Thursday 29 September 2016


As a student teacher, watching the principal of the school I was posted to addressing the students, I remembered clearly my first day in secondary school.
    I woke up early that day and lay restless on my bed. Strange thoughts filled my mind as I
wondered what leaving home would mean for me at the tender age of ten. The thought of living in a hostel without my parents hit me like a fiend. The stories which my friend had told me about how older students bullied and oppressed younger ones re-echoed in my ears with an alarming fiesness. These thoughts came in quick successions and I felt like shouting. I was devastated. The idea of leaving my brother to travel to a far city was unimaginable.
     The alarm clock in our sitting room struck the hour of six to announce, so it seemed to me that I was soon to leave the family. Almost immediately, my mother woke and with gentle strokes of her hand,  ordered me to the bathroom to take my bath. I sighed repeatedly and mumbled behind the sheets "Yoma,  what is the matter?" she shouted as she opened the door. She was disturbed by my inability to make a response and I believe that she must have wondered how my mind worked at that time. She began to console me and in her usual manner, said a lot of things to boost my ego.
     Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by my emotions and I burst into tears. My father, who is stern and formidable, was irritated by what he called my tantrums and he quickly gave me a slap. His harshness and beating made me feel I could leave home for any length of time without feeling for my father or mother, especially the unfriendly person my father seemed to be to me.
     Everything about my departure seemed to be in a hurry. We had a hurried devotion, a meal which I neither found appetizing nor comfort in because of my fear of the unknown. The strange school life that awaited me in college appeared to be written all over my body. My luggage was hurriedly put into the car and my mother, in her anxiety to accompany me on the journey, forgot her wallet. We left the house at seven o'clock as an unhappy trio. As we left, pleasant memories of our home life came to me like a movie on a television screen. I remembered the delicacies we used to enjoy, our family prayer time, my younger brother and the friends left behind. Tears ran down in a continuous stream. My father showed me understanding for my behavior for the first time. He told me I was being initiated into manhood, a process he considered vital for my future life. He narrated how he had travelled several times on foot to his own school at Orogun many years ago without company. To encourage me,  he worked out a plan of how they would visit me. He also talked about his friend, Mr Onoh,  who was a teacher in my college. He was sure that his friend would be happy to act as my guardian in his absence. My mother, who wept as much as I, on this occasion said that my father's sermon irritated her. She pleaded that my father should tell me how to behave in my new school. This banter increased my agony. The occasional police harassment at checkpoints made nonsense of the hurry with which we left our home and provided some relief to my heavy heart. I was amused inwardly that some other people like the police could intimidate my father the way he had always intimidated my mother and I at home.
     At last, after travelling for several hours, we arrived at the college. My father paid my fees, handed me over to his friend, the teacher who later took me to the dormitory where I would spend the rest of my life in the college. Although my parents gave me some money before they left the college that evening, I felt I had been sold into slavery. I tried to run after them but they had left through an unknown route. I wept until my eyes were bloodshot, but no one in the whole wide world seemed to give a damn.
     I was to be initiated into the college as a fox that same evening. The senior students took my delicacies away from me and confiscated my pair of pants and singlet. They bamboozled me by giving me conflicting orders. While some of them wanted me to crawl, others preferred me singing, dancing or laughing. In fact,  one of them had asked me to laugh like someone who had drunk a carton of beer. Each of them tried his strength on me as though I was a punching bag. My fragile frame racked with pain and I almost collapsed. It was an experience indeed.  I was crying at first but soon I realized my tears tickled them because the more I cried, the more they bullied me. A group of three new students who seemed more elderly than I was got into their trap. Their arrival made my situation better because I found the opportunity to escape from those 'murderers'.
     I went into hiding. In my solitude,  I remember what my father had told me during the journey to the college about initiation and manhood. I realized that the stories my friends had told me about how the senior students maltreated novices were no falsehood.  Then, I grinned and accepted my fate as real and normal. I came out of it, determined to face the music: the initiation to manhood, indeed, into the educated class.
     At ten p.m, the school bell was rung to send all junior students to bed. As I lay on my six-spring bed, I felt like a fish out of water. I thought of the days' experience and I became homesick. I remembered the I had not had my dinner, a deprivation which was part of the initiation. I must learn to live the way adults do. I thought of getting up and attacking those students who had tortured me and deprived me of my dinner. It was in this reverie that I fell asleep.
     I woke up in the night about five minutes before midnight and I said to myself "January 16th 2007, this is indeed, a day I will never forget".

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