A few days after I started school, matters came to a head between Mr Godwin and I. I believe he was trying to update the class register in preparation for the end of term or so. Not so sure now but he asked me for my address. I don’t know why he didn’t ask me to approach him at his table up front but that was not unusual in those days.
At first, for some weird reason, I sat down while he was addressing me-until he bellowed at me to stand up! I obeyed instantly on shaky legs and with the ever-ready tears gathering in my eyes. The last bit of anything resembling self-confidence had flown out of the window and I was a nervous wreck. He stood glaring at me and I completely forgot or misunderstood the simple question.
So I answered what I thought I’d been asked.
I told him my address in my hometown. My father was an important man back at home and he had a street named after him where the family compound was situated. His name evoked instant respect and recognition, and even awe sometimes, but wetin concern kpomo with chicken feathers? In other words, Mr Godwin didn’t give a hoot about my very important and distinguished father. All he wanted to know was where we lived IN WARRI. Our present residence as at the day in question, and not my ancestral history!
I felt like the biggest fool on earth. It didn’t help matters that the class erupted in laughter and started calling me names like “ogburhobo girl” which was the Warri equivalent of bush girl. I knew I was far more enlightened than more than half the class but it didn’t matter, Mr Godwin had succeeded in making me a laughing stock. Finally I gave him the right address and sat down. And allowed the tears free reign. You don’t want to know what happened after school that day as I walked home.
The following week the exams began. In those days there were two things in my brain: books and dreams. I looked forward to reading; in fact it was practically all I lived for. But I was not familiar with the topics that had been treated, the books and I had not been acquainted and I was yet to receive my textbooks and I had no notes to speak of. So I wrote these exams like a drowning person, praying that I would not disgrace my destiny in front of Mr Godwin and his hostile class.
And then the papers were marked. There were about 40 pupils or so in my class, I got the 10th position, did not fail any subject, and scored 100% in Social Studies. Mr Godwin was stunned! The shaky little mouse was a tigress in hiding after all! He had invigilated the exams so he knew I could not have cheated. He called me to the front of the class, and praised me till the tears of embarrassment started flowing. Then he gave me a 10 kobo coin. The war was over; I had become his star pupil.
I smiled through my tears as I made my way to my seat on those shaky legs. The class bully had come bottom of the class so he was silent, no faces.
That day, I made my first set of friends after school.
Elsie Dennis-Oghenekaro is a successful Author, columnist, Traveling Consultant & a Warri person. She’s based in Abuja Nigeria with her lovely family.
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