EZE GOES TO SCHOOL (Episode 35)

Eze Goes To SchoolThere was a divide that existed in my school between the boarding students and the day students. The boarders, by far, outnumbered the day students, and there was a certain air of superiority every boarder exhibited towards the day students. We thought we were better than them. After all, we were the ones who toughed it out in school, catering for ourselves, without any parent to coddle us or any mummy’s food to get home to at the end of a school day. We braved several adverse circumstances – wicked seniors, thieving hostel mates, nightmarish punishments, Lady Koikoi, Bush Baby, cold water baths on Harmattan mornings, snakes. . .

“Haba! After all this,” I was saying, “I put it to you that boarders are better than day students.”

“It’s a lie!” Christopher Emeh declared, stamping a foot to punctuate his indignation. He was the most intelligent student in my class, always in the first position, the Ibuka of JSS3B. This singular fact was what made him the one boy Ibuka could never be friends with. After he made the mistake of outshining Ibuka with the answers to Mrs. Ezuruonye’s questions during our joint Integrated Science class in JSS2 first term, Ibuka had taken an instant and unreasonable dislike of the boy, one he struggled to conceal beneath an exterior pleasantness. Joseph and I, however, did not share his sentiment. I liked Christopher; he had that freshly-scrubbed look and ready smile that made him likeable, and in spite of his brightness, he wasn’t an obnoxious know-it-all like Ebenezer.

“You people are always acting like you’re better than us day students, but the real truth is that you’re really not all that,” he said, addressing the very small gathering of JSS3 students sitting and standing around him in our class. Around us, the noisy chatter of other classmates raged on. It was Thursday afternoon, some minutes to the close of school, and most of the classrooms had no teachers in them. As a result, the entire block was inundated with the din of students chattering loudly, playing and strolling from one class to the other.

“Abeg, we are all that joor,” Nkeiru said. She’d come from her class, 3C, and was seated beside Anulika, who was working her fingers through her hair as she loosened her friend’s plaits. “You people are just mummy’s children.”

“And you’re not?” Christopher lived in town with his parents.

“No, we are not,” I interjected. “At least, not during the times we are here in school. But you day students, you are mummy’s children day in, day out.”

“As in eh, tufiakwa!” Amaka jeered, snapping her fingers for good measure, as though being a day student was a plague she was rejecting.

Everyone laughed at her theatric.

“You people are just jealous,” Christopher countered good-naturedly.

“We’re jealous?” Joseph said.

“Yes, you’re jealous because as day students, we get to enjoy all the time all the things you cannot enjoy. And so, you use boarding life as a way to console yourselves that you are better.”

“Who’s better than what?” Ibuka said as he walked into the classroom. His face tightened when he saw who was holding court, as he came to my side to sit. “What are you people gisting about?”

“That boarders are better than day students,” I supplied.

“Who is even arguing that one?” he said.

“Me, I’m arguing it.” Christopher was pointing his thumb at his chest. “I think boarders are just a bunch of empty vessels that make too much noise.”

“I beg your pardon?” Ibuka said with an affronted glare. “We are not empty vessels. As a matter of fact, boarders are people who are developing faster than you day students.”

“Please,” scoffed Christopher. “That’s rubbish –”

“It’s not. Let me tell –”

“How can you even say –”

“Will you please let me finish?” Ibuka demanded with no small amount of irritation.

Christopher made a spectacle of spreading his hands widely, giving Ibuka free rein to say what he wanted. Ibuka scowled. Everyone else chuckled.

“The thing is,” Ibuka started, “with the life we are living now, we are being developed for the life of university students and after that. We are getting to know now, this early, what it’s like not to have our mummies and daddies around to protect us all the time, and how to look out for ourselves.”

In one accord, we turned our faces to Christopher to hear his rebuttal.

“It’s never too late to learn something about life. Besides, what is the big thing about boarding life that the rest of us can’t hear word?”

We turned to Ibuka.

“You really think that what we pass through in the hands of seniors, the times they beat us and punish us, sometimes for no just cause, is the same thing as your mummy flogging you for not having siesta?” Ibuka couldn’t have been more condescending if he’d tried.

The barb however bounced off Christopher as he said, “Whether it’s a senior or my mother, beating is beating. There’s nothing about being a boarder that I can’t tackle. You people need to stop acting like you’re in a Members Only club.”

