“Stop! Stop!” If I could tell my mind that’s exactly what I’d tell it — stop! Well, it’s hard to convince your mind to move on from something that steadily disturbs it from time to time. The only medicine to make it subside is by addressing it in some fashion. I’ve wondered if this is some sort of phase folks go through as they get older or my mind just simply playing tricks on me.
For a long time, I’ve been consumed with childhood memories — like what happened to Patricia or why was my uncle’s wife tied to a chair until she died. As these thoughts cripple my mind, it sometimes brings tears to swell in my eyes.
These childhood memories occupy a colossal space in my mind. The newest one is I’m wondering what happened to her? Did she live? if she did, did she get married? Did she have children and all? It’s very unsettling. I’m so washed in these thoughts that the only solution I have is to write about her hoping she’ll dissipate from my mind afterward.
The thought that has swallowed me is that of a girl I went to secondary school with. I attended an all-girls’ high school and lived in the dormitory. Living in a dormitory with no parental guidance was in itself a challenge. Some navigated it well and some drifted to the left. Imagine a twelve or thirteen years old sent off to live on their own. It may be a recipe for disaster. To be completely honest, I do not recall her name. All I know is that my head is filled with the terrible thing that happened to her.
I knew something was amiss when I saw the matron walking — slap-slap with her slippers holding a cane towards the assembly that gloomy Tuesday morning. The matron was never a part of the assembly unless something horrific occurred. That morning as she was walking towards us where we gathered to pray before we were discharged to our various classes I quickly said a quiet prayer because I knew it was bad. The principal — a tall beautiful self-assured looking woman — announced that the matron and the female teachers were going to take a few of us at a time to the bathroom to undress us to see which one of us bore a baby that was found covered with blood in the toilet.
I remembered us ranging from fifteen to seventeen years of age looking at one another wondering what the hell was going on. How the heck did they come to the conclusion that it was one of us? Just because we are an all-girls’ school and it was in the latrine in the compound next to our school does not mean any one of us was the culprit. So I thought.
We lined up and followed orders like lambs going to their slaughterhouse. After all said and done, none of the students present was the culprit. No dense blood was found in us — (yippee! I said). But not too fast, one of the students, Agnes, (yes her name just surfaced in my mind) who lived in Yellow House was not present. She had disappeared. She knew what she did and did not show up for assembly on that day. She had packed her things and ran home hoping she had refuge at home only to discover that her family would chase her away. As if that was not enough, she was also expelled from school.
Agnes had got entangled with one of the boys from one of the all-boys schools down the street. They always hung around our school gate in the evenings looking for girls to mess with. When she found out she was pregnant, the boy that impregnated her did a ninety-degree turn and denied being responsible. She was confused for she had never had a relationship prior to this. She had no one to turn to because it was heavily frowned upon to have pre-marital sex. So, she hid her pregnancy for months all the while taking all sorts of herbal concoctions to get rid of her pregnancy. On the eve of that gloomy Tuesday, she went to ease herself in the latrine, and right there the half baby, heavy blood fell into the latrine. In the wee hours of that morning, a woman from that compound saw it and alerted the school authorities and here we are being violated by school officials like some criminals.
Don’t get me wrong, what Agnes did was horrific. She should not have consumed all those “juju” medicines she consumed. Equally, at some point, Nigerian society has gotta stop giving these boys a free pass. They must accept their responsibility. It is disheartening that all the boy has to do is say “it wasn’t me” and that’s good enough to wash him of his responsibility. This has been going on for time immemorial. No one considers the poor girl that has to deal with a society that is cruel towards unmarried pregnancies. She’s just on her own to deal with the consequences.
My personal challenge to Nigerian parents is to raise the boys to know they’re just as responsible as the girls. I’m equally perturbed by the act from Agnes’s family. Why chase her away? This was time to counsel her. I guess the disgrace she brought to the family had more weight than the idea of teaching and forgiving her and therefore renders her not worth being their child anymore?
Women cannot continue to accept these types of treatment any longer. Not wanting to marry the girl is one thing, but to outright deny you impregnated her? Boy! That’s completely unacceptable.