A Short Story by Isaac Anyaogu

January 13, 2024
15 mins read


By Isaac Anyaogu
Christmas Day, 2010.
Our new principal, Mr Sada has gone crazy. Too much learning has driven him insane.
It dawned on us, over five hundred students spread out on the school field of Abatan High, a sleepy suburb of Lagos, during the morning assembly. We have had valid cause to doubt his sanity since he came last week, now he was proving it beyond all reasonable doubt.
He instituted a fine of N20 for any student caught speaking vernacular. This wouldn’t have appeared too moronic if our teachers weren’t using vernacular to explain difficult concepts during English class.
My worry wasn’t just that Mr Sada was insane, what made my skin crawl was his determination to have us all infected. At the morning assembly, he had announced that we would start learning sex – at least that was how we understood it.
The silence at first was deafening. It competed with the din of verdant grasses grinning from the giddy tickle of the Harmattan wind. Eyeballs bobbled in their sockets, heads weaved this way and that way and instantly a murmur arose and soon it dissolved into asinine mirth. The kind of cackle only a mad man who imagines himself a professor can inspire.
But Mr Sada’s face was the colour of a forest fire. We saw hell.
We knelt down in the open field for two hours. That was the time it took for 540 students to craft a flawless one-page apology letter for our “rude indiscretion”. Mr Sade has a way of stoking chaos through his choice of words. We began muttering that we never committed “rude indiscretion” that we only laughed and murmured because the news was strange. Needless to say, that too earned us another 30 minutes of kneeling in the sun for our “brazen naivety”.
We were smart enough not to bother about what that meant.
You see Abatan High isn’t just a normal school. By normal, I mean a school that was founded, according to all intent and purposes to bequeath knowledge. We have the worst enrolment figure in intermediate examination, highest drop-out rate and broken all failure records. We had teachers who hawked chewing gums during school hours, seat-challenged classes, walls that housed geckoes and roofs that let in rain and sun.   There was a WAEC we failed so well, the Commissioner for Education had our Principal fired.
For us, school was an inconvenient detour on our way to hawk Gala and Pure water on Abeokuta expressway. Our uniforms were a ruse to escape arrest by the Lagos State Education Task Force. Children were being detained because they exercised their choice not to be educated. And they said this is a democracy!
We listened with hearts dripping with dread as Mr Sada read the riot act.
“Things are going to change,” he bawled in his nasal voice, his eyes stern like hot embers. Short, dark and sprightly, Mr Sade wore his revulsion for us like a tattoo. He staggered from one end of the platform to the other breathing bile.
“The days of free education are over. From now on, school fees shall be determined by market forces!”
I don’t know what he meant by market forces but my experience in Pentecostal church has taught me that when forces is used in association with another English word it cannot be something good otherwise the Pastors would have been out of job.
The Lagos State government announced last month that they were returning schools to their owners after the Military government took them over ten years ago. They were abdicating control and washing their hands off subsidizing school fees. They said that is the way it is done in civilised countries.
“We are pleased to announce to you that we are restructuring your school curriculum according to international best practices. Our vision is to make Abatan High, a secondary school with a formidable reputation for unswerving integrity and utmost pedagogical excellence. Starting from this term, you shall all be taught sex education as it is done in all the civilised countries of the world.”
That was the point we lost it.
So the assembly broke up and we troughed to our classes with the nervous melancholy of rented mourners.
Mother did not attend the Parents Teachers Association meeting that Friday afternoon where Mr Sada explained his harebrained scheme of teaching us sex. She said she had better things to do than to sit among strangers sharing mouth odours. Mother’s breath was an open drainage. I should know, I sleep on a mat with her on the floor of a small, cluttered room everyday. The problem really was the English.
I had come to school late that morning by 12 minutes and 48 seconds and my punishment was to wait after school and wash the staff toilets. The new rule was introduced last week when Mr Sada resumed. The Monday, he first came to Abatan High, he had been alarmed that less than twenty students came early enough to attend the morning assembly. He ordered all those who came late – or roughly over ninety percent of the students to crawl from the school gates to the assembly grounds, a stretch of almost a hundred yards. That day, the boys in SS3 said he was the “Anti-Christ”. As I massaged my kneecap that evening I couldn’t agree more.
I was just locking up the staff toilets in the Admin quarters when I heard several voices arguing at the top of their lungs.  I ran to the school hall, so called because the labourers who built the school had used the space to store cement and other building materials. After the construction, it must have occurred to someone as an after thought to utilize the space for something else. So they beat together a weird collection of zincs and plywood and our school hall was born.
