Growing up naija

10 Oct

One particular day I was casually discussing the boarding school lifestyle at work. I had the impression my colleagues would be intrigued but what I saw instead was horror, fear, pity and surprise in the faces of my listeners.  Especially the white ones who have this idea of boarding schools as a place for children of the rich.

It’s like there is a small special club for Nigerian boarding school survivors who grew up:

  • Waking up at 5 a.m.
  • Walking miles to get water for bathing and drinking
  • Doing chores like cutting grass with machetes, scrubbing pit latrines or sweeping dusty yards
  • Having beans, tea and kunu samia  for breakfast
  • Morning assembly on Mondays and Fridays
  • Lunch portions the size of your fist
  • Cutting grass or serving punishments like kneeling and flying your arms
  • Attending or finding ways to dodge prep hours
  • Hiding contrabands like – indomie noodles
  • School moms and dads that made life much easier or harder depending on luck
  • Seniors who made your life miserable
  • Owning that ubiquitous metal suitcase to store your meager belongings

  • Missing meals because you had too many errands to run
  • Being in the press club and the drama club
  • Using safety pins to hold up your skirt because you’ve lost so much weight from malnutrition
  • Catching malaria at least once a year
  • Hoping not to run out of “Bleach and Blue” for your whites
  • Inter-house sports competitiveness
  • Vying for captainships in your senior years
  • The joy of transitioning from pinafores to skirts
  • Dreaming of never having to wear a peter pan collar.  Ever again.
  • Seeing your parents during visiting day
  • Cramming for midterms and final exams in your dorms
  • Saturday morning inspections and house cleanliness rankings
  • Throwing slangs around like “rub and shine,” “t-square,” and “commando.”
  • Leaving school after final exams
  • Spending holidays at home waiting to go back and do it all over again

In the eyes of those who did not go to boarding school, specifically Federal Government Colleges, our lives sucked.  Honestly, it probably did but while in the system the fact that everybody else is going through what you are going through makes it a rite of passage.  A test of your chutzpah.  An indication of how well you will fare in the future.  It pretty much sums up why I am rough around the edges and fiercely independent.

I told Turtle that if any of our kids ever messed up, they were going to a boarding school in Nigeria.  No second chances.  Nothing prepares you for life like living an environment that mirrors a life of juvenile detention.


4 Responses to “Growing up naija”

  1. enitan October 11, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    I got the same reaction from my mates as well when i shared my story. All one of them could say was “all of that between the ages of 9 and 15? no wonder you didn’t find uni difficult” LOL

  2. mpb October 11, 2011 at 9:07 pm #


    Now try explaining to them what housegirls and houseboys are….

    Yeah my work colleagues think I am an inhumane slave owner

  3. Myne Whitman October 12, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    I read Powder Necklace by a Ghanaian author and it was pretty spot on. The bragging rights on my Google + is surviving boarding school in Nigeria, LOL…

  4. Tee October 14, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    lol….love this…For this and some other reasons I am the way I am.

    I survived too…scabies, injuries, punishments, errands, beatings to name a few…..OMG!!!!

    I’m going to look for that book Myne mentioned now…. 😀

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