Monday, May 24, 2010

Boarding School Blues

While in the first form, our food prefect, Adelana had been my "school father". He was generally an eloquent prefect with a quite abrasive sting to his words. But by the end of session I had moved loyalties to Henry Ubochi, who was more warm-hearted. A fellow prefect, Sola Amure, was called 'the ghost' because of his small, dark and mysterious nature. Amure was one of the best debaters the school ever had, and he distinguished himself by memorising the complete speech of the Old Major, in the popular literary treatise, Animal Farm. Whenever he gave the recitation of the superb speech, we would be held spellbound by his natural skill with prose, his clear diction and sonorous inflections. For days after such a performance, he was everyone's darling. Then, he would revert to his dark 'Casper' image as the Health Prefect.

Prefects in those days were usually a very powerful bunch of students. The school authorities conferred great powers on them, and the juniors would be foolhardy to antagonise any of them. Many of us small freshers would tremble at the sight of any of them. Those aggressive hours just following our nightly joint studies at the dinning hall were terrible times indeed. After study time, rather than dispatching us to our hostels for the night, it was often the time that marked offenders got their just desserts. The thirty or more odd prefects and their mates would march up and down the large hall like Gestapo officers. They would shout at the top of their voices while piercing the night with the sounds of whips with which they delivered instant justice to perceived enemies among the hundreds of inmates of the boarding school.

Many of us young ones cried through those sessions, even when we were not the targets of the attacks. The problem was, it was when you felt the sharp pain of a whip on your back that you knew you were a target. It was a question of mathematics. Out of almost two hundred and forty nights in a school year, you felt it would soon be your turn. In the mornings it was even worse. The bells that woke us up at five thirty in the morning came accompanied by the sound or feel of whips descending on our anatomies as these sadist prefects continued their relentless efforts to break us down. The whips would chase many of us, still struggling into our khaki uniforms and sandals, all the damned way to hell, it seemed. All these had the effect of toughening us up. I soon developed fantastic sprinting and camouflage skills. I also learnt to tell my story fast, accurately and persuasively. Because of my tender frame and eloquent motor mouth, I escaped the worst experiences for some time.

On Sundays we attended our school chapel for morning service, but sometimes the vicar, our principal had to go to neighbourhood churches to conduct services, and we students usually went to that congregation. Because we were a male only Christian school and our sister school was also owned by the Anglican Communion, these services afforded the amorous among us to 'congregate' with the girls. We would be in an orderly line as we marched out of the campus, but as soon as we saw the girls coming on their own march, all the prefects and seniors would leave the lines and start barking out orders for us littletons and juniors. This was of course to draw the attention of the girls. I also loved this outside services, for it allowed me to put on the latest cream coloured 'pens' trousers and shirt, and to strut my stuff. But I still did not really like girls. I wanted to be like Thor, the mythical god of thunder and for whom Thursday was named; and not a sissy-chasing weakling. Of course, as my mates matured they went for the girls and I was left to sulk. Whenever I was in that James Dean, moody and touchy phase, I stocked my shorts pockets with little Peak condensed milk, and piercing them with the two ended, sharp mathematical instrument divider, sucked away into kingdom come. This sucking extended to my lower lip when the milk finished, and hence I have developed a perpetual lower lip pink glow.

(c) George Ashiru.
From "Irons In The Fire"


  1. Great post. Reminds me of my school days. I was a Dorm prefect.

  2. Nice story, reminisce of the yester-years.
    I doubt if there is even 30% of that kind of discipline left in our boarding schools today.

  3. ...inmates of boarding school.. Lol. I attended a day school so I never experienced firsthand this sort of life. Toughening up period.

  4. "...and piercing them with the two ended, sharp mathematical instrument divider, sucked away into kingdom come." Lol. Did you also sucked your thumb? Lots of mummy's boys did that in their junior years, you know?


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