Now, after watching too many high school movies, I have come to the conclusion that white high schools are like vacation spots compared to what we have here. They have facilities and amenities here that make our schools laughable. They are also given so many privileges that they leave there as far better than their peers here. But forget about their amenities and all; we are catching up to them and we would get there. But there is one particular part of their lives that makes their system queer. Chatting up a white kid one day, I decided to ask him if he had ever been beaten up at school and he replied affirmatively. He also proceeded to tell me that the kid in question got suspended which seemed a pretty heavy punishment to him. I practically laughed my ass off. Was he joking? Was that his definition of a beating? I asked what if a teacher did such and I was told he would be sacked, his license might be revoked and he would get sued. Wonderful!!! I never knew such was possible in my high school days. That it was not legal to beat you?! Ahh… My teachers were not passed that memo. No!!! They were not informed.
In my early school days, I was privileged to attend two different elementary schools. One was what we called an “aje-pako” primary school while the other was an “aje-butter” primary school. In my first school (I really don’t remember much), canes were a norm. We were flogged from childhood. Our teachers instilled discipline in us through tiny strokes of the cane. My second school was a bit different. It was tush; they believed more in normal punishments basically, kneeling down and only used the cane as a last resort. For you to be flogged, you must have really offended grievously. This did not help prepare me for high school as it was an entirely different ball game all together.
High school provided me with a different view of school all together. For the first time in my life, I saw people being flogged for coming late. Not just the ordinary beating, they were flogged like criminals. I swore that I was never going to experience this. I was going to pass through that school without being flogged. Alas, it was very impossible. My first flogging experience was in seventh grade and at the hands of the vice principal, Mr Stephen Ndimele. Now, it is virtually impossible for me to forget this name as it has been burned into the base of my skull. I can remember the experience vividly. The VP, as he was called, was a man feared in every corner of my school. He was even feared by some senior students and that in itself was something. Now the administrative block was opposite my block and though it was a bit far off, when we made noise, you were surely going to hear. But the one thing we always looked for was the silhouette of Mr Ndimele standing up from his office chair. Once that happened, like magic, the whole block would go silent. Every class would immediately cease their playing activities. You could hear pin drop literally. And his visits were never friendly. No! They always came with whipping that made you weep. Every class captain already had the list of noisemakers in the class and when he demanded for it and your name manages to appear on that list, you were doomed. With his cane in hand and in his bass, Igbo accent, he always spoke the famous words, “Tarn ya back!!!” At that point, even holy water cannot help you.
Anyway, that famous day, my name managed to appear on the list and when the VP entered the class and demanded for the list, at some point, my name was called out. I started to protest but when I saw the look in his eyes, I knew it was all futile. There was no escape for me. As each student before me cried that hearts out and made funny demonstrations, I tried to stifle my laughter knowing that my turn was coming. As it got to my turn and I heard those words, I knew that the hour had come and I marched to the front of the class, faced it, held the desk and steeled myself as I prepared was the first blow. The next few seconds were the longest of my life. As the first blow fell, my world suddenly went blank. My life suddenly started flashing in front of my eyes. I was immediately transport into the world of pain. I suddenly understood why my mates were crying. Tears blinded me and my muscles took over. My own scream surprised me as my legs suddenly catapulted me to the end of the classroom. Was this how I was going to die? Was this man an assassin? In fact, my thought process stopped after those questions. I could still see his hands beckoning me to the front. I had not yet finished my dose. As I was pushed to the front, I finally understood the true meaning of terror. That cane was there to kill me; there was no other logical explanation. The next lash produced the same effect and same result. Once again, I was at the back of the classroom. I was choking on my own tears. I didn’t even know the appropriate way to cry. The next two strokes ended everything and as I staggered to my seat, I knew I was never to walk or sit well again. As my butt touched the chair, I immediately jumped as I had underestimated the effect of the cane on my backside. I managed to deduce that the only way I could sit was with my left butt cheek; the right one was gone and it was never coming back again. The rest of the day passed with me paying no attention to what was going on. I had lost interest in life. But that day was the worst of my life as hours later, I got another dose of the cane from a teacher. This time, my class was at it again, making noise and disturbing the peace. The teacher in the next class would have none of it as she came in and ordered all of us to place our heads on our desks, exposing our backs and preparing us for the system of flogging called the angel of death. Now, I had just been flogged for the first time on my buttocks and I was now going to lose the virginity of my back too?! I started sobbing. Cries were heard from various corners of the class and I knew it had begun. I started preparing for my turn but nothing prepares you for the angel of death because it was random. You were flogged at random and there was no means of predicting who was next. When the strokes landed on me, I cried out in pain. I had just received the fastest three strokes ever. In fact, if not for the burning sensation on my neck and back, I could have sworn that it was just one stroke. My day was ruined and the rest of my week as well. The welts on my backside took weeks to heal. My walking step had changed. And now, the caning floodgates were now opened.
