrol. They would rather impose than hear their children out, at least for once. They see their children as ones trying to grow wings beyond parental guide. They dogmatically impose the kind of friendship they want their children to keep without giving any reason, because they believe their children are nobodies to ask, “daddy why?” or “mummy please, listen to what I have to say.”
Funny enough, these kids cannot be dogmatically corrected by this kind of parents, guidance or teachers. They only worsen the situation. In a situation like this, no cane is better than the WORD: I mean advice. Where is the place for counselling and guidance in our secondary schools these days? Pitiably, we no longer have offices for counsellors in our modern day schools. How hilarious! There is nobody to advise the students on career in our secondary schools. No wonder every student from the department of Arts would say, “I want to study law”; the ones from Science department would say, “I want to study Medicine” while Commercials would only “want to study Business admin.”Please tell me; are those the only courses in the University? But because, the idea of counselling and guidance has gone into extinction to catch a grenade, we no longer have that teacher who a student can walk up to for things bothering him/her as concerns academics, relationship, career, etc. No teacher would want to give the students a listening ear, all they take delight in doing is batter, flog and inflict more pain on the injuries of the students. A child that claims to be in a relationship should be told the facts he/she needs to know about the decision he/she is about to make. Counsellors should be able to advise students about how our choices in life, as humans, later sum up to make or mar our future. Let every secondary school restore the office of counsellors and stop using canes where brain is needed.