By: Aborisade Adeniyi
(An Account of a Secondary School Examination Experience, 2006)
Traveling back again through time, it was a stressful afternoon rented by anxiety and blended with fatigue, as it was sometimes the impression of an examination period in the Nigerian-based public schools. It was a short while after we had left the playing field after the break-time.As should be expected, our uniforms had become soiled; giving the colouration of a new-found outcast from the Sahara Desert. It was unheard of for a S.S 2 student, who is presumed to have attained a certain level of maturity, to dress in such a sordid and seedy manner. Winter was at the corner, thus it was a period of great ecstasy for me, and so I and others in my shoe had every reason here and there for a fair play and display of flippancy. Only few among us all were the serious type who would not be easily swept off the lane by the undaunted breezes of euphoric experiences posed to us by nature. I was one of the victims of nature. I usually got swept especially by football, even at the cost of my study. That was my own dividends of early puberty experience. As it was before, so it remained till this fateful day of examination.
That afternoon, some had fully prepared for the exam; some did not and never bothered to; while some had not but feigned to have. However, since it is usually a one-man-business when it comes to examination like that, nobody had any cause to even dare interfere in the affairs of others. Whether you had prepared or not, ‘na u sabi’ (iwo lo mo). Truly, we didn’t really care. The trends remained thus when we were ushered in for the examination. Sincerely, secondary school examinations atmospheres had never given me an impression that the government really cared for us. We were forced by circumstances to write those exams under the leaking roof, often accompanied by intense heat.
It was a condition under which we could not help but wriggle and pant. More so, given the paralysed wooden chairs upon which we would sit to write those exams, it was never comfortable. Funny enough, you were made to pay N1000 for your own personal chair, on which you were urged to make inscription of your name by yourself even though you were not given a certificate of ownership as you were not allowed taking a paralyzed part of it off the school by the time your stay had ended; all with the notion that we were leaving behind a worthwhile memory. Those chairs that escaped the detention were rather stolen ‘illegally’ by their owners.
The inept nature of the classroom in which the exam was to take place never allowed for the one-person-per-chair method commonly adopted in conducting tests and examinations. Therefore, we were jam-packed and had to sit at least three people per chair, with a locker. Each chair, however, was never long and well enough to accommodate more than, if up to three. It was like that, and so it was. I was lucky to sit in the front row as it is usually my choice. Everyone, stocked in our seats, was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the exam papers and the supervisor. Finally, they came! The papers were distributed and the exam started immediately. For a while, the teacher left the vicinity; allowing us to think and write independently, without any fear or pressure. Honestly, we shouldn’t have been trusted!
It was this lovely subject for our colleagues at other schools and every concerned individual I have met after that time. But for us, especially the unserious ones, Government was terror-bidden for we had no stable teacher to handle it to our best interest and understanding. One virtuous attributes of mine that calls for commendations and rewards is that, examination malpractices have no soft spot with me. Even though I could not digest the questions, I never bothered to have E in it. After all, it would add no extra mark to my WAEC or NECO. Yes, that was my own mentality. But then, my classmates, who perhaps held different worldview for reasons best known only to them, stealthily, though discreetly had begun opening their lockers. I was thinking and chewing my pen’s butt; some were writing; some were opening their lockers, while others were giraffing and ogling around. It was like that.
Mr Audu was a well-bred Islamic master; highly disciplined and a disciplinarian who would not condone any mistake; average in height and stature; graced with Caribbean complexion, and his chin guarded by cascading beard. He was probably in his mid 30s; usually dressed Islam-wise. The loose and frivolous exam scenario still continued. We had almost been carried away when Mr Audu suddenly dashed in to the centre of the class. Without referring to anybody, he suspiciously directed his finger point towards the last angle of the class where our gentle friend was seated. “Stand up! Why did you open the locker”? He yelled. (Well, such a question could have been better directed to the gods). If no one had stood up that day, honestly this story would not have been told today. Perhaps our friend was actually opening the locker, we did not know. All we knew was that, he got swept off his confidence by the stringent voice and before we knew it, his oesophagus had become entangled and liver made it journey safely to his mouth. His tongue got glued and his central nervous system began to work topsy-turvy. He rose up fidgety; shivering like a winter dweller of an Atlantic island; looking up and down, here and there like a just-caught thief in the sugar plantation. He was forced to speak but luck was not pleased with him. “Open the locker, I didn’t ask them” was repeatedly chanted by our friend when he was meant to say ‘Ask them, I didn’t open the locker’; that is, ‘ask my mates, I didn’t open the locker’. The class laughed out its intestines; while he got a new name rebirth.