From time immemorial, it is a norm that ladies make friends with other females faster than guys do with other guys. I can talk to a dude for one week without knowing his name or possible point of contact, unlike ladies who quickly fill up their phone memory cards with pictures taken with all the ‘new friends’ they just made. As expected, Corper May brought home two female friends, Damola and Juliet. Interestingly, I’ve met them before and have actually had a short date with the former and have had a brief chatter with the latter.
Juliet Mordi was more convivial, effervescent and more affable than Damola and it didn’t take filling an online form, following her on Twitter or sending a friend request before we became friends. Juliet seemed too long a name to us, so we pruned it to Jules. Among other things, Jules and I had our insatiable hunger for meats in common (her chubby cheek is enough to paint a picture that represent a thousand and one words). She claimed to be a good culinarian; a claim I later found to be half-truth judging by my set of bragable cooking skills.
Over time, Jules became an integral part of our everyday life, as no day passed by without we either seeing or gossiping her. Her default insult “nincompoot” was nothing but pure epicness. She proved to be quite pertly but sometimes can be very pesky; a pain in our rather narrow behinds.
With the emergence of Jules, service year got a bit more fun with her ingenious introduction of antiquated yet classic games. We played the game of “Name – Food – Animal – Place – Thing” of good memories. Rib cracking it left us as we all tried to spell non-existing, cockamamie and far-fetched words with the alphabet “X” because it was almost infeasible for any of us, smart as we were, to think of an animal, food and a place that starts with “X”. Thanks to Mr. Xi, our imaginary Chinese friend, whose pets we all wrote as animals as Xi-dog, Xi-cat etc. After it became trite, we advanced to playing “TIME FACTOR“, a game whereby one of the players asks for types of “anything” and also bells the cat by citing his/her example while others follow suit. Whoever is caught slow or with an incorrect answer will be gifted the alphabet “T” followed by “I” then “M” until s/he completes the word TIME FACTOR and exit the game, graduating dishonorably. And we played WHOT, my favorite. All lasted till we resumed our official duties as teachers at our respective “international” schools.
Back to Hope Waddell, I’ve met with three of the teachers earlier in December but had to officially meet them again; though we still didn’t hug nor shake hands. A man referred to as Pastor Okali is one of the teachers and he, interestingly, doubled as the school’s Dean of Studies; a great figurehead position. Arua Idika, who bestowed on himself the distinctive title of a knight -“Sir”- and being popularly called (Sir) Nnanna, is one of the who’s who in the school, though just a teacher. He claimed to be a disciplinarian but, sometimes, he was miles away from being one. He’s a mortal, palpably ridden with above-average foibles. I wasn’t totally disappointed because I barely knew him and wasn’t expecting much. Expectedly, I didn’t see much.
Elder Kalu, a retired government worker, is another teacher. Almost as frail as the school guard, he taught more than three subjects though he spent the larger part of each day sitting at his desk in the staff room, like someone suffering from acute ergophobia. There is a female teacher, Ijeoma, who doubled as the School Librarian. We talked to each other only a few times throughout the service year. Then there is another teacher who came close to being a friend, Amaju Chiegozie known better as (Sir) Austin. He was the most active of all the staffs there and always tried to make his “honest” opinion count during staff meetings without fear or favour unlike other members of staff who always turn to a Yes-man once the principal is there. However, Austin is also the one in charge of the school Exam “Malpractice” Board.
Mr. Uka, whose name when called by fellow teachers and students sounded more like “Mistoka”, is another element in the school periodic table. He taught every single class in the school, from the Junior class to the Senior ones, different subjects and ironically he failed to see the pun in being giving the honorary position of the school’s “Labour Master”- a post he held dear to his heart. Of a truth, no one else better fits the office. There are part-time teachers, likes of Mr. & Mrs. Ojo and Reverend Uma, who had a not-so-bright kid in the school, as well as the Igbo teacher whose name I can hardly pronounce nor spell.
Obviously, the school was short-staffed and the few ones employed were overworked and underpaid. Well, according to rumours, they were doing most of them undeserved favours.
