Inside This Article
LOWER YOUR DEVICE’S AUDIO AND PLAY THE AUDIO FILE BELOW TO ENJOY A BETTER READING EXPERIENCE.
Mr Okoro had booked the entire Friday after the break period for the performances of the drama. It was a bright and sunny day and some charts were set up in the classes. Different costumes littered the classes and everyone was going helter-skelter, trying to get ready.
I sat on my chair close to the window and looked at everyone, there was nothing for me to do. Hakeem had come up with a beautiful play that we had practised over five times. My role was simple. It was to ring a small bell a little over six minutes. Why they had given me that role, I could not explain. Was it because of my inability to talk? My condition continued to get worse, I wouldn’t talk to anyone except the twins and even them, it was merely a mumble as their mother never allow them to spend time with me. Perhaps she didn’t trust me and thought I would harm her kids.
I don’t blame her though. Even Abba never let us spend time with strangers and relatives alike. Oh, How I missed Abba. I desperately sought one more chance to hold him, to hug and tell him how much I missed him. I would see Abba in my dreams smiling down at me, but something was always amiss and different with his smiles. It was a sad smile, a smile that held regret and pity. And mother!
Suddenly my breath caught in my throat, I couldn’t bear to think about her especially when I felt her death could be avoided. If only I had convinced her not to drive out if only I hadn’t left the TV on. And beautiful baby Fatima, God bless her soul. Such a sweet girl who didn’t deserve such a cruel death. When I lost my family, people who had come to pay their condolences would give me a look of pity and would whisper to themselves. “Oh, what a life? This little boy”. I’d tried to block the whispers from my ears, it did no good. My heart screamed from within me.
“Sameer, come on let’s go get ready. It’s almost our turn”. Hakeem grabbed me on the hand, startling me. I tried to compose myself and followed him. He dragged me to an empty class, where I met the other pupils almost dressed. Our purple uniforms were neatly folded in a wardrobe in the empty class. Except for mine, I was to act like a schoolboy who rung the bell so I still retained mine.
“Alright, do we all remember our parts?” Hakeem started.
“Yes, yes”. Everyone nodded. My group contained six members, Grace, Jamal, Hakeem, Omotola, I and one other boy whose name I can’t remember. He was quiet and talked a little. Grace kept staring at me with her lazy eyes making me feel uneasy. For the past few days, grace was always looking at me. A few times she’d tried to talk to me, even when I desperately tried to answer, I just couldn’t.
“Alright then. Let’s go”. Hakeem said and left while we all followed suit.
As much as education is important to what we become later in life, we believe that education is much more than that. Learning is one of the world’s oldest profession, and it is right to say that humans over the centuries have garnered enormous knowledge through learning. We believe that for every day we live, learning plays a vital role in what we do, say and act. Our personalities, habits, views and perspectives are all a result of learning. For every day, learning helps us to become better people every day, not just doctors, lawyers, engineers and the likes, but knowing how to listen to a friend, how to console a loved one, how and why we believe in ourselves and so much more. Hopefully, Jide’s story will get this message across.
Hakeem finished reading from the small piece of paper. I was surprised that the little drama contest had caught the attention of other teachers and their classes. Tens of students peeped from the windows and even the school principal was watching. Perhaps it was what Hakeem read that made everywhere quiet, I could feel the suspense in the air and a pin drop could be heard. “God, help me do this well”. I whispered, trying to steady the small bell in my hand.
“Jide, it’s great you want to be a footballer, it’s great and I’m ready to support you, but school isn’t something you should forfeit”.
Jide shrugged and continued to look ahead like he wasn’t listening. His mother tried again, this time firmer.
“Jide listen to me, if your grades don’t come up after two weeks, I won’t take you to football practice anymore. It doesn’t work that way, ask any successful footballer you know, he would tell you that school was important”.
The 10-year-old Jide was now angry with his mother.
“No mum, we go to school because we want to be doctors, engineers, lawyers, politicians and whatever. People who want to be footballers don’t go to school, they go to football practice every day”.