“Oh really? Boarding life is not a big deal for you, right?” Ibuka’s eyes had ignited. He pursed his lips and looked a dare at the other boy.

“No, it’s not,” Christopher insisted.

“What House are you in?”

“Unity House.”

“Why don’t you spend this weekend as a boarder, in the hostel, and live like us. And then, by Sunday, you can tell us if you still think boarding life is not a big deal.”

All heads turned to Christopher and our stares pinned him down, daring him to back out on Ibuka’s challenge. He stared hesitantly back at us, his eyes darting this way and that, and his expression betraying his bewilderment at how the situation had come to this.

“The thing is, eh . . . I will love to, but –”

“But what?” Joseph said.

“Well, my father. . .”

“Weekend starts tomorrow,” Ibuka said. “Surely you’re big enough for mummy and daddy to let you out of the house for three days.”

The taunt got the desired effect. Christopher straightened with ruffled indignation and said, “Of course I’m a big boy.”

“So we have a deal?”

“Yes.”

“Starting tomorrow, you’ll be staying in Senior Hostel Unity House?”

“Yes.”

Ibuka’s smile turned canine, more a show of teeth as he said, “Good. Very good.”

As though to underscore the significance of the agreement, the school bell clanged and a roar burst out throughout the classroom block as students welcomed the moment. Desk covers slammed as books and bags were lifted out, and a sea of bodies teemed from the classrooms, everyone talking and shouting at once as they moved either in the direction of the hostels or the school gate.

“Ibu, you’re a wicked boy o,” I was saying as my friends and I strolled toward our hostel.

“What? What did I do?” He was smiling.

“What did you do, eh? You’re talking as if you don’t know that this weekend you’re making Christopher to stay in the hostel is the beginning of duty week.”

With a mock-gasp, he said, “Is it? I forgot o.” His eyes were rounded in an expression of innocence that looked suspiciously fake.

“Yea right,” Joseph said with a laugh. “You this boy eh, you’re a very dangerous person. See as you were just provoking the boy. Now Christopher won’t know what hit him until . . . well, until Senior Ogbonna will land him one hot slap on Saturday morning in dining hall.”

We shared a laugh at the wicked thought, and increased our walk to a jog when the next ring of the bell announced lunchtime.

***

“Christopher,” Ememesi hailed the next morning as students walked into the classroom, “this one you’re carrying traveling bag. How far?”

“I’m staying in the hostel this weekend,” the boy announced gaily as he deposited the overnight bag beside his seat. His eyes sought out Joseph and I and he beamed at us. “My father came with me to school this morning to talk to Mr. Anaele, the housemaster for Unity House and Senior Chimezie, the House Captain. Senior Chimezie promised my father that I will be made very welcome.” His smile widened. “This is going to be very exciting.”

Such naïveté.

“You want to stay in the hostel?” Ememesi queried. At Christopher’s nod, he said, “Why?” He sounded like someone was forcing him to accept that two plus two was equal to five.

“What do you mean why? I can’t decide to stay in the hostel again?”

“Why now?” Obioma asked from another corner of the class. “Why this weekend? Don’t you know this weekend starts the prefects’ duty week?”

“Is it that bad?”

Sniggers broke out in the room.

“Ah, sorry for you, Chris, you hear?” Obioma said. “Ndo, o? The fact that you’re asking is enough reason for someone to start writing your obituary.”

There were more sniggers at that.

“Someone should tell me nah. How bad is it?”

Before anyone could explain the seriousness of the weekends that marked the beginning of the prefects’ duty week, there was a clap on a desk top.

Kpam! Kpam! Kpa-kpam-kpam!

“Good morning, ma!”

Mrs. Baliaba, the Cameroonian French teacher had just walked in to begin our first class for the day.

***

Christopher didn’t need anyone to enlighten him on what he needed to know. He found out for himself on Saturday. In the morning, by 5.30 am, as house prefects awakened their charges with shouted commands and the stinging swipes of leather belts for the Saturday hostel cleanup that usually commenced at that time, I imagined him yawning reluctantly into wakefulness, and probably wondering why anyone would choose to be anywhere but snuggled in his bed at this ungodly hour.

