After abandoning this site for some time, for nearly a year and only epileptically present for nearly three years now, I am coming back with two feet. I am returning with a series called Nwa Teacher. This is the story of my teaching experience for 9 months in Nnewi, Anambra State in 2015/2016.
I will like to make the following points.
The name of the school has been changed. Names of true characters are not true. Some characters have been created to buttress some points. Some characters have been merged. Majority of the scenarios in the story are true but most times, they are presented in dramatic forms. Sometimes, I will add a pinch of salt.
For now, I intend to publish the episodes every week, preferably Mondays. Till the end of the story, or the end of Muse or the end of the world that COVID-19 has initiated. Let’s do this.
Whenever people asked me why I was teaching, during my teaching days, I would say I was doing it for my state. “I have served Nigeria for one year. Time to serve Anambra.” But it was a lie. No, it is not an outright lie; it is just not the whole truth. The first leg of the truth is that I was afraid. I was afraid of Lagos which was where I had planned to move to and look for work after service. I was afraid of waking up by 4am in the mainland to board a bus for work on the island, finish work by 5pm then spend hours on traffic and finally return home by 11pm. Which is not even final because I have to deal with preparing what to eat that late. Repeat the next day.
This was how I imagined life as an employee in Lagos. My NYSC days were breathtakingly stressful. I was fresh from serving in the infamous Cemetery Lodge; I saw fire there. I wasn’t looking forward to coming close to the kitchen. And Lagos is a hot kitchen. I decided to just sit home in the village with my parents. And I sat home.
I became tired of sitting home and I didn’t want to give my parents the impression that I was a lazy jerk who was afraid of working, so I decided to become a teacher. By becoming a teacher I would no longer have the tag of the devil’s workshop but I would also not be on the burning circus of Lagos. I would use my teaching period to buy time.
I would kill two birds with one bright idea.
There are three principal cities in Anambra, Onitsha, Awka, and Nnewi. I selected Nnewi because that was the closest one to me. Also because I have an aunt in Awka and a family friend in Onitsha. I didn’t want to stay with anyone for one day. I even had this wishful thought that I could go to work in Nnewi from my village of Ogbunka every day thereby saving feeding and rent. Hehe.
The fact that there is a premier league club in Nnewi was an added merit. Their coach then was Super Eagles legend Daniel Amokachi and I couldn’t wait to spend my weekend in the stands. That was 2015, I was making an important decision because of local football. I usually have never taken life too seriously. And I may never.
I wrote three application letters: to Okongwu Grammar School, to Maria Regina Model Comprehensive Secondary School, and to Mount Sinai International School. I gave the first letter to the gateman at Maria Regina, the second letter to the principal’s secretary in Okongwu; when the bike stopped me at the gate of Mount Sinai International School, I know instantly that this would be where I work.
I opened the unmanned gate.
“Come up here,” a voice called. I looked up at a big woman. She owned the school and you can tell this just by the way she stood on the balcony, a boss. I began to climb the staircase. At the first landing, I nearly pumped into a guy.
“Wait,” he said, took an imaginary step backward, and tried to remember my face. “You were in Sokoto Camp right?”
God forbid, not me. But I didn’t say this aloud. “Mehn, Sokoto Camp was a cooking stove,” I said. Too early in the day for being correct.
“My brother,” he exclaimed. “I later redeployed to Edo.”
“I redeployed to Osun,” I said. I didn’t. I camped in Osun, served in Osun, fell in love in Osun, was thrown out of the window of love there, broke my neck, and here I was in Nnewi trying to make sense out of life, trying to keep broken body and soldered soul together.
He looked at the brown envelope in my hand. “Biology?”
“No. English.” Growing up, everyone in the neighborhood said I would make a great lawyer and expected me to study law because I could argue for the whole street, for the next three streets, for the whole town even. But on the day I filled my JAMB form, my hand was firm. First Choice: English Literature, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Second Choice: English and Literary Studies, University of Abuja. Six years later, someone thought Biology was my field. I smiled.
“I am Hosea,” he said, “Good luck.” He made way for me. I thanked and passed.
The proprietress’ office was not an office. It was a library but it wasn’t a model library. It was not well-lit and there were many empty shelves and not up to ten desks in all.
“Good afternoon, madam.”
“Sit down, my son.”
I sat down to what was my first interview as a graduate. This was not how I envisioned it. I saw my first interview before a panel of four or five executives behind a rich mahogany desk in a conference room with the AC freezing every limb in sight. The reality was an interview in a poorly-lit library.
Reality 1, Kingsley Okechukwu 0.
And the match has not even begun. It would be a long match and it would be brutal.
To be continued.