My life in a bush school
That old school, the grass thatched one with wall stones, my school, the bush school, "Gwandalo!"
I mesmerized with every part of it. It was square or rectangle in shape with a big tree in the middle that acted as assembly ground for us.
I remember how I would walk late to school to only meet goat bearded man. The nightmare to every student. The headmaster of our school, Samuel! He has been my night ghost all my life in that school. He never desired to know your reasons for late coming. Whenever I saw him standing with stick, the clouds of tears begins to form and roll down my cheeks. My heart in my mouth and my legs paralyzed to make a move. His stick could touch me from the head to the toe. As young as I was. This man never had pity not even for a kid like me and canning was like his job.
The school had many teachers. God knows if they even qualified for the title Teacher! I knew them all. Whether they taught me in class or not . I knew them. The prefects had powers like teacher. They gave us strokes whenever they feel like. You can’t report them because they were always right and older than us.
In class, the first row always became my seat. As young and short as I was, seating behind was my choice but then I couldn’t see what happens in front. Teachers loved to see me in front and of course know when I am absent from school.
The headmaster was our math teacher. He made us recite the multiplications from 1 to 12 all by heart and off book. One by one.
With his ever stick at hand, eyes fixed on you and ears rised like police dog ready to detect and track down the criminal. Sometimes I wonder whether by any chance I had contributed to his domestic failure. Why on Earth must he be such a rude to me.
Reading and memorizing was my favorite but with this man and his stick. I couldn’t go beyond 3 multiplication reciting. I would do everything to remember the multiplication but his presence left me with nothing but frown to drawn in the ocean of confusion and fear. Honestly, he puts me on fire !
Writing notes in books as many students did wasn’t my thing. I like keeping everything in my head and memorizing them by heart. But then how would I defend myself from an ever questioning mother! Yes I could read them off book but she would demand to see my notebooks and that was my weakness, to write!
As child of reknown father, girls of all ages would always want to associate with me.
But I was as wise as king Solomon. I would tell them to write for me notes in class in assurance of our friendship. However our friendship was short-lived. It ends after the girl writing for me. Girls were always smart and they wrote neatly in their books.
So it was my job to spot the ones with good handwriting after all reading wasn’t my problem and my mom would be happy to see my notes.
In class, I would befriend girls just to write for me but along the way to our villages, I would fight them. I never cared about their age and height. I either used stone or long stick. If the news reaches home, nobody would believe them that I make big girls to cry. "I was defending myself mother!" I said!
My mom would be proud of me in our home for standing up against the big girls but outside our home. She would shut me down just to assure the community that she sympathized with the victims of my fight.
Our school was the centre of our village, students from different neighboring villages would trek for hours just to attend the school.
I loved it when it came to assemble time. Big boys and girls sang anthem with high sense of patriotism but I could see the pain right in their eyes as if they were crying for heaven to open up and change their land. My voice couldn’t count as their voices surpassed mine. I would look at them from their heads to toes and I could tell who was in pain.
We played a whole day sometimes without a teacher coming to our Class. Guess our classrooms, big trees! I loved wrestling especially the boys older than me. They would throw me down but that never stopped me from wrestling them. That was our game at school. I never recalled the game girls played obviously because we often fight with them.
Arabic was mainly taught at our school and I loved reading story of "Kaka and kuku", "Hassan and Birds" "the dog, eagle and the bone" in Arabic version. I could sing their story even when I was in the forest grazing the animals. The story related so much to me and forest life of hunting.
I would never forget that day, when a teacher of English entered our class and began to teach a foreign language to my ear. He said "who knows the meaning of a boy?" That one passed my ear! I have never heard of such! The class was quiet. He moved on to another word "a girl" . I couldn’t wait for him to finish the word, I jumped on my toes and raised my hand quickly. Everyone else’s eyes were on me! The savor of the day. I remembered the word "girl" in our language means the horn of either a goat or cow, whenever the sound familiar!
