I came into class a bit later that thursday morning. A few of us had been selected to clean the Head teacher’s office. As I came in, I was welcomed with whispers from the other pupils. Mr George was not in class but no one dared talk aloud. ‘come join us‘, ‘you are dead today‘, ‘when Mr George will meet you there eh‘… were just a few of the whispers I could get.
I didn’t understand what was going on but before asking, I hurriedly place my huge brown bag on my desk and joint all the other boys before the class. They were all kneeling down. I could not recall when last I knelt down before the class and returned to my seat unbeaten. I managed to squeeze my little self to the back to avoid being among the first to be beaten if (when) it came to that. I managed to understand the problem after asking one or two pupils. They said Mr George would be back anytime soon to and had promised we the boys of the class a great deal of morning tea. Beatings. His reason they said was that someone had stolen his whip. His doctor do good. He had left it on his table the previous day instead of locking it up in his drawer like he always did. That sounded crazy to me. Why should he punish us for his own carelessness? Who could be bold enough to steal his whip in the first place? Why was it only the boys, did girls not steal too?
I had not heard him make any threats but I was contaminated by the fear of the others already. The girls reaction made it worse. They sat in groups murmuring among themselves, with some looking very pleased with the fate that was about to befall us. Like some of the boys, I went to the door and peeped left and right. When I saw no one approaching, I ran to the flowerbed to pick up a shiny grain of sand. After cleaning the soil from it with the loose end of my blue shirt I put the grain into my mouth and ran back to class.They say the sand grain helps you to absorb the pain of the whip. It had never worked effectively on me though because after the first or second stroke of the whip I would either spit it our or swallow it. I knew there was coming a day it would work for me perfectly like it did for the big boys. You never saw them cry even after a terrible lashing. I greatly wished today would be that day for me.
The murmurs in class were getting louder now and we had almost forgotten about Mr George when he walked in. In a split second, everything returned to normal. All the boys in class four were on their knees and the girls on their respective seats — looking innocent. Mr George wore a grey shirt, a black pair of trousers and an old pair of leather shoes. He didn’t seem as visibly irritated as the others had said he was. He held a piece of paper in his left hand and about four or five freshly cut cypress branches in his right. They were his whips. He placed the whips on the table and turned around. My heart stopped beating. It wasn’t a matter of numbers, he was muscular and I knew he could have us all thrashed like two or three times and still have the strength to do it again. Why did he have to be so powerful? He was a sharp contrast to my class one teacher. How gentle she was…
‘Why are you all out?’ Mr George asked. ‘my list says just 21 of you have to be out here or are you all eager for punishment?’
Mr George didn’t really seem eager to beat us all that morning so he patiently sorted out those he had to punish and let us go to our seats. The 21 boys were those of the first column who had refused to keep the class clean on Wednesday and had left the work for the girls only. Was that my sand grain at work?
I retired to my seat feeling lucky but unwise. Unwise not foolish. Yes, my head felt big and heavy like it did whenever I felt foolish but I didn’t feel foolish. I wasn’t the only one. But how could I just follow the crowd? How could a handful of boys trick almost half of the class? If the teacher had not been in his good mood we all would have surely received the price for our folly. It’s really true that when you follow the crowd you are no better than a sheep. Where was my sand grain? seemed like I lost it again. I took a deep breath and reached for my big brown bag, it was time for another lesson.
#beunique #standout #makeachange