Boarding School

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

I didn’t like day schooling. And I wasn’t sure how things would turn out when the idea of a boarding school was broached. Nevertheless I remember that years before my sojourn, I envied those who went to boarding school. There was something about them: something about their goings and comings, and how they did and said things. Their swagger and charm caught my imagination; it made a huge impression on my mind. The feeling, within my circle, was that ones life was likely to amount to much more if one attended boarding school.

And so when it was time for me to go — me to Government Secondary School Ilorin, and my brother to Offa Grammar School — my entire neighborhood knew I was leaving. I knew I was going somewhere special. In later years, my sister followed suit, ending up at Queens School, Ilorin. For me and my family therefore, Kwara State holds a special place in out hearts. Though I was born in Lagos, I “grew up” in Ilorin.

Almost three decades after leaving, my boarding school experiences still rest warmly in my heart. Everyone I know who attended boarding school — at the same or about the time I attended — tells me their experiences ranks amongst the best and most satisfying they’ve ever had. I should know. And I know. I know because few experiences in the first three decades of my life came close to the good times I had at GSS, Ilorin.

As a junior, one had a senior college brother; as a senior, one had junior college brothers. As a junior or a senior, one had brothers and friends and classmates. If one was lucky, one stay connected with these brothers and friends and classmates for life. One thing no one ever forgets about the boarding school environment are the “punishments.” The most awful in my time was a body twisting move called pickup. Yea, pickup!

Fifteen minutes of pickup may induce running nose, watery eyes and pulled muscles. It was nasty, truly nasty. Longer than twenty minutes, you may hallucinate. Cutting grasses was easy. Standing under the sun was easy. Bulala and koboko whips were tolerable. But pickup? Oh heavens, it was in a class all by itself. Funny enough, one gets punished for disobedience or disorderly conducts, or got punished for nothing in particular.

At other times the punishment was a collective act for sins committed by others. But who cared? The joy, the satisfaction and the glory were also collectively shared, too. My boarding school never encouraged individualism. It never encouraged ethnicity or regionalism. It never encouraged disunity. And it certainly never encouraged any of the pains and sorrow that characterize modern Nigeria.

The fellow above or below your bunk bed could be from the North or Niger Delta. Your best buddies could be Igbo, Ijaw, Tiv or Fulani. On weekends or during breaks, one may be at the home of a Muslim, a Christian, an Animist, or at the loving home of a Gentile. We were all Nigerians. Nigerians! No one ever asked what an Ijaw boy was doing in the Emir’s palace. Chief Cornelius Adebayo never asked what I was doing in his home.

My secondary school aside, the Ilorin I grew up in was just a great place to live. And the people were wonderful, too. There are a number of things about the people and the city you will never forget, chief amongst these was the peaceful coexistence of tradition and modernity, between Christians and Muslims, between a time that once was and a time that is. In one part of the town are ancient buildings; on the other side are contemporary buildings. It was easy to move from one era to another, from one mindset to another. It was a case of two worlds that never collides, two ideologies that never competed.

It is tempting for me to reel out the invaluable lessons I learnt as a student of that great institution. I could go on and on and on. But why; suffice to say I learnt life’s lessons. I learnt how to live in accord with my fellow brothers; I learnt to do the big things and the small things — things that make life and living worthwhile. I relied on their friendship and benevolence. I went in a boy, but came out feeling like a man.

In recent years, students in some boarding schools have complained about dining-hall food, impious seniors, unkempt dorms, underpaid and frustrated housemasters and housemistresses (some of whom are said to be uncaring and sadistic). It is also alleged that some students are being abused mentally, physically and sexually in these schools. There are also allegations about cults and secret societies. The aforesaid are alien to me. Not in my school, and not in my time. Not at Government Secondary School, Ilorin.

I wonder: in today’s boarding schools, do students still go by funny nicknames? The strangest moniker I heard in my time was Madman. On the dinning hall wall, and on some other walls, were usually two common parlances: “seniority is not for ever,” and “no condition permanent.” How true, how prophetic! It was also not uncommon to read students proclaim their names and the times they spent in school. I also wonder: do students still travel by train?

I use to enjoy riding train from Ilorin to Lagos, with its carnival-like atmosphere — students singing, drumming, dancing, heckling others, eating and drinking as the train snakes its way through the western Nigerian landscape. And I also use to enjoy writing and sending love-notes to girls in other schools. My school was boys only. Whether it was love, infatuation or puppy-love, I will never know; all I remember now is that I spent many hours penning you-are-the-love-of-my-life, you-are-the-only-sugar in-my-cup-of-tea, and you-are-the-only-kulinkuli-in-my-bowl-of-gari type of scribbles. Ha, what innocence breeds.

As I pen this, I wonder where some of my childhood and boarding school friends are. Where in the world are Dayo Akande, Kayode Olumo, Adamu Umar and Joy Ajiboye? Where is Dapo Saliu, Bayo Issa, Sunday Adebayo, Andrew Onoja, Pius Nobe, Eruete Dede, Kayode Suleiman Olumo, Folorunsho Bankole, Johnson Otaru and a host of others? Where are these guys? Where are my friends, brothers and classmates? I wonder where Smart Likolo and Idowu Onifade are.

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1 comment

Rosie September 4, 2007 - 11:44 am

Aaaah, the memories of boarding school…


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