Pastor Okali & Elder Kalu are retirees on the wrong side of sixty. “Mistoka” never graduated, or so we heard. The part time agents (teachers) were all on now-you-see-me, now-you-don’t mission. The pillars of the school were rested on the spent shoulders of the two knights, Sir Nnanna and Sir Austin and we, the corps members; five of us. Corper Anu taught SS1-3 Biology, Segun taught JSS1-3 Social Studies, May taught JSS1-3 Business Studies before she, rather unfortunately, got SS1-3 Commerce added to her migraine. Jane, before she left, was bitterly “enjoying” teaching SS1-3 Literature in English while I was angrily running from classroom to laboratory teaching SS1-3 Chemistry and pretending to be enjoying it. And the principal, our Oga, was assiduously frolicking with the school bus up and down doing what only the gods knew. And even the gods would wonder why.
Since it is an International school, one would have thought we will be well paid but reverse was the case; as none of us, corps members, were paid enough to have excess to recharge our phones or pay for our monthly Blackberry subscriptions and with no extra benefit whatsoever. Unlike our colleagues in other schools, we were never offered food stuffs and interestingly none of the parents or the Presbyterian Church running the school ever offered us the slightest, smallest sachet of water. What made me really proud of it all is, none of us complained nor gave a darn about the benefits. As far as we were concerned, a poor man isn’t he who has little, but he who needs a lot. They were poor and poor they remained.
The school authority/community selcouth nonchalance toward us, corps members, didn’t, in any way, deter us from discharging our duties actively and even gave out of the little we had. Anu and Segun had a truck-load of school kids they feed almost every good afternoon, I had mine and May and Jane had theirs.
It was hard for us to decipher who to blame for the gross under payment because it affected the entire staff. Even our ventripotent “Oga” wasn’t getting anything worth writing about. His protuberant belly was being successfully maintained by his continual thievery and side looting of the little fund available to the school. And he, at least once, made money on our (corps members) names. Ignominiously, he lied that he paid some somehow huge amount for our first meal, of which not a sachet of water for offered to us. We were shocked on sighting it on the school already prepared voucher, but it was too early for me to start my activism, so I kept quiet and joined the host of other sorry members of staff in the “siddon-look” state.
Elder Kalu appeared to be very reserved. He will forever have my respect. Pastor Okali, almost on the other hand, had a mouth bigger than the hippos. He was always making promises he never had any intention of fulfilling like a die-hard politician that he wasn’t. Always ranting and screaming and shouting about the principal’s thievery acts but turns a vegetable the very instant he steps in. He never had the balls or maybe, as a godly man, he rather left his battles for the Lord to fight. As far as I was concerned, the fear and or respect he had for his boss beclouded his sense of reasoning. He never questioned any of Oga’s hideous acts. He never spoke a word against him in his presence; he kept nodding Yes – Yes to everything.
Sir Nnanna is worse. Worse because there’s nothing I hate more than sheer hypocrisy. He never stopped calling the principal unprintable names. “He’s a fool”. “He’s an idiot”, “Ewu” (meaning goat) “Onyeberibe” (meaning a mad man) he kept calling him; but Yes Sir, Yes Sir he was saying to him, head bowed, with his intoxicating cachinnation renting the air. Such element chickened to the bare bones.
At first, he appeared to be a decent no-nonsense man but all that soon changed as we got to know him. Not once, not twice, I caught students sneaking “waso” or a bottle of 7up into his waiting palms moment it dawned on them that they were going to fail the continuous assessment test. He offered that I join his Jamb tutorial classes as a Biology/Chemistry teacher but I declined because of his hanky-panky. I’m not a saint, I’m not claiming to be one but some things are just not worth the guilt.
Aside from the fact that he turned a number of students into half-baked, overnight journalists by always asking them to write reports over any issue whatsoever just to satisfy his insatiable thirst to be at the bottom of everything, he brought a number of sports to the school and always, in his own little way, made some of our Saturdays lively with football matches, aerobics and volley ball. Obviously, he wanted to be close to us, corps members, but I and every other members had our individual and collective reasons for staying at arm’s length. Mine was basically because of his hypocrisy and hocus-pocus. The way he was swinging between diverse parties made him a snollygoster to the level that his fellow knight warned us never to believe anything he (Nnanna) says.