Read this with the eyes of a fictious nonfiction. Because although I’d love to say my memory of the incident is very accurate, I’ve also come to learn that memory cannot be trusted so much. In the end, we see what we want to see and remember as much as our memories allow us.
PS: The real names and characters of the people in this story (with the exception of myself) have been altered for the sake of privacy and respect.
A hot afternoon in P6A, Infant Jesus Lumen Christi School:
Sir K: Attention, class! Now to the major announcement of the day. The results for the mid-term exams have been compiled, your positions double-checked and confirmed. We have, let me check, the top ten being seven females, three males. What? My boys—what a disgrace.
A different teacher: The boys in this class, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Aahh. You sit here for girls to come first. All you know is talking, talking. Among the first five koraa, only one boy. Ɔsane nso dii third. Ahhh!
Sir K: Wodeɛ gyaa wɔn. Ɛnkasa mmrɛ. Moawu koraa anka ɛyɛ, mo. Montwɛn me mereba.
Another teacher: Class ha boys deɛ sɛ gyimii no aa. Mmaa no aben sen wɔn beberee. Mmaa no montu wɔn saa. Me tae mo akyi. K., bobɔ adeɛ no na yɛnkɔ yɛn anim.
Sir K: Ok. Are you ready? First of all, all the boys, clap for the girls. All of you, clap! Herr abaa no wɔ hen. Wodeɛ woyɛ barima aa, ma me nkye wo sɛ wommɔ wo nsam. Siafoɔ, mommɔ mo nsam!
After five minutes of continuous clapping infused with giggles from some of the girls, boys and teachers:
Sir K: Ahaa. Ahaa. Saa. Mo ayɛ adeɛ. Ɛyɛ. Good. Now unto the results. So coming in first position–
One teacher interrupts: K. let’s start from the bottom eh. Last foɔ no.
Sir K: Hwan, agyimifoɔ no. Daabi, daabi. Wɔn de3 me ne wɔn wɔ special meeting later koraa. Nnyɛ seesei.
He’s slashing the air with the cane in his hand, pacing in front of the class, as he says this. The other teachers—maybe six to eight in number(all males)—explode with laughter.
One of them: Sure. K. toa so.
Sir K: Alright. So where was I? Aha. In first position we have a very beautiful, intelligent lady by name, Selassie Apraku.
Wagging his cane, Sir K roars, “Herr, clap for her. When I mention the name, you keep clapping till I mention the next name, moate? If I catch you not clapping…..hmmm, wobɛte. You aa, you couldn’t do it, someone has done it too, you don’t want to clap. Nonsense. Clap!
Sir K continues: Well done Selassie. (He walks to Selassie’s desk and shake her.) Keep it up.
The other teachers join him in congratulating Selassie.
Sir K: Let’s continue. Following Selassie in second position is Elizabeth Quarshie.
Class erupts into thunderous applause while I look for the nearest desk to hide my face under.
“Lizzie!,” Sir K calls out to me and I raise my head sharply to meet his narrow eyes. “Well done, okay. W’ayɛ adeɛ paa. Kɔ so saa wate?”
I nod my head, my expression grim, wishing him to move into the next name quickly so I can join the band of clappers around me.
One teacher with the nickname, Cat, says, “Na Lizzie sere kakra ɛɛ.”
Me: Let’s out a shy smile and puts my head on the desk.
I raise it quickly to clap when I hear Sir K mentioning the next person in the third position, Opoku Joshua.
Selassie and I look at Joshua and tell him “well done” while clapping endlessly.