Then the bell for breakfast time tolled, and chaos descended. Panic-stricken students darted about helter-skelter, trying to escape the wrath of the prefects as they pounced. The lords and ladies of the school were in their element. Their fury unmatched by hell and the scorned woman put together. Gloried was their cruelty.

“Hey you! Frog-jump from there!”

“You’re walking when others are running, eh?! Slap!

“Ben down! Bend, bend!” Wham!

“Lie down flat there! Come on, will you lie down!”

Their voices reverberated with righteous rage, and their whips flew, lashing out horizontally, vertically and diagonally. As we formed a line before the dining hall to walk singly inside under the watchful gaze of some prefects in their mission to detect any student who didn’t have his complete dining materials – plate, cutlery, full cup of water – I spotted Christopher down the line, quivering on his feet and bending before Senior Moses, moments before the prefect brought down his palms on the boy’s back in a resounding blow. I winced as I watched him crumple to the ground. Senior Moses roared for him to get up. His face was shiny with tears as he did so.

Inside the hall, while we ate, I saw him whispering furiously to the boy beside him, four tables away from where I sat with my friends. The boy was studiously ignoring him, but Christopher was in a mood to vent, and punctuated his words with the occasional hand gesture.

“What does he think he’s doing?” Joseph said in a low tone without moving his lips.

I shook my head. Chris, stop talking. Just stop –

“That boy talking!” the assistant head girl, Senior Janet screeched.

And Christopher suffered a stinging slap on his cheek.

Prep was next. As we crowded into the class, hurrying to our seats, Ememesi took one look at him and gasped, “Chris, what are you wearing?”

“What do you mean?”

Ememesi pointed. “You’re wearing chinos shorts.”

The entire class went still with shock. Junior students wearing shorts, trousers or skirts that were tailored with any fabric other than polyester wasn’t against any recognized school regulation. But it was an affront on the SS3s, who had reserved for themselves the right to own school wears sewn with any material but polyester. The fabric’s shiny and lubricious quality made it a no-no for the super-cool seniors, and woe betide any junior boy who didn’t know his place in the fashion hierarchy.

Woe caught up with Christopher when the prefects came calling. It was called Saturday morning prep, but we usually didn’t do any reading during the period, because it was an excuse for the prefects to keep us in one place while extending their reign of terror. The sports prefect, Senior Orizu walked in with his lists to cane those who didn’t attend the Friday morning jogging exercise. Christopher’s cotton shorts caught his attention, and the prefect thrashed him too.

The prep prefect, Senior Kingsley had a list of offenders too, one of those who didn’t attend the previous night’s prep. As he reeled out the names of the absentees, he spotted Christopher’s shorts, and the boy was flogged again.

By the time the Head boy, Senior Nkemka made his entrance, Christopher was sobbing and begging to be pardoned because he was a day student and wasn’t aware of the rules. Luckily, he got the Head boy’s compassion and was excused from that offence.

Then the bell rang, and the prep was over. We moved out of the classrooms and headed for the school field. It was time for labour. Boys wielded cutlasses and girls held brooms. It was another unwritten student rule: during labour, boys cut and girls sweep. Christopher, of course, didn’t know this. He had never cut grass in his life, and so, had with him a broom. Senior Adindu, the labour prefect gave him an instant re-education – with his cane, of course.

By the time the groundwork exercise was over, after watching him hack ineffectually at the grassy portion assigned to him, observing him grimace under the sweltering morning sun and at his blistered fingers, I began to feel sorry for Christopher Emeh. Certainly, Ibuka must have scored a point with him. However, I didn’t get the chance to commiserate with him, not then, not for the rest of the day. I didn’t see him throughout Sunday either.

And then Monday morning dawned. Breakfast was over, and the assembly had just ended with some words from the principal. The gathering of students had disintegrated into groups of boys and girls thronging to the classrooms.

“Is that not Chris?” Joseph said, pointing.

Ibuka and I looked. The boy was conversing with two fellow JSS3 boys as they walked in the direction of our block.

“Where has he been since?” I wondered aloud.

“Let’s go and find out,” Ibuka said and we hurried forward.

“Chris!” we called. “Chris!” His back stiffened with the recognition of our voices. His friends turned to stare at us as we trotted to a stop before them. He turned too, and faced us, his features carefully schooled to a blankness.

