Click to read Episode 2
This is the diary of a Nigerian Christian Girl- Season 1 Episode 3
I was standing with the other teachers behind the students lined up on the assembly ground when the vice-principal called out Adesuwa and Daniel. Surprised, I glanced at Mariam but she turned her face away. I moved closer to her.
‘You reported them to the vice-principal?’
Mariam didn’t answer me. She folded her hands and stared ahead. I was angry but I kept quiet and moved back to my position.
The vice-principal shook her head. ‘These foolish students were caught at the back of the refuse dump at Corner Masalashi kissing and ‘totoring’ themselves.’
The students laughed and a loud noise rang loud across the assembly ground. Adesuwa looked down and you could see she was fighting tears. Daniel kept a straight face.
‘Which one is totoring again. This woman sef.’ Mr Caleb, the H.O.D of the Arts department said.
The vice-principal continued. ‘We are going to make an example of them. But let me say this. Henceforth, I do not want to see anybody hanging around the vicinity of the school after the closing assembly. Go home straight! Is that clear?’
‘Yes ma.’ The student chorused.
She turned to the two students. ‘Hell fire is real in case you have forgotten. How can you be touching yourselves? If you die now, the devil will throw you into the hottest part of hellfire because as it is, your bodies are already defiled. Or you think God will just let you go free for desecrating your body?’
The chemistry teacher hissed. ‘What nonsense. This SU woman has come again. Abeg she should release the students jare. I have the first two classes this morning. .’
The vice-principal didn’t look ready to release the students. ‘Flee from all immorality. When you have sex, you invite demons into your life. They will play hide and seek in all parts of your body until they destroy you. Girls, don’t let any boy touch any part of your body. If a boy comes to you and says, ‘hey baby, I love your smile. You are the most beautiful girl on the face of the earth.’ Run! What did I say?’
‘Run!’ the students shouted.
‘Any boy that comes to you with those sweet words, do not listen to him. It is the devil talking to you not that boy. He is only a vessel that the devil wants to use. There are demon possessed girls and boys everywhere. For you boys who like to do tininini with your thing, there are girls Lucifer has assigned from the pit of hell to destroy you. They will use your brain and your life will just be yamayama.’
A teacher shifted uncomfortably. He turned to the rest of the teachers.
‘Somebody should tell this woman to shut up and let us get to class. Is this a church?’
‘Abi o. rubbish leleyi now.’ The chemistry teacher looked at his wristwatch. ‘It’s already five minutes into the first period.’
Mr Akin, one of the mathematics teacher laughed. ‘You guys should calm down. Hear the word of the Lord.’
‘Word of God my foot. This is what the principal will not take. I just pray he returns from his trip today. I don’t have time to be listening to jargons every morning.’ the chemistry teacher retorted.
‘Now,’ the Vice-principal continued. ‘Let’s get right to your punishment. It’s a free day for the school cleaners. There’ll be no classes for two of you. You will clean all the toilets in the school.’
‘Ah!’ The students shouted.
‘After that, you will clear the weeds growing around the basketball court. When you are done, you will report back to my office for further punishments.’ She turned to the students. ‘File into your classes now!’
When I got to the staffroom, I waited until most of the teachers had left for their lessons and then I faced Mariam.
‘What’s the meaning of what you did this morning? Adesuwa is my student and I am responsible for every student in my class. Why would you go behind my back and report my student to the vice-principal. It’s bad enough that I was there with you when the incident happened.’
Mariam completely ignored me. She flipped through an English textbook and began to read a comprehension passage.
‘Miss Mariam, what you did was wrong.’ Mr Alamu, the SS3 class teacher said. ‘Daniel is in my class. At least I should have been notified first.’
I was so upset that she ignored me and I wanted badly to get her to talk.
‘I don’t understand her motive. Something happened yesterday and by this morning, it’s already in the ears of the Vice-principal. You know how the VP handles issues.’
I finally got her attention. She raised her head. ‘I had to do what was right.’
Mariam was clearly not repentant. ‘Hogwash! Who does not know you were trying to get the attention of the VP to yourself.’
Mariam tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. ‘Say whatever you like, it’s none of my business. I can’t join you to raise spoilt brats. They need to be dealt with and that was what the vice-president did. All you know how to do is laugh and play with your students. I don’t know who made you a class teacher. You are not fit to be one!’
I stared at Mariam in disbelief. She hissed and continued reading.
‘So what are you insinuating?’ a teacher said. ‘You think you are a better class teacher? Was it not you the JSS 3 students couldn’t stop complaining about? What will it take from you to apologize. You didn’t do well Mariam.’
Mariam laughed. ‘Apologize for what? Over my dead body. I did not do anything wrong.’ She turned to me. ‘You can go and hit your head against the wall for all I care.’