Jide’s mum however had made her mind up. “You heard me Jide, 2 weeks. ” She raised two fingers to further emphasize her point.
The whole class clapped wildly. Grace and Hakeem performance had been excellent. I ringed the small bell twice. Grnnnnng Grnnnnng! Once more everywhere was quiet.
“How do I raise my grades in 2 weeks, study harder? I don’t even like school, to begin with. Mathematics is so hard I practically sleep all through the class.” Jide thought as he watched the basic science teacher. All he could think of was how to get his mother off his back.
“Oh and lest I forget”. The basic science teacher suddenly said. “We want to introduce clubs that will cover extracurricular activities. Each student is expected to be part of a club. Starting today, walk to the notice board and read all about the clubs, decide which you would like to join and then head on to the staffs’ room to register. Is that okay?”
Jide grinned in his seat. This was okay. If he couldn’t get his grades up in two weeks, his mother might accept this. After all, most educated people were jobless. What good does going to school do?
Immediately after the class, Jide ran to the notice board, picked the name of the first club he saw and went ahead to get registered, within few minutes, Jide was a member of the Health club.
More applause greeted the hall. I ranged the bell. This time I wasn’t thinking about Abba, the bombast or even my inability to speak. I was absorbed in the story.
Was I already regretting joining this Health club? Jide thought. The health teacher had been rambling on about something Jide didn’t understand, something about things getting stuck in the throat.
“It is fairly common to have something lodged in one’s throat, or to have someone swallow poison”. He paused and continued. “The one way to perform first aid to someone who has an object stuck in his throat is to put your hand down the throat, not forcibly but gently.” As he talked he showed a diagrammatic Illustration.
Soon Jide got bored and he stopped listening. As soon as he got home from school, he couldn’t wait to tell his mother he joined the health club.
I rang the bell to indicate that the scene was over. As I looked around, I saw that the curiosity of the entire class was at its peak.
It was a good day for Jide as he ran wildly into the sports complex, he loved Saturday, one because there was no school and two, because he could play football the entire day. He wished he never had to go to school. As he played football with his friends, they suddenly heard a commotion from the tennis courts, what was happening?. They ran there to see a lot of people gathered. At the centre, there was a young boy of about 12 who was clutching his chest and throat. From the commotion and whispering, Jide got to learn that the young boy had mistakenly swallowed a walnut seed, that was now lodged in his throat.
Jide was furious, only if he had listened to the health class. He remembered something about putting a hand down the throat. Jide decided to give it a trial. He fought his way through the crowd and took the boys head and put it on his lap. He remembered the illustration as he put a hand down the throat.
Suddenly the boy gagged and hiccuped out the Walnut seed.
The boy was relieved. He gulped the cup of water that was shoved to him.
“Wow, Jide thank you for saving me. Thank you so much Jide”. The boy commented, eternally grateful.
The people clapped around Jide for a long while. At that moment, Jide realised something, perhaps education wasn’t bad at all.
I rang my bell and a sudden uproar greeted the class. Everyone was in a frenzy shouting and clapping at the end of the play. Even Mr Okoro was up in his seat and surprisingly, was smiling. I felt joy too even though, my role was minor and then it dawned on me. I was beginning to enjoy my new school.
Mr Okoro was impressed, very impressed with the performance of both groups, throughout the day he couldn’t stop blushing. The principal had congratulated him for teaching us so well. While I and the twins waited for Uncle Habib, Mr Okoro approached.
“That was a beautiful play Sameer, Hakeem told me it was mostly your idea”. Today he was dressed more formally. Plain trousers with a white packing shirt and a tie to match. He looked good and different.
“No, it wasn’t, I just wrote the play”. I wanted to say, but I couldn’t. Instead, I just nodded.
“I couldn’t help but wonder about the role you were assigned, I think you could do more than that”. He started again.
“Someone had to do it”.