The next flogging experience that stood out was the one I got from our Introductory Technology teacher in eighth grade. Now, Mr Arthur had just transferred to our school and after few weeks, rumours had started flying that this guy was even better at flogging than the VP. I quickly laughed it off. He might be good but Mr Ndimele had surpassed good. The VP was a god revered in the flogging folklore. But my perspective was changed after I tasted a dose of Mr Arthur. Now he had given us an assignment and clearly stated that we should copy from any textbook but make our own research. As I read the assignment, I went to a very random textbook and lifted the answers straight from there. This book wasn’t even part of the recommended textbooks and I was sure as hell that this man was never going to suspect that I got it from there but I found out that I had gravely underestimated him as my name was called out as one of the people that copied their assignments. We were told to come to the front of the class and the first person was asked to stretch out his hands. I immediately knew that this guy couldn’t flog. It was common knowledge that the best place to flog was at the buttocks or the back; every other place was not enough to make one cry and standing in front of Mr Arthur was the best guy at “dusting” canes in my class. I was so sure that this man was a novice and was about to get shocked. As he lifted his left hand and brought down the cane, I was the one that received the shock. The recipient, the guy I so placed my trust in, was now screaming in tears and weeping like a baby. It was like a terrible nightmare. Just a mere stroke on the palm and he was crying like a baby; it was a rude shock. Mr Arthur dished out three strokes each and when it got to my turn, I rubbed my palms together and prepared for my strokes. As the cane landed on my palm, I was once again transported to the world of pain. No!!! This was not pain. This transcended pain. This was something different; it was like a glimpse of hellfire on my palms. Looking back now, I can make certain deductions. One, Mr Arthur held a B.Sc, an M.Sc and a Ph.D in flogging. Two, he was handpicked and trained by Satan to inflict pain upon students. Three, he was the best of the best and I daresay, a god in flogging. He picked the worst place to flog and went straight for the top of my fingers. I felt every bit of that cane. No, I repeat, that was not pain, it was something far worse. As I howled in pain, I realised one thing, I was never going to write well in my life again. I knew I had to change the way I held my pen because those parts of my fingers were gone. It felt like they had been chopped off and were never coming back again. As I went back to my seat, I swore to avoid this man like a plague. Once beaten, twice is unbearable pain. There was this one day where I watched Mr Arthur get mad and whip one of my friends on every part of his body. As he jumped up and down in class and scattered all the chairs around, I knew that whatever crime Samson had committed, he was never going to try it in his life again. Knowing the pain that came with just one stroke, I could not bear to imagine the level of pain that was inflicted on him. The mere thought would have driven me crazy.
Over the years, I was whipped and lashed by my teachers. There were many styles ranging from “marry the wall” to “touch your toes”. I have been flogged on different parts of my body. I once received a “bongo” right on the top of my head and I temporarily had amnesia. We even had a horsewhip in school and I once tasted its fury. These were all forms of discipline and whatever crime you committed, you were sure to think twice before you tried them again. Over the years, we grew to start “dusting” them and no longer feared the cane. Now, those moments have fizzled out from high schools even down here. No teacher flogs as much again. It is an embarrassment and is breeding a set of feeble-minded weaklings and morally loose individuals. When my white friend told me about his mean teacher that gave him detention almost every time, I laughed out loud but my laughter carried no mirth. I was disgusted. I told him, “Look, you were in heaven. Detention?! Please!!! We don’t even know what that is. You lived in candy land and we were beaten like wrecking balls…”