Monday, 16 September 2013

The Boy Called Mundus; A Memoir -2


So I wrote the sophomore exam and I came second with Nneoma this time around coming first, so two of us where to represent our diocese in the main scholarship exam at CIWA Port-Harcourt. At this point I had started to imagine myself clad in the Jesuits uniform. I was so confident I was going to pass the test. Who said confidence is all you need to pass an exam? How wrong I was.

On the eve of the exam my mum accompanied us to Port-Harcourt. How proud she was of her son. My getting a scholarship would make her happy, but then a scholarship in Jesuits College Abuja will leave her in ecstasy. I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me by. Mum must be made happy. This time around my driving force was no longer to top Nneoma but to make mum happy.

On the day of the exam, we left house on time, timely enough to avoid the characteristic Port-Harcout traffic. The venue for the exam was crowded and the tension in the air was so thick, you could cut it with a knife.Fear started creeping in. I started to have feelings of self doubt. The whole confidence I had was leaving me. I knew before now that they needed just a hundred students and here I was in the midst of a thousand students. Lesson; the moment you allow fear to come in, you begin to lose it.


Up till now I still wonder if those exam questions were actually meant for primary school pupils, perhaps there was a mix up somewhere and the questions set for Lagos Business School students were misplaced with ours. To say the questions were tough was to say the least. Jesuits were keeping to their standards indeed. I knew immediately after the exam that my chances were slim and that is if there was any.

I need not tell you I didn’t pass. In fact “Pens up” was the last I heard of them, so when I later heard of the Sosoliso air crash that killed about 80 Jesuits students, I imagined myself sited in the aisle seat and the plane lurching before finally crashing and I thanked God I didn’t pass that exam…lucky me…May the souls of the Sosoliso air craft victim rest in peace. Amen.

September 16th 2004 began my sojourn as a student of St. Peters seminary Okigwe. I wrote the entrance examination to three schools and passed them all, but wasted no time in choosing the Seminary. Already my elder brother was schooling there so it made the whole thing easy for me. Before now I’ve heard a lot of stories about the school. Things that should naturally frighten me and make me change my mind.

First was that I was going to wake up at 5am everyday…poor me, a sleep-maniac. The other was on how small the meals were…What the hell? However the joy of leaving my home for a boarding school where I will be given pocket money, the thrill of independence at such a young age and the joy of being called a seminarian all shielded me from the voice of reason that was warning me.

My parents provided everything contained in the prospectus. Everything was new and neatly packed in a tinker box. I was feeling fly and set for life as a seminarian.
We arrived at the school late in the afternoon and went through the security checks. After I was certified OK, my parents bade me goodbye. I stood in the reception room transfixed, looking as their car left the school compound. I tried not to cry but tears rolled down uncontrollably. It dawned on me that I was not going to see them in the next two months… How harsh life could be. My parents left me with enough money though, but I needed much more than money. I needed the comfort of home. I needed the soft tender neck of mum to kiss. I needed the delicious food I ate at home. I needed the freedom I used to have at home and above all I needed the companionship of my parents and siblings.

It wouldn’t have been so bad for me if my brother was in school then. We the new intakes opened a week earlier, so I was going to stay for one full week before he comes back.  

I was jolted out of my revive when I saw a prefect walk towards me and call me by my brother’s name. My brother then was known as Mundus and going by the much resemblance between the two of us he knew for sure I was the brother. He asked me why I was crying and for me that was a very dumb question. Should I be happy my parents were leaving me? He asked me some other questions, but one stood out. “I hope you will be as intelligent as your brother?” That question later became one I was used to as almost everybody who knew my brother wanted to know if I could match his intellectual prowess. It was a challenge for me. My brother has raised the stake; anything short of the best would be an embarrassment to him and definitely to me.

He held me by the hands and led me into the hostel, a handful of students were in the hostel at the time I entered and all looked as bewildered as I was. I selected a bed space close to the aisle. I was to stay in this dormitory for one week after which we will move to St Mathew’s hostel; meant for JSS1 students alone.

It was a very short one week, minutes rushed into hours, as hours rushed into days and before you say Jack, the one week of orientation and grace was over. Yeah, it was a week of grace as there was no punishment and life was generally good. During this week we were introduced to the school’s rules and regulations we were also taught how to say some common prayers in Latin. I was a fast learner and at the end of the one week, I was reciting the ‘Ave Maria’, ‘Pater Nosta’ and the ‘Benedicite’ like an old student. The rules and regulation weren’t smiling with each having stern sanctions. No talking before breakfast, Punctuality is King, No permanent friendship, No loitering during classes, No leaving the school without permission (AWOL). The rules were just too many and they expected us to keep to them all.

Just a day after the old students returned that we began to feel the heat. The function list was released and I was to take care of the Library. We were told that the way we handled our functions indicated the way we will handle our parishes if we eventually became priests. You dare not joke with it.

Now, the meals were becoming smaller, they were barely enough to keep us moving. We were given less than enough time for anything. In the refectory we ate our foods while running as the prefects will be quick to use canes on students if we were a minute late for classes or siesta. There was hardly any day I wasn’t punished…it wasn’t peculiar to me though. Its either you came late for prayers or classes or you were caught off guard talking to someone before breakfast or you were caught loitering around during classes or siesta. The floggings became inevitable, it was becoming part of the whole formation and we began to accept things the way we saw them.

However, the harsh environment was building in me resilient and strong gentleman. It was preparing me for the mean and unfriendly world out there. I learnt that life is not a bed of roses and only such treatments could prepare me for a life of adversity. I wasn’t praying for one anyway.