“Ah, Chris,” I said. “We have been looking for you since Saturday. What happened? Where have you been?”

“I went back home,” he said woodenly.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“I said I went back home on Saturday, after groundwork.”

The three of us could not hold back the smug laughter that threatened. As we gave in to our mirth, the other two boys looked on with quizzical expressions. Christopher scowled.

“You guys are laughing, abi?”

“Why won’t we laugh?” Joseph said. “You didn’t even last one day and you ran back home to mommy.”

“Eiyaa,” I added consolingly. “Was boarding life that hard? You should have stayed till Sunday. Sunday rice-and-stew is always very delicious.” My voice dripped so much sarcasm that my friends started laughing again. Even Christopher’s glare thawed and his lips twitched with grudging amusement.

“You people are trying o,” he said. “Men, I can’t handle the stress of boarding life at all.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Ibuka made a production of using an index finger to clear nonexistent wax from his ear. “I didn’t hear you.”

Christopher grinned. “Yes, you’re right. Boarding life is not easy. It’s a big deal. But you’re wrong too. What you pass through doesn’t make you better than day students.”

“That may be so, Chris,” Ibuka replied, placing a hand over the other boy’s shoulder in an amiable gesture that had Joseph and I momentarily stunned. “That may be so. But at least, now you know why boarders have to believe that there’s so much about our life that day students are missing out on.”

Christopher nodded in acquiescence.

“RUN TO YOUR CLASSROOMS!” a prefect’s voice tore through the atmosphere. “I DON’T WANT TO SEE ANYONE WALKING! RUN!

Duty week was still on. The six of us joined other students in a scattered rush for the classroom blocks.

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32 Comments

  1. Lol nice episode. Hilarious

    Reply
  2. mzz Tayo

     /  January 13, 2014

    LOL….Mummy’s Boy indeed…Back then,we boarders always had this Air of superiority around us making ’em day students feel inferior

    Reply
  3. Yemie

     /  January 13, 2014

    Another reason why I’ll NEVER send my kids to boarding school. Thanks for the heads up Walter. Poor Chris was totally played and bamboozled to spend the weekend in hell. He’s the better for it now, he knows who’s boss.

    LMAO@’Ibuka’s smile turned canine’ and ‘their fury unmatched by hell and the scorned woman put together, gloried was their cruelty’. Walter of life, you have a way with words that’s simply amazing. Kudos!

    Reply
    • Nwukabu Danjuma

       /  January 13, 2014

      Did you go to boarding school? It’s not that bad. It just depends on the kind of school you are going to and things have really changed. I have two siblings in boarding school. For my sister things have really changed there is hardly any suffering; for my brother all I can say is that boys dorm will always be boys dorm.
      I think it’s a good experience though and I enjoyed it.

      Reply
      • Yemie

         /  January 13, 2014

        Didn’t attend a boarding school but my baby sisters did and a few other friends. Heard so many sordid tales as well as great stories but I’m going to have to pass, aint no ways am sending my bambinos to a boarding school. LMAO!

    • Nwukabu Danjuma

       /  January 13, 2014

      Lol. After my first 6 weeks in boarding school my mom felt the same way but my dad didn’t so I ended up finishing in boarding school. I really enjoyed it after I got used to it.
      It’s not always advisable though. I remember being stuck in school during the 2008 Jos crisis with 2 of my siblings it was not even funny. It was even worse for those who didn’t live in Jos. On the bright side we got an early Christmas holiday.

      Reply
      • Yemie

         /  January 13, 2014

        Wow! I know some parents send their stubborn kids to boarding schools to get them ‘straightened out’ and I guess that’s borne out of the fact that they look at boarding schools as a correctional facility type-thing, a ‘half house’ almost. Some kids however end up toughened.

      • Nwukabu Danjuma

         /  January 13, 2014

        Some people send their children to boarding schools for that reason, but regardless of the reason that is usually an inevitable outcome.

