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Written by Awoleye Dominic

I handed the cheque given to me to Modupe’s mother as I have taken her to be my Guardian, she would put the money into her business and train me and her children with it.

It was in 1985 that I was admitted into Apata Grammar School in Ibadan as a boarding student. I was sixteen years old and in form one, Modupe was fifteen years and in form four, she would graduate the next year. It was not easy trying to cope at school, my age mates were in form three and above, I had already sprouted a moustache, and my legs were hairy, this made me become a subject of discussion in the school, I clearly stood out amongst my classmates, and sometimes they mischievously refer to me as uncle Bolaji.

I was made the class prefect on the first day at school, it was on the assembly ground that the school principal spotted me lined up with form one students, he shouted on top of his voice at me, he said I should leave the line and go to join my mates, he was pointing at the senior students line. The whole assembly rocked with laughter until a teacher went and whispered something to the principal, he then waved the students to a silence and apologized to me publicly, he then asked me the alphabet of my class. Class one B sir I replied. Good! From today, you are the class monitor! He announced and there were shouts of uncle ‘B’ everywhere.

Life in boarding school was totally different for me. I had being a free bird all my life, I had lived without bounds or rules and regulations, it was a different ball game here as I was made to wake up at 5.30pm every morning. I was forced to observe afternoon rest daily at 3pm; I was to go to Sunday church service at the school chapel. I had never attended a church or mosque in my sixteen years of existence. We were given portions of food without caring if the ration will satisfy you or not and you cannot ask for more food if you are not satisfied else they tag you ‘Oliver twist’

Another challenge I had was that I was too crude and uncivilized, my ways were strange to my fellow students, I was a raw village boy who not speak good English and when I try to speak English my accent made it sound as if I was speaking Jamaican ‘patua’, people laugh whenever I open my mouth to speak and I always had reasons to speak because I was the class monitor.

Mr Adegoke was my English teacher and he took special interest in my reformation, he does not laugh when I commit blunders while speaking, he was quick to correct my errors and made me to correct my self by repeating the words correctly, he personally gave me a book titled”Common errors in English” and gave me home work on it daily. Once he called me into his office and encouraged me to be focused and positive, he said I was catching up fast and I should not take any of the aspersions being cast on me seriously. He said he believed in me. He was the first human being to challenge me and dared me to succeed if I can, he told me that age was just a number and that once I am out of secondary school I will realized that age means nothing at the university or the larger world, he asked after my parent and I told him my story. He then told me that I could rewrite my story if I try, he said he was an orphan too. His words of encouragement moved me and I secretly vowed to succeed in life by becoming more serious and determined

Kareem was nine years old and in the same class with me, he calls me ‘egbon’ meaning ‘elder one’. I told him severally to stop calling egbon but he refused. He said he could not bring himself to calling me by my first name because I happen to be the same age with his eldest brother, his father’s first born who was a first year student at the University of Ife, his brother is older than three other persons before him and he reveres his eldest brother. He finally agreed to be calling me ‘Uncle B’ since that has been like a nick name.

To Be Continued…

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