I needed to stay calm to teach the class I had that morning. My emotions were turned upside down and I knew I couldn’t enter a classroom that way. I went to my table, fuming.
‘Lord, I’m so upset right now.’ I muttered. ‘I don’t want to go to my class like this. Please help my emotions. I need to be calm to teach properly.’
Nothing changed. Mariam’s words kept flashing across my mind and I convinced myself that the reason she could talk to me that way was because of how close we were at work. Even the students knew that of all the teachers, Mariam was the closest to me. I guess that was what made it hurt more. If it had been a neutral person, it wouldn’t have gotten to me that much.
The bell rang. It was time to teach the SS1 class. I began to mutter tongues quietly, praying for my mind to be calm enough to teach. As I stood up, I heard a still voice.
Apologize to Mariam.
I shook my head and held the edge of the table. Apologize for what? Mariam got into my business. She was the one who said I was not fit to be a class teacher. My own friend said this to my face. How was it my fault? There was no way I was going to apologize. Never!
I picked my lesson notes and left the staffroom. On my way to the SS1 class, I stopped by the physics laboratory to check up on Dotun. I searched from one student to another but he was not there. I panicked. Had he hurt himself? Were the revelations I saw the previous night true?
As I stepped away from the window, he appeared in front of me. Relief flooded my heart. I searched his face for something unusual. There was nothing.
‘Where are you coming from?’
He grinned. ‘Restroom. Were you missing me already?’
I raised my hand to smack him in the face, but he laughed and bounced away from me.
I smiled. ‘Go into your class my friend.’
‘Yes ma’am.’ He said and walked into the laboratory.
My eyes caught Adesuwa walking towards the lavatories holding a toilet brush and a sachet of detergent. I sighed and decided I’d sit her down and have a long chat with her.
You won’t believe that twice that day, Mariam and I walked past each other on the corridor like we were strangers. It had never happened. Usually, when we bump into each other like that, I’d pinch her, tickle her or flash her a smile.
The silence was cold. Mr Akin noticed it during the long break time.
‘Something is going on between Yemisi and Mariam. The noisemakers in this staffroom have suddenly gone quiet.’
‘Oh, you didn’t see the drama that happened this morning?’ A teacher said.
The teacher narrated the incident. Mr Akin looked at Mariam and then at me.
‘You ladies are mature. Forget about the incident and move on. Which one are you beefing each another. Women sha.’
After my last class that afternoon, I decided to talk to Mariam. To be sincere, I didn’t feel like apologizing. I was good at shutting people out. After all, when I was a teenager, I didn’t talk to my best friend for almost two years and it didn’t bother me. She was the one who finally reached out to me.
My relationship with God dealt with some things. I’m not saying I’m flawless but one of the things I started learning in my walk with God was the heart to be at peace with people. I was feeling restless and I knew it wouldn’t go away until I made amends with her.
Mariam was coming out of one of the classes when I blocked her path. She glared at me.
‘I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you this morning.’
Her expression remained unchanged. ‘You are in my way.’
I stood aside for her to pass. She walked away without saying a word. The anger rose to my throat. What was she feeling like? Why did I even apologize to her?
If she wanted end the friendship, then so be it. I was not ready to listen to the Holy Spirit about going to meet her again. I will not do it!
I was still burning with anger as I returned to the staffroom.
I turned. Phebe rushed to me with three pieces of paper.
‘I found these drawings hidden in Dotun’s locker. I’m really scared.’
‘Thank you Phebe.’ I took the drawings from her and didn’t bother to look at them. ‘I’ll go through them and have a chat with Dotun.’
It was then I remembered I had not looked at the notes Phebe had made from Dotun’s journal that she found lying carelessly on the floor. They were tucked in the bottom of my drawer. I decided I’d find time to look through them and get to the bottom of the issue.
Mariam walked past me again without saying a word. I wanted to shake her and tell her she was acting like a child. Why wouldn’t she just get over what had happened.
I forgot again to go through Phebe’s notes and Dotun’s drawings and only remembered when I alighted at my bus stop. As I walked down the street leading to my sister’s house, I set a reminder to read through them the following day.
My sister’s husband was playing games in the living room when I stepped into the house. He was so engrossed that he didn’t respond when I greeted him. I didn’t bother to call his attention to my presence. I was seeing Wale at 7p.m and that was mattered.
Yewande stood at the entrance to my room, her daughter strapped to her back.
‘He has been sitting there playing games since morning. There is no money at home and the children are hungry. I don’t understand how a man like that can be useless.’
I squeezed a thousand naira into her hands and hugged her.
‘You’ll be fine Yewande. This is just a phase. He’ll come around.’
‘Hi dearie.’ I pretended to be annoyed when I entered Wale’s car.