Sela, Josh and I are close friends. We sit, play and study together most times in class. We’ve been friends since I can remember—which is the first day I set foot in the Primary 1A classroom of IJLCS. As a newcomer, I was first taken to class 1B, then later brought to 1A for reasons I will never find out because the madam who assigned me the class didn’t tell me why she changed her mind last minute. I did as I was told; moved to 1A; wrote my first exam which brought me the kind of friends I would roll with for the most of my primary and junior high school life. Josh and I were made class prefects in Primary 2 or so but I later gave up the post because I couldn’t take the constant insults from classmates or the idea of writing a colleague’s name down for the teacher to beat them. It was concluded I was too soft for the job and it was given to someone else. Probably Selassie, though I can’t remember who exactly now. But what I do remember vividly is that by Primary 6, the three of us were quite close.
Now the method of calculating grades in IJLCS is the same format as that which is used for the BECE. The grade you had for your four core subjects—Math, Science, English and Social—will be taken and added to any other two of your best grades in the other subjects to give you your final aggregate. I preferred that format. But the teachers in Primary six A, at the time, thought otherwise. They said using that format makes most of us complacent and hence, prevent us from putting in our best during examinations—because we feel all we need is to do well in our core subjects and any other two of our favorite subjects, then we’re good to go. So they say and decided an alternative way of grading us in addition to our normal. They’d compile all the marks we get in each subject over the total score for each one of us, and afterwards, arrange in order of descension, from highest to lowest, to check our positions. This, they said, would enhance healthy competition among us as everyone would strive to either maintain or better their positions if it was unsatisfactory. So that’s how come we’re here this afternoon, mentioning names and positions and clapping for well-deserved students.
Honestly speaking, I hated the idea at first. I didn’t want to know my position with respect to anyone’s. But hearing my name and the claps around me elevated something in me. I feel really proud and happy and although my face isn’t showing it (because I’m that bad at receiving compliments), I am jubilating in my soul.
Sir K has moved through the remaining seven names; says he’s very proud of all of us with our names in the top ten and that we should be proud of ourselves too. Because coming any where from first to tenth in a class of about ninety-five, ninety-six is no joke.
“But…,” he says with emphasis and turns to look at Josh, “I will still beat you, even though I promised I won’t touch anyone in the first ten.”
The whole class chimes, “Oooohhh Sir why?”
“Yes,” he replies stiffly, “As for the rest of you guys deɛ, you know your fates dada, not so? But I’m beating Joshua for allowing two girls to preceed him. That’s unacceptable. And for that, he’ll receive two canes while the rest of you take three each.”
Murmurs arise in the class as some students are mumbling, “Ah Sir, this one deɛɛ, it’s not fair, it’s not fair. Why would you go against your word and beat Joshua?”
Sir K laughing: Shut up! You’re saying it’s not fair eh? Yeah, that’s how it is. Life is not fair. Next time he’ll work harder. Think about your own. Fools!
With a serious face now, Sir K: All the boys with the exception of Joshua, put your heads on your table!
He goes for two extra canes from his desk and starts from the first guy by the gray-painted wall. Peow-peow-peow. The cane lands on his stretched out back on the table and he jumps, reaching to touch his hurting back with his hand. Little screams escape the mouths of some. The other teachers are laughing and throwing jabs on the side as the caning is ongoing. Murmurs and giggles arise from some of the girls. While most of the boys, eleven and twelve year-olds, are panicking, others remain nonchalant, grumbling undertone. The caning continues till every boy except Joshua has received his share of canes. Then Sir K walks gently to Joshua and stretches his back on the desk, gives him two strong lashes that cause my heart to jump in my chest. I frown tightly as Josh cries out once. He lowers his head on the table afterwards, biting his lips to stop the tears from coming. I exchange sympathetic looks with Selassie as Sir K pats Josh’s back, and says to him, “This will serve as reminder to you so that next time you don’t allow girls to overtake you.”
And even with my twelve-year-old mind, sitting there, hearing one of my favorite teachers say that, I know something is not right. I can feel the anger welling up inside of me, while something—although I can’t tell what it is—keeps telling me how wrong everything that just happened is.
To be continued…
Thank you for reading,
Catch you soon with the next post, which is a continuation of this one, so stay tuned.