  4. doris

     /  January 13, 2014

    Day students are still better than boarders.#tongueout#

    Reply
  5. Walahi, boarding life ain’t fun at all…and yes it makes us better prepared for the wider world…we have better social skills and can adapt faster…or so we want to believe…lol

    Reply
  6. nice one but ibuka went too far just to setting scores with chris who was unaware of the enemity that existed. still I couldn’t stop laughing

    Reply
  7. excellency

     /  January 13, 2014

    😀

    Reply
  8. abikoye

     /  January 13, 2014

    This is the most wicked and hilarious Episode, Ibukaaaaaa….u are intelligently wicked, the Devil’s real advocate,now I know why u rank first, u didn’t disappoint me in wickedness. This two cut out phrase got me rocketing with laughter;

    1) “Ibuka’s smile turned canine, more a show of teeth as he said, “Good. Very good.” immediately I read this, I saw he’ll open and unleashed all its terror on all fours just like Resident Evil on Chris and he thought as he can just blow grammar like Hon. Patrick. This also made me enjoy every word in this piece. Priceless is every word.

    2) “The lords and ladies of the school were in their element. Their fury unmatched by hell and the scorned woman put together. Gloried was their cruelty.” choiiiooo Walter, the face of Gladiators in Rome in yester decades ago, radiated through my mind and I was like….WTF am I watching SPARTACUS, After my vow not to?

    I deeply and truly appreciate this episode Walter, this is a practical display of “I’d rather show you than argue, Taste and see and known that boarders are survivors of school hardships”

    Totally in love with this Walt…..totally.

    My standing respect.

    Reply
  9. mana

     /  January 13, 2014

    Mehn, U̶̲̥̅̊ hav ur way wif words, I cud see d whole stuff play out b4 me, kul read indeed.. Thums up..

    Reply
  10. Nancy

     /  January 13, 2014

    Lmaoooooooooooo.Boarding life is sweet with its bitter side though.nice one waltz!

    Reply
  11. Nancy

     /  January 13, 2014

    Am glad i experienced boarding school life.It really changed my life.

    Reply
  12. uzo

     /  January 13, 2014

    wally its so vivid I can envisage the horror! thank you for making my night

    Reply
  13. Cassie

     /  January 13, 2014

    Lol nice one Walts… It’s true boarding life isn’t easy but y’all should know that there’s a big difference between federal boarding schools and private school. Federal is worse than Private and I would know because I attended both. So not all those that went to boarding schools experienced the real torture…

    Reply
  14. Walter oooooo…. you and words….
    But erm, Day Students are better jhur.
    #TeamDayStudents

    Reply
  15. Lo I pity Chris, boarding life… Shaking my head.

    Reply
  16. Feyisetan

     /  January 14, 2014

    Quite commendable. Easy to relate with especially as it is well punctuated with 9ja’s exclamations/phrases e.g “chooo”, “as in eh”, “haba” amongst others. So interesting.

    Reply
  17. Crys

     /  January 14, 2014

    Memories. The eternal war between boarders and day students. In my school boarders were cool and tough chics. United in suffering even the geekiest border was still cooler than a day student and day students hated us. Woe betide the day student that tried to fight a boarder she’ll get beaten by every boarder girl around. Even the boys were very careful with boarder girls. I remember in SS2 some day girl insulted a boy and he slapped her and said ” you’re not even a boarder and you’re talking to me anyhow”. All the cool boys dated only boarders and we all had the wicked school fathers. I loved the hype and respect boarding house gave us. We were the “untouchables” during school hours.

    Reply
  18. This is great! Keep it up

    Reply
  19. Beebah

     /  January 14, 2014

    Lol Walt….as boarders, we were so quick to say “do you know who I am” whenever a day student was messing up, the respect was too much, much too much…some day students could even do anything to befriend a “cool” boarder (cool as in friendly). we even had some level of respect back home on holidays sef…#memories.

    Reply
  20. Oluwabunmilola

     /  January 15, 2014

    Wow!!!!!!!!!!couldn’t help but laff @ some phrases!boarders r d cOolest anywhere,our uniform?standout!,social nyts n oda activities kept us going.fight a boarder geh,u fighT all of d hostel!thumbs up waltz!

    Reply
  21. This is beautiful. #singing we are hungry boarders we believe in soaking garri…

    Reply
  22. louisa

     /  January 15, 2014

    Very nice.

    Reply
  23. catherine

     /  March 12, 2014

    Boarders rock! Nyc one

    Reply

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