I attended Central Primary School, Ikeja, Lagos. If you drive by Oba Akinjobi street, quite close to Arch Bishop Vining Memorial Church and on towards the Old Secretariat you will find my school. We wore a blue check gown with a belt and topped it off with a blue beret for the girls. The boys had the blue check as shirts and blue shorts.They also had a cap to top it off. It was a public school so you weren’t exactly required to wear white socks and brown shoes. Only the richer kids wore those (Cortina shoes I think they were called). For most of us others it was rubber sandals. Also, it was not compulsory to have the cap for boys or beret for girls.
Each year, there was the inter-house sports competition which featured the march past by the various houses. The houses were designed to be named after the primary colours and then some, depending on the population of the school after which they were renamed after rich parents. We had red, green, blue, and yellow houses. I can still remember that one of the houses was named after a certain Mr Fowewe. We also had Anjorin and Obianwa (I’m not too sure of this last one).
Only children who had brown shoes, white socks and a beret or cap were allowed to do the march past (for obvious reasons). It was simply a case of : if you want to march, you must have the complete set of uniforms. There was nothing wrong with this per se, except that the system ensured that some kids who wanted to could never join in the march past.
In primary five, the inter-house sports competition held as usual.This was shortly after acting prefects had been chosen. I was supposed to be assistant head girl. There was actually a democratic voting process that took place back then and I lost to…I think the girls name was Nofisat. She was more popular than I was (Okay, I’ve never really ever been among the cool kids *rme). But, after the elections, the school staff met and decided Nofisat was not good enough as she was not bold, and if inspectors came, I was in a better position to represent the school academically. So, they opted for ‘imposition’of candidate and a new head girl was born 😐
Back to the inter-house sports…
After the inter-house sports in primary five, I had to wait as the new head girl to ensure that chairs were returned to appropriate classrooms and all that. It was during this exercise that one of the junior students brought a beret to me. She said it must have been lost by someone. I took it from her and promised to find the owner the next day.
I had always wanted to own a beret. My parents really couldn’t afford one. But that didn’t stop me from wanting one. So when I asked around that same day and no one came to claim the beret, I decided to keep it for myself. Now that would pose a problem of sorts. How would I explain the beret to my mum? Well, I figured I could tell her I won it… and that was exactly what I did. I do not even know if my mum believed when I told her I won the beret, or maybe she did. I remember her just being silent about it.
The next day,I wore the beret to school.
I was in the middle of class when a parent came with her child. The child that lost her beret. I was called as the head girl of the school to go round the classes with the student to help her find her beret. I went with the student, while her mother waited at the head teacher’s office.
We went from class to class, but of course there was no way we were going to find the beret I was wearing. When we got back to a particular class, the child that had handed me the beret stood and explained she had found a beret the previous day and handed it to me.
The teacher in the class couldn’t believe her ears. (The teacher in this class was same my primary one teacher whose name I can’t remember). Bottom line, I admitted to having tried to steal the beret and keep it for myself. The teacher took the beret from me and asked me to kneel in front of the class.
I do not think I had a more shameful experience in all of my primary school days. I was a good girl, the best student in academics all round, and just because I wanted something I couldn’t have, I was made to kneel before a class of junior students. I went from glory to being a ‘common thief’. I thought of the disgrace that would follow when my name was announced on the assembly ground.
To my amazement, when the teacher returned, she asked me to go back to my class. That was it. No other punishment whatsoever. She didn’t even report me to my class teacher. Nothing. it was like an act of God. In fact, this must have been God telling me “I let you go this time, don’t ever do this again”.
I got home and kept everything to myself. I felt I had learnt my lessons. For one thing I knew that was the last time I would attempt to take anything that didn’t belong to me. I was really totally ashamed of myself.
A few days later after service, the mother of my then best friend told my parents about it. My best friend and I attend the same school. My mum briefed me on the revelation and said we would talk when she gets home.
I got back home before my parents that day and I just knew I didn’t, couldn’t face them. I searched through the drawers in the house and found some tablets. I threw all of them into my mouth and hoped never to wake again.
When my parents got back, I was terrible ill. My mum ‘forgot’ all about my stealing and took care of me. I had to tell her what I had done and what I took. She took care of me, she must have induced vomiting, and I got better. She didn’t even give me any lectures afterwards, nothing, she just let it go. I was 11 at the time.
Looking back, I think that was one of the first defining moments in my life. I learnt through that experience that I was a bad liar and I really couldn’t get away with stealing. And from that time onwards, I do not remember ever stealing again…outside the house (Okay, we all take something that belongs to our parents but that’s not really stealing, right?)
Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. – Eph 4:28 KJB