Written by Marvella
We were never formally introduced and sometimes I wish we were, because maybe I could have understood the real significance of it.
I was about 10 years when we met and some part of me would not be able to forget that day. Don’t get me wrong, I lived the average life of a Nigerian child and so technically, I had already met mediocre versions of it – the tree branch, the occasional slippers, the ruler, the traditional slaps. But I knew I was playing a different ball game when I finally met the most talked about horsewhip.
We had just had our first PHE (physical and health education) continuous assessment test and results were out.(why in the world did we study that anyway?). It was simple, you weren’t allowed to get less than 9 out of 15 and go scott-free. After a few screams of “YEHH”, “PLEASE SIR,I’M SORRY” ( I swear someone even screamed “MOGBE”), It was finally my turn.
I walked to the front of the class like everyone else, turned to face the wall as was routine and held my breath as it kissed my back seven times and walked back to my seat. The feeling was more embarrassing than it was painful. (oh, I just casually left out the part where I sat on the floor and cried right before it was my turn. Not everyone has to know how dramatic I am)
True to my word, the next test I swear I could have gotten a 16 out of 15 if principles weren’t upheld. It was that good. I watched as other kids walked to the front without being called and turned their backs without being told. Some new and others regular customers. I didn’t even have time to sympathise with them. All I could feel was encompassing joy. I was a success and the horsewhip reminded me that.
I know all you AtlantIc hall, BHS, Lagoon kids are out here with your mouths wide open. Hold up! don’t you dare say that we were being physically abused. Did I not mention that my school was a christian school, I mean, we went to church more than once a week. Enough said!
But God,forbid any student laid hands on a younger one. It was brutality. You were uprooted and that was justice being served because we were taught to love one another and laying your hands on another child was not in line with what we were taught. Anyway,that is gist for another day.
The horsewhip had one motive they told us – to distinguish those who played around while others studied, those who knew where they were going in life and those who were just plain NFA’s. No one particularly cared if you were dyslexic, because if only you had studied hard and prayed harder, you wouldn’t even be dyslexic.
Dyslexia wasn’t even in the dictionary that we were given.
Six years down the line and I might have only met the horsewhip twice and I was feeling good ( the feeling was synonymous to finding two pieces of meat on your plate in dining hall). I was proud of myself. I didn’t need star student awards to tell me I was a success,the horsewhip did just that.
Finally,it was time for JAMB. My set, we did everything!
We studied monday to sunday, prayed, danced round the school, went for JAMB in our school uniforms because we were badass and we knew for sure we had this in the bag so that didn’t matter.
“the school for greatness, the lifter of standards” 🎵
Results finally came out and I was ready! They started handing out slips with our result and I got mine.“ Calm down,it is probably your serial number” I told myself, knowing fully well that 199 was not my serial number. After flipping the paper a couple of times and checking every letter to see if my name was properly spelt, I finally let myself come to the realisation that I had just failed my JAMB and I never saw it coming.
Really 199? they couldn’t have just rounded it up to 200?(demons 👿 ) I turned to my best friend and low-key hoped she was with me on this boat. Because lets be honest, how do you explain to your parents that your best friend,home dawg, study partner just aced JAMB and you didn’t (which village were they doing you from). Fortunately and unfortunately, we ended up with the same score.
In fact, most of my set had just failed JAMB! “unalloyed loyalty I give”🎵 I didn’t know where to pour my anger, the teachers that ever made me think that exemption from a flimsy horsewhip equaled success, the fact that my guardian started crying when she saw my result 😒 or just the fact that I had gotten 199. Fast forward to WAEC when we knew we had to up our game. So kindly add confessing every day that we were the light of the world and that our exams were but bread 😯 and covenant walkover to the list of all the many things we did for JAMB.
I’m guessing that was the key since I ended up acing my WAEC .
Anyway not to bore you with the many rituals of my awesome (and I say awesome with just a slight sarcasm but not much) school, fast forward again to me in medical school which did take its time to come through.
I finally realised that horsewhips were only meant for bedrooms (if you’re into that kinky stuff..no judgement😌 …) or in an equestrian center. I also realised what success truly was. it was knowing that failure was truly an inevitable part of life, stumbling from one failed test to another failed test without loss of enthusiasm. It was also realising that PHE and JAMB were just a waste of my time. (bet you didn’t think this was an inspirational speech ✌ ️)