it had literally been 10 years since I left Federal Government College Lagos, Ijaniki aka I-Jay, and a little less than 10 years since I last thought of the school, the compound, the classes, the people, the students, the… everything about the school really.
But my lack of thought or otherwise cannot take away from the impact the 6 years I spent as a student of. our great school had on my life from the day I stepped foot on the school grounds until this very moment.
From the little things like my handwriting, for which I must apologize to the people that know me and have to read what I write every now and then; to the not-so-little things like how I just love the colour blue (Up Jaja!!! We won 5 Inter-House sports competitions while I was a student)
So from this very moment back to when I step foot on the school grounds, these are the few things I remember.
I don’t remember much but I recall that my first day in I-Jay, it rained and my aunt took me.
Being (embarrassingly so) a Mommy’s boy, everyone was giving me encouraging words and telling me not to worry, explaining why my mom could not take me and I’ll be fine and all that. But I also remember that I did not cry.
I mean, why would anyone cry? I did cry a few other times after but that’s not what we’re here for… moving on. I was excited, I was going to this place that is a school but we stay there until it’s holiday time, away from our parents and I get to take all these goodies (we called them provisions then, has that changed? I must be getting old) and… it just seemed like it was going to be non-stop fun for me.
We did the checking-in thing, I got my bed space (top bunk, cause really, who wants to be on the bottom bunk?) my aunt and I got me situated and then they left. I was on my own; I couldn’t wait to be left alone.
Then the next six years of my life started.
I got my first wake-up call, rudely so, when I didn’t wake at first call, my roommates (thanks guys) had to remind our Dormitory Prefect (Dom-P), that I was new and had not learnt the unwritten rules of boarding house.
Speaking of the unwritten rules, there were so many, it took living it (and suffering the consequences if you didn’t) to actually remember them all and then applying them.
JSS1 was the year I hated the most because after all the initial excitement wore off the homesickness hit so bad, the sick bay almost made it a clinical diagnosis for my frequent visits. One of the many ways I learnt that at the end of the day, I was no longer a baby and my health and wellbeing was solely my responsibility, were my years as a “Junior boy”. Boy, did I hate those grey shorts and that cap and that V-neck, sleeveless sweater.
Seniors were another ball game and in JSS1, anyone in trousers in a Senior. There were the ones with legends, the ones that were prefects, the ones you knew to avoid, the ones you knew to be close to at certain times, the ones to claim to be cousins with, the ones that had sisters and or brothers that were just as bad as them and so on and so forth.
Seniors made me understand that being small didn’t mean I had to feel small. Imagine getting bullied or ordered about and all the other stuff that comes with Seniors and not learning a thing or two. I guess that was how my mischievous side developed *evil grin*
That one night in JSS2, can’t really remember exactly when, robbers came to the school, and I slept through it all, gunshots and all.
Not that I can remember much but I can remember the way it all felt the morning after.
Stories from those that were awake during the night were still coming in.
No one could get one straight story out of anyone.
Different dorms with different versions.
Bullet shell casings here and there, a broken-into Bursary, Matron telling her story of the ordeal she had with the robbers at some time in the night.
Word had it that some student(s) got shot.
I can remember the general gloom that hung around the usually lively school. We had an impromptu assembly, the VP at the time gave a less-than memorable speech and we all had to go back to class and continue the day as usual.
Although it seems like a very dark sort of memory to hold on to or even recall for that matter, but one thing stuck with me that day. In the midst of the drama and sadness and all what not, we put aside all our senior/junior, blue house/green house divisions and we all saw ourselves as one. Even if for a short while, we were all united in the fact that something bad had happened and it actually affected all of us.
Being awarded the Scholarship for an outstanding performance in JSS1.
It was not announced until the Speech and Prize-Giving day during the JSS2 session but it was an award nonetheless. I can remember the look on my mother’s face when my name was called, proud. I fell ill with malaria, as usual, a few weeks to the ceremony and was home on a sick exeat. Sad part was I still had to pay full fees until I left the school, I guess the reason that was given to my mother was that the Ministry of Education had not sent the actual funds so the scholarship was a formality until the money was sent or something along the lines of that.