    “You will be exposing the kids to unwholesome influence with your sex education program. Certain matters are beyond the purview of the school system and a violation of our fundamental rights. You are looking at a lawsuit, even a jail term if something untoward happens to our children!”
    “This is the 21st century Mr Udoh, Neolithic logic has no place in an age of internet and jet planes!”
The man with the ‘Neolithic logic’ was Mr Uwem Udoh, my friend, Cecilia’s guardian. A stout, pig-headed man whose deep guttural voice didn’t belong to his five feet two frame. What he lacked in height he more than made up for in arrogance. He had not completely forgiven his parents for their inability to send him to the University to study Law as he always brags about what could have been. Characteristically, he threatens to sue whenever he is upset with anyone – which is almost always. And he always threatens to sue, starting from the Supreme Courts. You get the impression; he might sue God one day if the weather fouled his mood.
    “Have you considered the illogicality of your proposition Mr Sada? Who would teach sex to a bunch of teenagers who behaved as if their pituitary glands was coming on with rum? The same teachers who murder English during Grammar class, teachers that had not completely mastered their algebra?”
There was a murmur of approval around the hall as the parents weaved their heads this way and that way whispering and nodding and pointing fingers. They knew of Mr. Franklyn Madu, the Agricultural Science teacher, who also doubled as the town’s he-goat. His libido was always dragging him into trouble. Many mothers kept a pestle close to the door in case he messed with their daughters. Mr. Ajaiyi, the English teacher who pronounced ewe – “éwè” (leaf in Yoruba) and claimed the word was borrowed from Yoruba language.  Miss Pamela Wood whom Mama said was an example of the problem with education. Bleaching creams had left her looking like a victim of acid burn. Her red lips, stiletto shoes and mini skirts didn’t sit well with folks in Ijaiye.
Mother said the white man brought education to make it fashionable for us to lose our minds.
“It is the same teachers you so vehemently vilify that you pay to educate your children. It is these same teachers that mould your children into responsible adults, so I appeal that you bridle your tongue Mr Udoh!”
    “There are certain things that ought to be kept dignified. We do not desecrate our values in the name of civilisation. Some things are meant to be private. Only parents are qualified to teach sex education!”
    “And how many of these parents are even at home let alone have the time to teach anything? How many times have you assisted your child in doing his homework? Have you ever visited this school if your kid were not in some kind of trouble? Do you even know the name of your child’s class teacher? And you stand here talking rubbish… what do you know!
Mr Sade too was losing it.
The meeting soon degenerated into a shouting match such that Mr Sada and Mr Udoh came a short crawl away from employing their fists. However, Mr. Sada bamboozled a huge chunk of the parents with the finery of his vocabulary rather than the logic of his arguments. Many had agreed least they be called “primitive”. Besides, he owns the school now. His word was law. A motley crowd of parents had vehemently refused but their voices were buried in the din from Mr. Sada’s converts. They left, seething.
We resumed the next Monday morning knowing that our problems in Abatan High were assuming Sisyphean proportions. They were proposing a 200% increase in tuition fees according to International best practices. By now, the word “international” has begun to roil my stomach.
At 8:30 we were herded into our classroom. So called because it was a room and had a chalkboard that was meant to be black but seemed to have merged with the beige colour of the damp wall.
The cracks on the ceiling gave it the form of an atlas. Besides, geckoes and lizards also used it for their lectures too. I made for my seat close to the back door, a seat my friend Cecilia had acquired for us due to her size. She was fifteen but with the kind of frame that ought to be belong to someone older. Her hips were full and bouncy, her breasts heaving and daring, full lips, round face and jet-black hair. She might be an imposter in a parade of beauty queens but God was feeling generous the day he made her. I was more related to a stick-insect if body-size was the basis for comparison, plain and just about seeing the first shoot of breasts, even then the boys had larger ones. Mr Lakunle said it is the result of late puberty but what does that buffoon know. Poverty was the cause. That is what drinking too much garri with kuli kuli  will do to you if you make it a staple.
