Tolani Olatunji sat in the classroom with her biology text book in front of her, she was trying so hard to study to become the best in her class, gladly she had moved up to 9th position from her usual 15th in her class of about 35 students. This was a great improvement at least that was what Mr. Bode Thompson had told her. In the previous term he had been encouraging her to do better and to strive to be the first but that was not why she was finding it difficult to read this night prep. The students had only returned from the mid-term break yesterday and while the other children were gisting of how wonderful and interesting their short holiday had been with some even lamenting that it had been too short, all she could think of was how grateful she was to be out of that house.
She lived with her parents and three sisters in a three bedroom flat in Ojota but that still wasn’t her problem, her problem was the fact that all through the one week of mid-term they had moved from one crisis to the other. On the first night she was home her father had beat up her mother because the food she had left for him before coming to pick herself and her younger sister , Bola from school had gone by the time he returned from work. The day after he threw a side stool which had almost hit her because the side stool was on his way when he was entering the sitting room and she had been sitting in the sitting room watching a movie. The third day he cursed her younger sister, Bose, because she hadn’t swept his room by the time he got home from work. The fourth day he ranted about the dust-pin which they didn’t take out. The fifth day it was worse, he punished and flogged her and her immediate younger sister Bola, for quarrelling. The sixth day Moyo, the last child served him drinking water after mother had served his meal and mistakenly poured some water on the rug and he flogged her with his belt.
Yesterday morning, as she and Bola prepared to return to school, he prevented them from having breakfast because according to him they were running late. Bola was in Jss 2, Bose in primary 6 while little Moyo was in primary 2. She was very angry and almost spat out hateful words at him but she held herself back because she couldn’t afford to return to school with any bruise. It was not like he actually cared, resumption date was a free day and the school never fixed any time within which the students had to return. She couldn’t understand why he hated them so much and why nothing they ever did pleased him. It was as though he hated the very sight of them. There was never a time for laughter, it was always anger and fear.
The worse part of it was that whenever he was done frustrating them he would gloat over it and brag about being the Chairman of the home. A part of her prayed that he would die at least mother was working. She paid the school fees of the girls so he was more or less useless to them as far as she was concerned. They would be better off without him. She was distracted by Onyeka, who dragged the textbook off her desk. Onyeka was the oldest in her class and was a bully; many of her classmates dreaded him. She avoided him most of the time but today was not one of those times, she was already boiling in rage.
“Onyeka, are you mad? Give back my book!” she spat out in anger.
She had a temper that could boil water and Onyeka knew this but it never bothered him he felt he was stronger than she was and even though other boys never dared get on her bad side he was the only one who had the guts to.
“What will you do, Jackometer!” that was the name students called people who were always known to read in their school. They only started calling her that in the first term of their JSS 3 as that was the time she had actually buckled up. They were presently in second term and in SS 1 and by chance in the art class.
She launched at him to retrieve the textbook but he withdrew it further dangling it, in her rage she picked out her math-set from her locked and threw it at him. The math-set hit him on the forehead and he hit the ground while she walked up to him, collected her textbook and marched out of the class amidst the shouts of her class mates. As she walked down the corridor in front of the junior block she kept muttering to herself.
“It’s good for him, idiot. Shebi I warned him. Nonsense. Every time He will be feeling like a big boy. idiot” she went on in anger, she wasn’t even sure of where she was going, many of the classes were noisy as she went by. It was always like that on Sunday nights excepts when the Prefects started patrolling. There was really nothing to read since they hadn’t started any of their classes so most of the students were still chatting away, only the efikos like her would be opening their books at this time of the term. Her stroll led her to the library but it was locked so she headed to the dining hall. There were some students in the dining hall, some were reading while some were sitting in groups, some of those sitting in groups were chatting while some others were doing group discussion. Being a loner she didn’t like group reading, she studied best when she read alone and she had to read up to two times to understand what the text was saying and then listen in the class room else she would be behind. Mr. Bode Thompson had helped her to figure out her best method of assimilation and it was working for her. This term she had set the goals and written them in her jotter, like he advised. Her first priority was to beat Chinwe in all their subjects, it was a great task because Chinwe was the star of their class. The difference between Chinwe and Gbemi who always came second was at least 10% while others followed behind Gbemi sometimes with 2%. She would have to put in extra effort to make it to the first position and that meant she would have to improve on Mr. Bode Thompson’s formula as it had only moved her from 15 to 9. She needed a formular that would move her from 9 to 1.
Quietly she found herself a good corner in the hall, far behind and away from any of the windows, she faced the wall and opened her textbook again, her note was in the knapsack she carried at her back. There was no place she went without that knapsack, it was her baby. She had written the scheme of work at the front of the textbook when Miss. Alabi had called it out at the beginning of the term as she usually did every term in all the classes that she taught. She started to read again before her thoughts drifted back to her family, Onyeka was forgotten. There were a lot of times when she doubted that her father was her biological father, maybe there was something her mother hasn’t told them. She shook her head, she was watching too much of Nollywood movies and that was why she was beginning to think like that. How was it possible that the 4 of them where all not his children it wasn’t like he loved any of them in particular, he pretty much treated them all like some plague. Even their school fees, provisions, pocket money were taken care of by their mother. Whenever they asked him for money he would direct them to their mother beside mother was a Christian. She prayed for them and with them. She hated when he came for their visiting because he would keep hurrying and wouldn’t allow them spend quality time with their mother and younger sisters. Their lives were pretty much dictated by him, what they wore, where they went and who they visited, none of their friends was allowed to visit and any time their father caught them talking to someone he would query who it was and could even embarrass them on the road. So they kept their heads straight whenever they were out of the house, even talking their cousins, was a taboo. She pitied herself and her siblings especially mother who was always in the house. At least in school she was free to talk to people even though most of the time she kept to herself because of her anger issue. There was no one pursuing her around with a cane, teachers knew her as a good girl so she was seldom flogged. She longed to talk to someone about what was happening in her home but she feared for her mum, the way he threatened her with various weapons scared the hell out of her.