It was a windy Monday morning, the 1st of June 2015. I hadn’t gone to work for almost three weeks I was feeling guilty for neglecting my students, for not rendering my service to the nation but I wasn’t looking forward to going back to work. It felt monotonous, I didn’t feel like I was making any difference, my students seemed to remain at the same spot they were when I met them. When I looked at them, their head looked like hard coconuts with no water, those types that make the loudest noise.
But they are not all bad, they have this bright light in their eyes when you introduce something new, educate them about something they have never heard of, that light is gone once you are done speaking and they go back to rapping Yoruba. I was no longer motivated to teach.
My fellow corps members were tired and had cut the number of days they came to work and the hours they spent on the days they showed up. So at 8:45am on the this ‘’wonderful’’ Monday morning I sat alone in front of the Vice Principal Special Duties – Mama Special’s office , to report for duty.
Because of the lack of teachers, Mama Special doubled as a Christian Religious Studies (CRS) teacher and she was in class when I arrived so I sat and waited for her on the rickety bench in front of her office. I watched students stroll in well into the first period and the only resident Math teacher laid down the law; he caned the late students. He was famous for making passes at every woman in sight. It made me wonder about how the human mind works and how complex it must be.
I saw an old woman walking across the school field towards the Mama Special’s office, most of the field is sandy with patches of yellowing grass scattered around. The Math teacher stopped beating the late students and came to welcome the old woman.
She said her granddaughter went missing on Saturday and she came to ask for the school’s help in locating her. The math’s teacher immediately went into action, locating the girl’s class and her friends to question them on the whereabouts of the girl.
Mama Special joined the search party once her class was over. About an hour later, one of girls came forward with a story I had heard a number of times in the last few months and it still felt too good to be true.
‘’She dey her boyfriend house.’’ She whispered to the math’s teacher
‘’Speak out.’’ The maths teacher shouted at her.
She went on to describe the house of the boyfriend, the regular advice followed;
‘’Mama it would pay you to involve the policemen’’ Mama Special said, she handed her a piece of paper with a phone number written on it.
The maths teacher followed the old woman, in the school bus which had busted windows with doors that didn’t close properly. In my short six months working at the school this was the 4th time something of this nature was happening and it broke my heart every time it happened.
It is compulsory for Corpers that belong to the HIV/AIDS Community development group to start a health club at their respective places of primary assignment so I got involved with the health club after the first incident. I was surprised that these students knew that the local pharmacy sold birth control pills and were well informed on other preventive measures.
The health club convener decided teaching abstinence was a waste of time, so we taught preventive measures, the advantages and disadvantages of the various measures.
After the first test I gave my students, I found out that many of my students couldn’t spell their names and couldn’t construct two sentences in English. I made a rule in all of my classes that English was the official language of communication.
I decided to pick students at random to read, a hand full of them could read smoothly, others fumbled on the big words and an alarming number couldn’t make meaning of the words written in their texts
The other corpers and I started a class to teach our students to read and write, we encouraged the students to attend, they were eager for the first two lessons and gradually none of them showed up for the meetings.
I found the zeal and energy I had on the first day gradually ebb away, I didn’t enjoy teaching anymore. I found myself counting down to the end of my NYSC year and dreaming of the things to come to get myself though the remaining days.
Looking back, I feel I let myself down, that I could have done much more if I encouraged myself, adjusted my expectations to fit my reality, kept going instead of mentally checking out but I find solace in the little that I did and keep looking for opportunities to change the world.