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Anguish of a Nigerian student

When, in February, I saw my father spinning the dial of his old Kchibo Radio in utter desperation to tune to the BBC Hausa’s morning…

When, in February, I saw my father spinning the dial of his old Kchibo Radio in utter desperation to tune to the BBC Hausa’s morning program and catch up with the world’s mundane happenings, I didn’t care to sit where I could make sense of what the pressmen were saying.

Instead, I swung the door to our dingy shared room open, sat and started reading my chemistry note. I closed the book when I tried cramming Boyle’s law to no avail. Even the chemistry teacher who had NCE in chemistry education was reading from his lesson note when he taught us the law. How could he expect us to cram it and know how to solve all the problems under the law! Was he not the one who promised to be in our examination hall and dictate answers to us during our external exams, so why must he stress us now!

I was still thinking about whether or not to read English when my father called me. My mother was by his side. I didn’t mean to venture my words into what they were discussing, but I couldn’t help it. “Closing schools…?” I asked for clarification.

“That is why I called you.” Father said, turning down the volume of his radio, the radio my mother confirmed was bought before I was born.

I hated my father asking me about my level of preparedness for the external exams I was facing, but there was nothing I could do. “Am I still a small pupil that must be asked on a daily basis about his studies. Me that is now getting ready to write WAEC and NECO and later, JAMB, and then I will join university!”

“I hope you are reading your books against your exams.” He didn’t let me give explanation, but went and broke the news that schools would close.

“There is a new virus in town, it is deadly, it kills. That is why they are closing schools.”

Had I known this break would linger and thwart my plans, I would not have celebrated the shutting down of schools across the country.

In the morning during assembly, the Head of School, Malam Dan Inna, tugged his moustache, cleared his throat and began addressing us. Even me that does not understand English very well, I know that the language is giving our principal some hard time. People in our town, Wuro Gene, say it was connection that got the principal to his position. They say his wife is friends with the sister’s Education Secretary’s right man.

Last term when SUBEB members came for supervision, our head boy said it was our English teacher who sat the principal down and told him what to say to the SUBEB people to avoid embarrassment. Malam Dan Inna tried to commit to memory the speech our English teacher gave him, but when it was time for meeting with the guests, he goofed and had to pretend that he was having some migraine.

“You see,” the principal began, “from today, there will be no school until we call you back”.

It was after the assembly and while I was on way home that I thought of going back to class to fetch my bag. Who has the strength of coming and going back home with bag! Was it not the government that brought forth the school feeding program that considers only primary school pupils as legitimate people that deserve to be fed government food, while abandoning us, the big students.

Almost all my friends were happy that they have closed schools. Even our monitor who took first position last term was happy. I didn’t begrudge him taking first in the class, but was he not the one that deceived me into giving him the small paper I had written answers on. I was afraid I would be caught, so I discussed it with our monitor because I once saw him giraffing and he assured me that he would help me, that I should be writing possible answers to us. But he outsmarted me!

First month after the closure of all schools, I was happy, and I was saving money our teachers asked us to pay so that they could settle external supervisors and invigilators. Once the invigilators and supervisors are settled, we would be allowed to use our phones and browse the net for answers. One teacher even said that he would write all the answers on blackboard during his paper. I thought the principal didn’t love us, but it was he who promised to liaise with teachers and make the internal invigilation go in our favour, so that each subject master would invigilate when we write his subject.

With all these arrangements, who would waste his time to read! That was why when my parents suggested that they would hire a lesson teacher for me at home, I rejected the idea. I told them that the corps member they wanted to hire is from a certain part of the country  and doesn’t know anything but pidgin English. I told them that even his degree, he couldn’t finish it in Nigeria, it was in Cotonou that he graduated.

But now that the break is getting boring, I feel disturbed. Last week when I visited my friend, I found him reading his books, and finishing the assignment he was given by his lesson teacher. He said to me that he covered many subjects, and that he can’t wait to write his WAEC. I managed to tell him that he shouldn’t worry, that answers would be provided, but he made it clear to me that their principal is strict and doesn’t tolerate that. I tried to persuade him by offering a site that provides answers upon subscription with them, but he looked me in the face and called me corrupt.

I sprang to my feet and left their house. Who is not corrupt in this Nigeria, even Magu that has been fighting corruption since 2015 is now accused of involvement in corruption.

I met my teacher a few days ago and he told me that schools would reopen soon and that WAEC would commence in August. I was happy. I asked him of their plan for us, but he said that all plans have been soiled, that WAEC people are deploying surveillance cameras and other gadgets to monitor the examination in order to check malpractices.

That was why I started reading my books yesterday. I nearly killed myself with reading yesterday. I buried myself and read for two good hours. Even my father was amazed. With no “expo”, my only solution is to read hard, and I started. I planned on reading for two hours and a half tomorrow, but these people now reversed their decision, that schools will not reopen.

This Education minister, why was he not frequenting the PTF daily press briefing? Was he not the one that was writing big big words in his columns? Is he afraid of talking before people? So he had to wait till after the briefing then his colleague will brief him on the verdict reached, then he will now bring out his red pen and cancel everything and reverse the decision earlier reached by many people?

Rilwan Muhammad can be reached via [email protected] 07061124918

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