Mr. Amos Lakunle taught us Integrated Science in JSS III. Since they decided to start teaching us sex, I have noticed an unusual glow in his dark eyes. Tall, lanky and languid, with a shirt that ought to have grown grey hairs if it had a life and washed out, flannel trousers, Mr Lakunle was a living warning on the danger of a teaching career. He was always angry, his speech comes out like a howl and his laughter threatens to fade into a cry. What might have been a well-chiselled face had been subjected to the indignity of sitting on a tall, narrow neck with an Adam apple standing out like the fist of drunkard.
We stood up when he sauntered inside the class like a stray paper an angry wind had blown in.
    “Good morning Sir, we are happy to see you, God bless you.”
We chorused the standard greeting. Most of us who cooed that we are happy to see him would gladly strangle him with our booth straps. The N20 fine for speaking vernacular has provided him with a new source for income and he collects it with the avidity of a tax collector. Now, he’s threatening to extend the fine to anyone who laughs in vernacular. Some of these teachers are seasoned nincompoops. Plus the way he’s been ogling at Cecilia’s breasts since the new school session began gives me the creeps.
He smiled his response and made for the chalk. We became immediately jittery. We were used to teachers who came in screaming and cursing like delinquent children pulled apart from a fight. We had come to assume that a foul mood came with the job as a wink follows a smile so you can understand our apprehension. Besides, most of them spent the better part of the morning cursing Obasanjo while we were supposed to be learning Civics.
He wrote on the chalkboard above a massive picture of the male genital standing imperial as the Sears Towers. He bent sideways; gawked at the circle he had drawn to represent the scrotum. He glanced at the ceiling, as if carrying out a mental measurement, then nods his head and inflated the size. If this was the size of Mr. Lakunle’s scrotum then its understandable he was not married at 42.
    “Today, is the first day of our sex education class,” he said chuckling at the image on the chalkboard, “and we shall be learning erection.”
We, the female students blushed, the boys beamed. I shook my head worriedly, I’ll skip school they day they would teach Copulation.
    “Has anyone seen an erection before?”
I glanced at Cecilia and she smiled and shook her head. This man has lost it, tipping on the verge of insanity. No hands were up. Giggles, sniggers and frivolous chuckles, it was obvious this lesson will improve class attendance.
    “For those of you without experience,” he continued, throwing aside his lecture notes and caution, “This is how big daddy looks. When he is straight, charged, at attention like a commanding officer – he is ready for action!”
There was now uproar in the class. The boys chuckled and whistled and clapped and boomed.  And then Akin raised a chant
    “Big Daddy!”
The chant rent the air, amidst whistles, cat calls an uproarious laughter.
    “When I was your age I used to have one every time a girl walks by. I was hot- ignore the fact that I now look like the remnant of a biology practical- I used to be a player!”
    “Player Boy!”
The chanting continued again. Indeed Mr. Lakunle may look like an idiot, talk like an idiot but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot – a foolish person’s idea of an intellectual. How could he stand there bragging about his exploits to kids without a care in the world? Was this man born this foolish or was it something he did to himself? I glanced at my friend Cecilia who has begun cooing along with the boys and felt like I was up to my neck in scum. I kept shuffling uncomfortably in my seat wishing the class was over. But the time table said that the lesson would last for another one. One hour listening to Mr Lakunle appeared like watching porn.
    “Forget what the books say,” he beamed, “erection is the ability of Big Daddy to stand attention like a commanding officer in the anticipation for any action in dark corners!”
Albert Einstein would be a buffoon in Mr. Lakunle’s class. All the professors would bury their heads in shame.
He ran excitedly to the chalkboard and began drawing hurriedly. I looked up alarmed as he draw the image of the female genital complete with pubic hair. He kept shading, adding finery and describing details in semantic finesse until we could see a bulge on his trouser.  
    “When Big Daddy is charged and attention like this,” he pointed at the female genital “it is ready to visit the barracks!”
    “Barracks! Barracks! Barracks!”
The chanting has risen now to fever pitch.
By now those who were bashful and had participated minimally were now screaming with the zeal of fanatics. If the mathematics teacher could secure this much interest in his subject, he would not have quitted in spite of the miserable pay.
    “Do you know what big daddy does inside a barrack?”
    “Well, that is the topic for another day!”
Class size has increased phenomenally since they began teaching us sex. It soon became the only interesting thing about school. We could forgive the dreary lessons, the weather-battered class, even the inane teachers as long as they kept teaching us sex. Students who were contemplating quitting were now attending classes regularly, especially on Mondays, between the hours of 10:00 and 11:00 am when Mr Lakunle would teach us sex. It wasn’t long before Mr Lakunle became something of a folk hero in Abatan High.