The teacher smiled and turned to me, "young boy give me the answer" he said. I stood up and whole class was as silent as graveyard. All eyes on me, the youngest and shortest student.
I surmoned all the courage and mention the word "horn" in our language. Everybody burst into laughter. I became as proud as king thinking I gave the right answer and teacher said no, wrong answer! Guess how I felt that very moment but anyways I tried than keeping quiet.
I wasn’t bad performer but my height always failed me. I would perform up to p.4 and when the school brings new teachers as policy suggested. these guys have no knowledge of who I was and painfully took me back to p.1 . Claiming I was too young to be in p.4 class. You can imagine my pain and struggle. My parents were too busy to visit my school. There I go everyday like the next day. Playing, reading the same story and life went on.
But with our Headmaster things changed a bit. I knew his height, with his goat bearded face and the clothes he put on. Whenever I came late and saw him from distance. As long as he didn’t noticed me. I would hid myself just to save some strokes from reaching my back for that day. He no longer taught us math. A new teacher replaced him and for the first ever time for me to score 100% in mathematics. It felt great and my Dad promise to buy me a new shoe of which he never bought to this day .
Every Friday, Muslims would gather to pray in a place while Christian students did the same. I had Christian family background but I would often pray with muslims just to check in case I had been missing anything sweet and if there was something good hidden In their religion Worth my attention.
My brothers, sisters and uncles would get angry at me but I was just a kid trying to adventure in life. I remember that last day when Headmaster read my name in front of everyone and added that I was Muslim . Everyone who knew me got surprised. I too became shocked and delighted at the same time.
That school taught me persistence, patience and determination.
On one beauteous morning, the government invaded the village neighboring our schools. The village was on high Hills and our school was down on flat land. You could see students playing while at the top of the Hill.
The fight began between the rebels and the government soldiers. Our village and state at large was under rebels' protection and the government since then failed to drive them out of the state.
We could hear every sound of the guns, big and small.
The Headmaster told us to run for our dear lives in to a safer place but the battlefield was in his home area. His family, relatives, friends and everything was in danger. He never knew where to turn to. All he said was run for your life and we took it to our heels for we knew our future still a waits us.
The government solidiers mercilessly send a missile towards our school. I remember being the last to run as big boys and girls took off and left me behind.
The missile hit just opposite me and I found myself on the ground. I was breathless and couldn’t feel any part of my body. That moment I thought I was a dead man yet with eyes open.
It seemed to me like the missile unleashed the power within me. The power to run. I ran like my life solidly depended on it. I thrilled passed students who left me. I never sense any pain to stop me from racing. The wind kept blowing me off to the Hills of our home. Being the last to run never meant I would reach home last.
I reached first and found my mom sited down with hands on her head and heart on her mouth, scared to death! Seeing me was like coming back from the land of the dead.
She hugged me and thanked God for my life.
I was too young to know politics and the fight between the rebels and government but one thing I always knew was I am a son of rebel, who devoted his entire life for the freedom of his people. That one alone puts me on conflicting loyalty everyday whenever I see injustices done to any human before me.
The government solidiers continued to eat us alive. They killed our beloved ones, burned villages, took away our animals and worst of all, raped the women and young girls. Evil was what they were! I counted them as rebels because government protects it’s citizens from any harm but this is the government of Sudan doing all that inhumane acts.
The next day, we reported to school and we thanked God for we were all safe and sound in mind and body.
My courage and hope for education started to decline. The school was no longer safer place for child like me. I devoted most of my time in forest hunting. I hunted everything from the smallest to biggest animal that landed on my trap even birds of the air. I left no stone unturned. I ate wild meat, wild fruits, drank from the rocks and couldn’t remember the last time I became sick.
That school still lingers on my mind and it’s beauteous environment. My Dad took me to his sister in Safari Nila and my education journey rejuvenated once again.
Childhood education background…….