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It was the Saturday before the week we were to resume school. We had all arrived the previous day, except for Zahra who was just on her way from Kaduna. Jeff, Temi and I sat in the sitting room having a breakfast of bread and tea, while Amaka was in the kitchen preparing indomie noodles for herself, Dennis and Bankz.
“So even you girls didn’t bring foodstuff from home.” Jeff commented.
“Hian. Abeg I cannot carry load.” I replied. “I’m sure they sell everything I’ll need in their market here.”
“Yes o. See the time I arrived here from Lagos yesterday. After 8. Imagine how hectic the journey would have been if I had a sack of foodstuff with me.” Temi added.
“Plus I was thinking, we can all contribute money for foodstuff, so we can buy it cheaper in bulk.” She continued.
“Yeah. That’s true.” I concurred.
“Okay. So like how much should we contribute?” he asked.
“Maybe 3 to 5K each.”
“3K is kinda small o.” I said. “Let’s make it 4K.”
We shared our thoughts with the others, including Zahra and everyone agreed. I paid for myself and Zahra. We made a list of the things we needed, and Amaka and Dennis went to get them from the main market at Obollo-Afor. Things were not as cheap as we had thought it would be, but they managed to get everything on the list.
The next day, Sunday, none of us went to church. We all hid behind the excuse that we didn’t know where the churches were located, even though we could have simply asked the family downstairs. Later that evening we took a stroll round the community. The village was very similar to those depicted in Nollywood movies. The houses were not beside each other, but a short distance apart, with bushes and trees in between. Each house no matter how ancient had a bed of flowers in front of it, and practically every compound had a mansion built or been built in front or beside it.
On our way back, we met an old man carrying some palm fronds on his back. When we greeted him, he stopped to chat with us, asking us the states we were from. He was so friendly the guys offered to carry the fronds home for him. At his house, he offered us a seat and served us palm wine. We talked some more, about his life as a soldier and the places he had been. We got back to the lodge about two hours after we had left. Amaka, tipsy from drinking too much palm wine, clung to Jeff all the way home. She had drank 3 full cups, trying to prove to Temi and I that she could do better than the one cup we drank.
The trek to school from the lodge took about 40 minutes. It beat me how in a village that had 8 hamlets that are far apart, one cannot just walk out of the house and climb a bike to wherever one was going to. The transportation options were limited to trekking, or having a personal bike/bicycle. We were lucky that we had left home early, else by the time we got to school, we would have been sweating profusely.
We walked into the staffroom situated beside the principal’s office. 3 teachers, a man and two women sat on plastic chairs, chatting in Igbo.
“Eh. Corpers!” They welcomed us, and asked us to sit.
An hour or so later, the principal arrived and took us round the school, introducing us to the students. The school had only two blocks of classroom. The block in front held the senior classes, the staff room and the principal’s office, while the one behind held the junior classes, another staff room and the library. To the left of the junior block, was a building that served as the main hall, and to the right of the senior block was another that held the physics and chemistry lab. Only the junior class had seats. The seniors sat on plastic chairs they bring from home every day and wrote on desks they constructed themselves.
Afterwards, we met with the vice principal academics who informed us that the school was lacking teachers seriously and he was glad we were posted to the school. The government actually posted enough teachers to the school, but it’s either they work their way back to town or they come to school once a week, he complained. He then assigned subjects to us, all of which had not been taught to the students in at least the last two terms, as there was no teacher. I was assigned to teach the senior classes Government. We were all given the subject syllabus, notebooks and pens. I went round to my classes to introduce myself to the students and get to know them.
We all had our first class the following week. Bankz and Jeff followed me to mine.
“Just in case they want to give you a hard time.” They said.
Fortunately, the student didn’t cause any trouble, and were quite receptive. They had not had a government teacher in a year and were glad that I was going to be taking the subject.
“As far as you are a Christian, your denomination does not matter abeg. It’s better than being a Muslim. Those bokoharam people!” Jeff declared.
We had been arguing about the different Christian denominations. How the Catholics’ doctrines was similar to worshiping idols, the Pentecostal churches were all about the tithe, and deeper life’s extremism. Zahra glanced up sharply from her phone.
“The bokoharam terrorist may be claiming to be Muslims, but they are not.” She said in a quiet voice. “No true Muslim will take a life, irrespective of whether the person is a Muslim or Christian. The boko haram people, they don’t know what they are doing.”
“Abeg. All that one na story.” He snorted. “You say they are not Muslims, and they are screaming alakuabukar and bombing churches up and down.”
“So because they are screaming Allahu Akbar, that makes them Muslims.” She shook her head. “Assuming a group of people are shouting Hallelujah and detonating bombs up and down, it’ll be right to say they are Christians, abi?”
“Look, just as Christians are people who worship God through Christ as taught in the bible, a Muslim is someone who worships God as prescribed in the Quran. And nowhere in the Quran is it stated that you should take someone’s life. In fact, the Quran says that to each man, his own religion.” She finished.
“Ehm. But your prophet said you should fight Jihad against the infidels.” Jeff confronted. “That same pedophile prophet that was married to a child.” He snorted.
“You know what? Never mind.” She sighed, “There’s nothing I say that will convince you. Your mind is already made up.”
“No. Talk na.” He insisted.
“Ehm. Enough about religion. To each his own.” I interrupted. “Come, let’s go and buy pure water.” I dragged Zahra out of the house.