There was one senior that was known to have received the scholarship award year-on-year since he got to the school and still had to pay his fees.
I’m just glad that the credit is given even if that is all that is received but it was enough, sort of.
When the SS years finally came.
The trousers, remember I hated the shorts; the girls, I cannot recall actual conversations with girls in my class until SS2, except that one time in JSS2 when I was sat in the girl’s row; the many escapades, skipping class, getting in trouble for the first time, the one time we had to cut grass for not sweeping the class on an assembly day, the many many perks of finally becoming a Senior.
Remember that I didn’t like the Junior years? But as much as I could not wait to start wearing trousers, the Senior years went by like the blink of an eye, I still recall quite a lot of it though.
I became friends with most of the guys I talk to until today during those years. We had our own little “clique” four of us against the world with our silly name and our printed shirts. It was cool then and everybody else was doing it, the justification of many my teenage-ness.
Looking back, it was really a fun time to be young and to some extent, free. We didn’t have all the social media and technology of today but life was all the more beautiful.
My first PTA Jump in SS2.
It was our chance to let everyone know we had setup our crew, we had a name and it was us. Everything was planned out, what we’ll wear, how we’d enter the venue, who we intended to dance with… then the main problem emerged, I did not know how to dance. Not that I did not know how to dance dance but I did not know how to dance at PTA Jump.
I still cringe whenever I remember my friends teaching me how to pick up a girl, how to move and what to do on the dance floor and me frustrating all their efforts.
Shake my head.
The fateful Saturday came; I was, to be honest, a nervous wreck. What if I make a fool of myself? What if no girl wants to dance with me? What if stepped on the girl’s toes? What if? What if?
So here I am sitting there, it’s dance dance dance time. Now, things were done a little different on this particular PTA Jump day. Beforehand, a list is drawn up of the girls the guys want to be paired with when it’s time to dance. The list is read out once is time to dance so the first dance goes to those that have been paired. The guys, once they hear their names called out, go over to the girls’ end of the hall and pick up who they’ve been paired with or someone else depending on the prevailing drama in everyone’s love life at the time.
This day though, the girls had to come pick out the guys from our end of the hall. So, I’m here sitting in front and I see the girls coming towards us, panic. I am forming conversation with the guy sitting beside me, before long he gets picked, panic. I look to my other side, nobody, panic. Even the guys in the benches behind me got picked out, panic. Just as I resolved to just sit there and watch it all happen, I saw a hand, a girl’s hand beckon to me, before I could even look at her face; I was already on my feet and going over my much-practiced dance moves in my head. Thanks to that girl and the lifetime supply of morale-boosting goodness I received that day.
the last days of SS3.
At the beginning though, I had my mattress stolen and I would have to steal other people’s just to sleep almost every night. The shenanigans I would have to have to get up to just to get something to sleep on, having to steal almost 5 mattresses every night. The logic was to steal as much as I can and hope that I am not found out by all the owners before morning.
WAEC was over and we were waiting on NECO exams to start. We were basically free and really had nothing to do except read some more for an exam we had already done. In between the euphoria of our impending graduation, I usually found myself wondering about the outside world and what I would do next. But being a teenager at the time, those thoughts usually ended up being muddled amongst others. I remember there was this guy making a time-capsule, always hounding me to make an entry, I finally did and I like to think I dropped something memorable.
I remember realizing that those times would be the last we would all see of ourselves as we were and make something of it. I tried to be as friendly as I could to those I could reach but some bridges were already burnt and best left alone.
It had been an eventful 6 years and it was finally over.
Of all the things I remember I must not forget to thank all the teachers that punished me into no longer biting my nails, housemasters that never let me go scot free whenever my bed was not laid, wardens, security guards and principals that caught me in Staff Quarters, my numerous guardians that helped with holding my money and provisions.
Thank you for coming along with me on my little stroll down memory lane, what do you remember?