Again, I couldn’t voice out what I thought. Mr Okoro looked at me with a face full of pity, just like the mourners did when my family died. He stayed there for a long time waiting along with us. After a while, I spotted Uncle Habib’s car. Mr Okoro stood when he noticed the car too. I was confused for a minute, was he waiting for my uncle too? Did I do anything wrong? Or was it because of my inability to talk?
“I apologise, traffic held me back”. Uncle Habib said the moment he got out of the car and shook hands with Mr Okoro.
“It’s alright. I understand”. They stepped few metres away from us and talked for a long time that we got tired of waiting. We were in the car watching them talk and Uncle Habib would occasionally turn back, his face was neutral, there was no emotion I could decipher. After a while, they bade each other goodbye and Uncle Habib drove us away.
“Sameer, your teacher said your play was excellent today”.
I nodded gently while the chatter of the twins filled the car.
Once we alighted, Uncle Habib followed me to my room, looked around and sighed. “We’ve discussed with my wife Sameer, and we’ve agreed to get a house help so you don’t have to work that much anymore, I told you about it right”.
“Yes”. I nodded again.
“Good, so perhaps next week she starts”. He was quiet for a while. “Your teacher was worried about you and frankly so am I. I know I haven’t been the best guidance, I’m away most of the time and my wife is well, somewhat difficult”.
That was an understatement, but I didn’t say anything. I continued to listen to the heads down. “But your teacher said perhaps your inability to grieve may be hindering your ability to talk, like when you hide and keep everything to yourself. He wants me to encourage you to play around with your friends at school and make the house comfortable for you. And Sameer, I want you to know that if you want to talk about what happened to your parents, you can talk to me.”
I nodded again. But this time not with understanding, but because I wanted him to leave so I could collect my thoughts. He must have sensed it for he looked at me sadly and left my room quietly. I was forced to remember a conversation I had with Abba.
If I was ever held spellbound by a performance, it had to be “The gods are not to blame” by Ola Rotimi. The resonance and the harmony of the presenters almost moved me to tears. One thing I loved was a good play.
“I think I’ll take you to more plays, Sameer. Oh I wish we were in London. You would have gotten to meet some of my friends that are play writers, and also go to some shows”. Abba started when we were driving out of the theatre, a lot of people were leaving at the same time and the place was looking crowded.
“Abba, what do you think makes a good playwright?”
“Hmm, that’s a loaded question”. Abba answered, trying to manoeuver behind an old Bentley that carried a family of five. “Well, you know I don’t know much about poems and stuff, I’m more comfortable studying cancer cells and all,” He said grinning. “But I think writing is all about the writer, the ability to express in words what he truly feels. Writing plays is been able to build a beautiful story that may not touch all lives, but perhaps just one. Well, I think so”.
I thought for a while. “Are writers quiet?”
“No, not at all. But maybe a good number of them are extroverts.” Abba sighed. “Sameer I don’t know. But while back in London, I would come to Buckingham palace to watch the little doves and occasionally throw them some nuts. This was my routine for years and I was never alone. I had a companion who would come and watch the doves also and as he does it, he would make notes in an old book that looked like it was over fifty years. For over fifteen years, not a word had been exchanged between us two but somehow I’d gotten used to his company and felt at ease. The last time we saw, he handed me a book he had written and till this day, Sameer, it was one of the greatest books I’ve read”.
My dad had a look of hurt and loneliness I couldn’t explain. Was he missing a friend he’d never talked to?
Why had this particular memory sprung up at this time? Was it because of my inability to talk? Perhaps I would make a good writer. I already had over four hundred and thirty-seven words in my dictionary. More than ever, I knew I carried a pain, heaviness and burden that few people would ever experience. What I felt might be better expressed in words. I took one of my huge books and began to write. It wouldn’t please me, but it would give me a sense of purpose and control in life.
With the new housemaid coming in, I was sure my work would be less and have more time for writing.
What do you think about the play? Do you think Sameer is improving? And do you think the arrival of a housemaid is a good thing? Tell us in the comments section