Even though I had forgiven him for speaking so rashly to me the previous night, I wanted him to know I didn’t like it. I was his woman and not his mentee. He had to learn to stop treating me like one.
He pulled me into his arms. ‘I’m sorry about the way I spoke to you last night. I’m really sorry. You know I love you right?’
I loved Wale so much. I doubt if there was anything that’d make me stay angry with him for so long.
‘I love you too.’
We drove to our regular suya and barbeque spot. After making our orders, we settled for one of the empty slabs in the open space.
‘I just got off the phone with a buddy of mine.’ Wale started. ‘There is a job opening in his company. He wants your CV.’
So fast? Wale had not given me time to think about leaving my job. I loved working with students very much even though I earned a meager sum. I didn’t feel ready to leave yet.
‘Sweetheart, we are in the middle of a term. I can’t just leave like that. I thought I’d be able to wait till the end of the term.’
Wale frowned. ‘There is no time Yemisi. You know how difficult it is to get a good job like this one. I heard the pay is a hundred and fifty thousand naira. After a year, the salary will be reviewed. This is apart from the allowances you’ll be entitled to. It’s a travel agency and they have great connections with rich foreigners. This is your key to greatness, Yemisi. We can’t lose this.’
I told him I’d sent the CV to him later.
‘Send it to me now. Don’t you have it on your phone? Don’t play with your life like this Yemisi.’
The suya and barbeque fish arrived as I searched for the document on my phone. Wale dialed someone’s number and got talking with the person but I wasn’t listening. I felt a sudden heaviness in my chest and a feeling that I was making a wrong decision. I found the curriculum vitae and sent it to Wale.
When he ended the call, I told him I had sent it. He looked at me, his face bursting forth with excitement.
‘You won’t believe this. I just got off the phone with the friend I told you about. He wants you to come see him tomorrow at the office by 10a.m. I didn’t even know he was the head of the HR department. Babe, this job is yours.’
I frowned. ‘Tomorrow? Honey, I have classes. I can’t just leave like that.’
I could feel Wale’s anger from where I sat. ‘Yemisi, be smart now. Use your brain. Send your principal a note. Tell him you had to go to the hospital for treatment. Just say something.’
‘Are you asking me to tell a lie?’
Wale didn’t respond. He reached for his phone and began to play with it. He always did that when he was pissed about anything.
‘Fine. I’ll get a way to leave school. But promise me you’ll see my mentor this weekend.’
He smiled and pinched my cheeks. ‘That’s not a problem. Now that we have that settled, how are you? Any gist for me?’
The barbeque spot was now crowded and some young men had taken a platform and were singing Sunny Ade’s ‘Ara ma nfe simi’. Wale unwrapped the suya and held out a tooth pick to me. The suya looked enticing. I threw a few pieces into my mouth, savouring the peppery taste that lingered in my tongue.
I told Wale about Mariam and the fracas that happened that morning. Then I remembered the lady that had called to threaten me the evening before Wale’s preaching engagement. I told him about that too. Wale stopped listening at that point.
‘A woman called to threaten you?’
‘Yes. She kept screaming that I should leave you alone. Something about being your man. It happened a while ago but I didn’t want to bring it up.’
‘You should have told me about it. Can I see the number she called you with?’
I had saved the name as ‘Troublemaker.’ Wale’s eyes flickered for a minute when he saw the number. He shook his head and gave me back the phone.
‘Do you know the person?’
Wale smiled. ‘There is nothing to worry about. You know by reason of my calling, I have ladies flocking around me. I had lots of them on campus and it took wisdom to be able to handle them. Don’t let it bother you.’
I wanted an assurance. I wanted to know if I was the only woman in his life but I remembered how the last discussion on our relationship had gone. I didn’t want to upset him again. The fact that Wale said he loved me was enough.
‘Please take a seat.’
Wale’s friend said to me when I stepped into his office the next morning. On his table were flyers with Pavilion Travel Agency boldly written on them. There were pictures of airplanes, beautiful resorts and fair-skinned ladies relaxing on a beach.
My chest heaved up and down in quick beats. What’s kind of questions was he going to ask me? I’d never travelled out of the country and neither did I know anything about travel agencies.
His smiled and I relaxed a little. Maybe this wasn’t going to be difficult as I thought. My eyes caught the clock on the wall. 10.30. I had swapped lessons with a colleague but I had to be back in school before 1p.m.
‘You are very beautiful.’ He said as soon as I sat down.
‘Thank you sir.’
‘My name is Jide and I am the head of the Human Resources department in this organization.’ He reclined in his seat. ‘Wale and I go way back. We clubbed and drank together until he decided to follow Jesus. When he first told me, I laughed. I thought he’d change his mind. But he didn’t. My friend went on to become the president of a campus fellowship and I knew Jesus had clipped his wings. We remained friends anyway and when he told me his girl was looking for a job, I knew I had to help.’
