Bisi grabs her assaulted hand with the other and doubles over. My heart heaves. I’m sorry, I couldn’t say it though. I bend and pick the cane. She straightens as well, and slowly stretch out the assaulted hand again.
“Go to your seat,” I blurt. I clench my teeth to keep from shaking and throw the cane aside.
I can’t stop shaking. I can’t get the sound of her scream out of my head. I can’t get the sight of her blistered hand out of my mind. She’s so fair-skinned. The fairest in the class.
God, help me not to notice these things.
The class raises a cheer. I’m beyond care. I pack my books and leave the class though I still had at least ten minutes of the period.
I rush to the staff room, and thankfully, none of the teachers are present. It’s still morning; just the second period. I need to get my poise before I can attend the other classes I have.
I place my head on my table and draw air into my lungs. Involuntarily, I loosen my tie. A few minutes and I know I’ll be fine. It becomes more apparent that I need to leave Abagboro village. Before I commit the unthinkable. Having a crush on a village girl? That’s about the most absurd thing on earth.
Back in Lagos, one of the training I have is to dare not get emotionally attached to a student. I had chosen post-primary education as my major because I have a passion to see these teenagers off the streets and on the path of destiny.
My last posting to Community Girls High in Lagos hadn’t presented a least challenge. Why here in this hell-hole where all the villagers smell the same. Except Bisi. She must have a bath in the village stream daily.
I leap to my feet and pace. You can’t think like that, Abbey. Sophisticated Lagos girls did not meet your fancy, why should this girl do?
I just need to get out of here. I am still appalled at being posted here. This is not a good sign. This is the more reason why I should not be here.
The bell goes off to signify the end of one period and the beginning of another. I teach all the senior classes and there’s hardly a free period for me during the week.
With a resolve I cannot summon, I walk to my table and arrange my workbook. I have a final year class next. Because of the level of understanding of these students, I’ve had to devise a system of giving them several exams before the main one, which could be used to substitute part of their marks in the final exam.
The principal thought I was too lenient but I made him understand a good SSCE (Senior Secondary Certificate Examination) result in English from his school will improve his profile, and he agreed.
I look up and Bisi is on her knees. I had not heard her walk in.
My heart flops to the base of my feet. I frown. “Stand up.”
She erupts in a flow of vernacular about what happened.
“Haven’t I told you, you must never speak Yoruba to me?”
“Stand up. Don’t you have a class now?”
“Is free period sir. For me.”
“Well, I have a class.” I brush past her and escape.
Toro, my co-student teacher, though from another college and city, meet me at the entrance. Her face is beclouded. The poor girl has had things tougher than me here. The first week of our arrival, she had reacted violently to the water, breaking out in pus-filled blisters.
“I just got a letter. Government has a new policy for student teachers. Effective immediately.”
I need to leave this place before I mess myself up. I don’t need any gloomy policies. I shrug. Toro hands me a letter. It’s from my department. I tear the letter open, and read.
It’s all bad.
“It’s the same thing, right?”
I heave. “It’s a rejection of my transfer from here.”
Toro sighs. “Well, that means it’s the same. The new policy is strict on transfers. And posting for final year students is no longer three but six months.”
My mouth drops open.
Toro clamps her lips. “We’re here for the next five months, Abbey. I want to die.”