Two months later they were handing us condoms after lessons.  We had mastered enough slang for our private parts, had recorded many wet dreams and weaved in our heads such bawdy fantasies for which we ought to be in jail. We had become obsessed about the size and functions of body parts we hitherto barely noticed. Boys openly boasted about the density of the bush around their shorts and girls measured their popularity by the number of their boyfriends. Mothers were now having trouble with girls who used to be docile as lambs.
And that was when the rumours began. Cecilia was pregnant!
That night the rain had finished pouring with nameless fury. It was 30 minutes before midnight and three months since they started teaching us sex. The air was balmy and cold and the night was still and starless. There had been a blackout and the world was thrown into a blanket of darkness. I had only come out to urinate when I saw a figure sitting under the neem tree. I tiptoed back towards the door when I heard what appeared like a sob. I could recognize the voice even in a dream- Cecilia’s.
    “What happened Cecilia?”
She kept sobbing, her hands on her chin, a single wrapper on her brittle body and her hair loose. Cecilia had the kind of smile that provokes a smile only that night she was not smiling.
    “Is it true?”
She nodded her head and wept louder. I held her as the tears slip down my eyes. She told me.
It had happened on a night like this when the clouds were bare of stars. She tried to fight him off. He was stronger. She lay on the floor, while tears clouded her gaze as he violated her.
It was a secret she assured me, she will take to the grave. I just held her and cried with her far into the night.
The abortion went awry. Something about a lacerated oviduct, the doctor,  I heard, cut his teeth in a Chemist shop and has set up the clinic when his apprenticeship ran out and his master refused to settle. He knew as much about medicine as a toddler does geometry. While Cecilia bled like a faucet, the doctor buckled and fled. Neighbours heard her agony in the chemist shop and rushed her to the hospital.
Mr Udoh drove to the school that day in his fuming Peugeot under the stern noon sun, his face intense with the cadence of bile. He fought the gate-keeper, gave the people who came to resolve the dispute a good doze of invectives and even swore at the sun. He struck his foot against a stone, cursed the stone and marched to the Principal’s office, every step accentuated with fury.
The good thing about a foul mood is that it can give you access in strange situations. Well, a fifteen year-old ward in his care, whom he assured his parents he will educate as compensation for her effort in taking care of his two children was pregnant – the situation couldn’t get any stranger. He was howling with so much fury that Mr Sada stepped out of his office to see him.
    “Mr Udoh,” Mr Sada began, in a rather conciliatory manner, “we are aware of the precarious situation you found yourself –“
    “No!” Mr Udoh bellowed, “You dragged me into this situation. I never found myself here. Your stupid decision to teach a bunch of witless teenagers sex education is responsible for this madness. I have a dying fifteen year-old girl on my hands because of you!”
    “Please calm down Mr Udoh!”
    “Where is that goat that violated my girl? Where is Mr Lakunle?”
    “We are on top of the situation Mr Udoh. The students testified against him and a teacher has already filed a report about his conduct last term. We have a strong case against him. He is currently detained at Makoko Police station.”
‘On top of the situation’ described the emergency staff meeting that took all morning. We had no access to the principal’s office but it was very close to JSS 2 Block, a ramshackle building of brick and rusty ceiling. Also, because everyone was screaming at the top of their voices, we were able to catch a generous amount of the tantrums they were throwing in Mr Sada’s office. When the police dragged Mr Lakunle away in a rickety pick-up, we knew sex education was over.
Worse still, he was crying and pleading when we expected him to be shouting out his lungs. Three students testified they had been fondled by him. Mrs Ajana said he slapped her bum last session though he claimed it was an accident. Two students saw him wound his arms around Cecilia. He was well on his way to the hangman before the jury was out.
    “I warned you when you set about your moronic idea to teach them sex education but you didn’t listen. I am going to sue this school so bad that after you finish paying damages, you’ll be forced to sell everything you ever own from shares to tissue paper.  And I am not ruling out a jail term!
Mr Udoh stormed out of the principal’s office in a blaze of fury. I was already expecting a truck to deliver the suit the next day.
It is three weeks now since Cecilia died in the General Hospital, Ikeja and Mr Udoh had been missing in all the minutes that equalled the three weeks. The police said it was on account of the autopsy report that told of a brutally ruptured vagina and Mr Udoh’s semen inside Cecilia’s body. But they could not release Mr Lakunle yet because he too would need an autopsy.

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