I smiled. At least, Wale told his friend I was his girl. That was something.
‘Don’t worry about getting a job here. I have already sorted that out. All you have to do is apply and show up for the interview. Just so you know, this is Nigerian’s foremost travel agency. If you work hard, you can build a successful career here.’
He passed his business card to me. ‘If you need anything, just call me. I’m already working on your employment letter. Relax, this job is yours. ’
‘Thank you so much for this. I really appreciate your help.’
He smiled and stretched out his hand. I shook it. ‘You are welcome Yemisi.’
On my way out, I passed by the boardroom just as a young beautiful lady in a short dark gown stepped out. She smiled warmly at me as she entered into another office. Another fair-skinned came out of another office carrying a file. She was followed by a man in a black suit, eating a sandwich at the same time perusing a document in his hand.
I let out a quick breath. What would it feel like to sit in board meetings and brainstorm ideas with other people? I knew I would enjoy my time here. I might not have liked Wale’s approach but if he hadn’t pushed me that way, I would have been reluctant to make a move.
My days of sitting down for hours writing lesson notes was over. I would no longer spend sleepless nights marking exam scripts. Pavillion Travel Agency was all I thought of as I returned to my workplace.
The principal’s car was parked in front of the school building. My heart fainted. He had driven out some minutes before I left for the agency and I had silently prayed he would not return until I got back.
I decided to take the entrance that led to the girls hostel. From the hostel, I would walk down the refectory and enter the staff room through the back of the building. This was a better option than entering through the main school gate.
I laughed at myself as I walked quickly. Even as a secondary school student, I never sneaked out of school. I couldn’t believe that I was doing it now as a teacher.
I was closed to the two-storey building that housed all the secondary school classes when I noticed students hanging around the corridor. It was unusual since it wasn’t break time. The only time this had happened was when the principal called for an emergency meeting.
I broke into a sweat when I heard the principal’s voice from the staff room. Nobody had said anything about a staff meeting holding that day. Slowly, I moved towards the entrance.
‘Where is Miss Yemisi?’ The principal said.
I froze. My heart was now thumping so loud. I walked into the staffroom.
The principal frowned. ‘Where are you coming from?’
‘Restroom sir.’ I lied.
His gaze didn’t leave me. ‘I’m you have heard the tragic news concerning one of your students.’
I pretended to be aware and I showed this by mg sad countenance. If I acted like I didn’t know, he’d be suspicious especially if the other teachers had already gotten wind of it. As I stood there, I wondered what student he was talking about.
‘Miss Yemisi, I want to you to put the rest of your classes on hold for today and a pay a condolence visit right away. The H.O.D and Vice-principal will join you later.’
I raised my head, shocked. Condolence visit? Did any of my students lose a parent? I tried to figure out who it could be. Sarah had told me earlier in the month about her mother’s illness, had she lost her?
When the Principal left the staff room, there was this gloomy expression on the faces of the teachers. I hurried to the table of the Accounts teacher, Titi, the lady I had swapped classes with.
‘What’s going on?’ I whispered to her. From the corner of my eye, I saw Mariam staring at me. I ignored her.
‘One of your students is dead.’ Titi said.
I stared at her, shocked. ‘Who?’
She let out a deep sigh. ‘Dotun.’
I went numb. ‘What?’
‘His body was found in the bathroom this morning. Apparently, he committed suicide.’
The vision returned. Dotun had been standing on a cliff. He had removed a smiling mask that revealed dark eyes.
I remember the instruction again. Pray, the still small voice had said.
‘Oh God.’ I blinked back tears and managed to return to my seat.
Dotun? Suicide. How could this have happened?
If I had obeyed, maybe he’d have lived. I disappointed God. I could have averted his death. My negligence had cost me a soul.
Dotun was a sweet boy. Why would a boy like that kill himself. Maybe Titi didn’t hear the principal correctly.
I went out of the staffroom and hurried down the corridor that led to SS2A. Dotun had to be somewhere at the back row. He’d make those funny remarks that sometimes got me laughing very hard.
A chill crept over me when I saw my students sitting like they were attending a funeral. No smiles. No jumping around. No laughter.
Some had swollen eyes and others dabbed handkerchiefs across their teary faces. How did they hear know about this and no one called to inform me.
I stood in front of the class and stared at the empty seat where Dotun usually occupied.
My legs couldn’t carry me any longer. I sat on the teacher’s chair and stared blankly at my students. They stared back.
I had failed them. I was not worthy to be a class teacher. Under my watch, my own favourite student had ended his own life. For a long time we stayed that way, content with the silence that dragged for a long time.
Episode 4 comes up next. Monday evening.