 Academically, I was doing well. My teachers were getting fond of me so where the priests, auxiliaries and the prefects. So when the first term results came out and I took the first position, not many were surprised. Whoever said First impression doesn’t matter! There was a little miss up in the result though, I was originally 3rd until the results were pasted and I discovered my average point was more than that of the guys who took first and second. I reported to the ‘dean of studies’ and the result was recomputed and I took my rightful position.

Now, mathematics had been my nightmare. How much I hated that subject then. It was the only subject that spoilt my results, I never understood how algebra worked, quadratic and simultaneous equation sounded Greek and the Mathematics teacher didn’t help matters. She was one teacher I hated so much, she has this air of complacency around her, she paid no attention to students and when I later became the class prefect in JSS3 I was tempted to report her to the school. 

However, my hate for Mathematics I made up for in Integrated Science. Inter. Science was one subject I loved so much that for the six terms I spent in the school I came out first in the subject in all. We had a priest then we called Fr. Ogun who taught us Inter. Science. He was more or less like a father to me; he loved me for my intelligence and never failed to use me to draw analogies in class. But then they had no good science teachers for the senior section and this informed my decision to leave the school after my JSS3….I wanted to become a medical doctor.

I started reading books right from my primary school days but became a book warm to them right there in the seminary. I was a voracious reader. I would sacrifice anything to get a good book. While coming back for the new term, I would spend part of my pocket money buying novels and when I’m through with them, I resort to borrowing, and when I borrow, I do that with a price. Trust students not to give you something for free, not when they know you are desperately in need of it, so at times I had to sacrifice my meals for them. The many novels I read then helped me in the weekly essay writing we had in school then. Every Saturday we wrote essays and I was the best in my class. The notice boards where never tired of displaying my articles. Mundus was becoming a brand name for publications. I represented my class and hostel in several competitions and I rarely disappointed. 

In my JSS3, I was made the class prefect, enormous responsibility I must say. I was to clean the classroom every day, make sure I called the lecturers when it’s their period to teach and provided names of noise makers, now this is the part I detested so much. It was mandatory that after classes every day I presented a list of noise makers to the auxiliaries. So it’s either I provide the names or I put up myself for the punishment….I wasn’t Christ so rarely did I put myself up. At several occasions I was seriously caned for failing to provide these names. It was really tough for me, A lot my friends wanted me to satisfy them by omitting their names in my dreaded noise maker’s book. There was no way I could satisfy them all. That was my first stint at leadership and it taught me a lot. In the face of the seeming troubles I had as the class prefect I also enjoyed some benefits and immunities. I was exempted from all forms of labour. I had the very rare privileged of eating Fathers’ toasted bread every Tuesday. 

Fr. Ogun; our Inter. Science teacher who had a knack for discipline never came to class except the class prefect comes to call him and when the class prefect comes he is  sure of going back with at least two slices of toasted bread..So Tuesday became a day I forward to, not many students had the privilege of eating the same food our formators ate, I was a part of a select few that enjoyed that privilege and I savoured the whole experience while it lasted.

I didn’t get into any big trouble in school until during my JSS3, second term examination. No I wasn’t caught in any examination malpractice, I never did. Continue reading to get the full gist. After a particular paper, I went with my friend Michael to the spring to get water for drinking. It was something we did after each paper, probably the exams had a way of drying us up that we became thirsty after each paper, so on this day I had not the inkling that something bad would happen, something that threatened my stay in the school. The spring which was primary source of drinking water for students then was situated at the bottom of a hill in the outskirts of the school compound. On the path that leads to the spring was a bee hive, so out of curiosity and for love of adventure I picked up a stone and threw it at the bee hive, the bees scattered and I scampered for my dear life. My friend was unlucky as he was caught unawares. A swarm of bees feasted on him as he wailed and shouted for help. The Rector got to hear about it and he was rushed to the hospital. Then, Michael’s father was the commissioner of police in Abia state and has done a lot for the school; he single-handedly repainted the entire classroom and hostel blocks. There was no way the rector would take this lightly, a personality was involved. So when later I was told that the rector demands that I meet him by 9pm in his office, I already concluded that the least I would get is a suspension and probably an indefinite suspension. I had braced up for the worst already.

The wait to 9pm was one of the longest I have ever had, during this period there was nothing I didn’t think about. The reputation I had built in over 2 years about to be downed in a day. Suspensions and expulsions were ‘normal things’ for us in school as every week at least one student will be placed on suspension or expelled, but this wasn’t just an ordinary suspension or expulsion, it was Mundus this time around. Friends started coming to commiserate with me on my looming suspension/expulsion, if only they have waited for me to die before burying me. The so many students I pulled rank on felt it was payback time as they celebrated my faith.

By five minutes to 9pm, I was already on my way to the Rector’s office. As I was approaching his office I was getting nervous with my heart pounding violently in my chest and when I tried to give myself hope by thinking I might go unpunished, Mark Anthony’s words on the graveside of Julius Ceaser rang on my head “No evil deed shall go unpunished.”  What I didn’t know now was what the punishment would be. An air of uncertainty hung over me. I reached the rectors office and he wasn’t there. I hanged around his office for some minutes until I saw him leaving the block. He must have been in another office or class and I immediately rushed down and met him.

To be continued….

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2 comments:

  1. Wow! This is great, reminding me of those wonderful old days.

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  2. M so lovin dis. Read d first, now d second, cnt wait 4 the third. I've nevr commented here before. I couldn't resist nt commenting bcos I luv dis blog 'n I wish u d best in life. Harriet Ohajiaba

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