Boarding School

Once Upon a Boarder: The Beginning

QC GirlI vividly remember my first day in Secondary School. I woke up that Sunday morning with a spring in my step. I was finally going off to boarding school and not just any school, the famous Queen’s College aka QC! Every single item (useful and useless) on my check-list had been bought. Between my mother and myself, we knew that I didn’t need 12 dozen name tags or 10 dozen handkerchiefs…but if the school said I needed it, so be it!

I walked through the gates of Queen’s college in my oversize Sunday wear, dragging my matching suitcases behind me. I had bought the cases while on holiday that summer and refused to tear the protective covers off until that morning; I needed everything to be brand spanking new. The confidence with which I approached the check-in desk was impressive. I refused to let my mother speak on my behalf, determined to handle the process like a big girl. I banished her to a corner while I sorted out the formalities. I didn’t want her escorting me to my dorm room either but she insisted so I grudgingly let her. The corridors were filled with the sounds of JSS1 girls bawling as their parents left but no, not me. I all but shoved mine out of the door so I could explore my new found independence in peace!

The reality of my situation didn’t dawn on me until I woke up at 1am the following morning needing to pee. There was no light (power cut) and the silence that engulfed the boarding house area was deafening. All the stories I had heard about witches, wizards and some female spirit that wore stilettos (madam koikoi), visiting students in the middle of the night, came flooding in. For the first time I wondered why the hell I was not in my mother’s house where her fervent prayers were sure to keep demonic forces at bay. I didn’t want to be the newbie that wet her bed though so I grabbed my Rosary, flicked on my torchlight and sprinted to the toilet. I have never peed so fast in all my life. I raced back to my dorm and buried myself under my bedspread in record time. Clutching my Rosary, I chanted Hail Mary’s until God had mercy on me and put me to sleep. That was how I survived my first night.

My first shock came when I was woken up a couple of hours later to have a shower. I stared at the well-meaning junior dorm captain (JDC) like she had lost her mind.

“But it’s 3am!”

She patiently explained to me that junior girls didn’t dare venture near the bathrooms after 5am, especially not a fresher like me. Earlier was better if I intended to attend my first day of classes smelling fresh.  And that was how I found myself having a shower at roughly 3.30am. In the coming days I discovered that that shower had been a welcome present from the gods; for it was one of the only times that year, water flowed in the bathrooms!

If you went to boarding school in Nigeria, you will know there is a hierarchy and JSS1 girls are at the bottom of the food chain. I didn’t know this till I had my first encounter with a senior the very next day. I was lying on my bed hatching my escape plan when my thoughts were rudely interrupted by a senior shouting my name.

At first I ignored her, I really wasn’t in the mood for conversation, but the third time she screamed my name, I sensed danger.  It was too early in the game for drama so I dragged myself out of bed.

“Take this bottle to slabs and fill it with water.”

It didn’t occur to me that I didn’t have the right to refuse, so refuse is what I did.

“Sorry but I’m not in the mood to go anywhere.”

I knew I had said the wrong thing when all the seniors in the vicinity, who had been lazing in bed half naked, sprang to attention.

Shouts of, “Ehn, junior girl what did you just say?!” filled the dorm and in hindsight, I would like to thank God for sparing my life that day, for only He can explain how I dodged a bruising!

The senior, under the influence of grace, sat me down and gave me the lowdown on how things worked. In this new order I found myself in, I was the equivalent of a slave, the property of my seniors. If I dared disobey them or be rude to them, they would send me to join my father in the afterlife.  Once she was satisfied that I understood my place, she thrust the bottle in my hand and ordered me to find my way to slabs. The JDC pulled me aside and kindly informed me that slabs were the rows of taps by the Sick Bay, where students fetched water.

And that was my first encounter with a senior. Much as I hated the fact that I was rudely ejected from my bed without a choice in the matter, I like to think I won that round. If she looked closely, she may have spotted traces of saliva floating through her bottle of water. Or maybe not.  After all, I did give it a good shake!

New Series: Once Upon a Boarder

Hi folks!

Guess who’s back, back again. Waila’s back, tell a friend! #hieminem

Yes, we’ve been here before but let’s not dwell on that.

It feels good to be writing again but I must admit I’m a bit rusty. I don’t remember it taking me this long to churn out a post. I guess that’s my punishment for neglecting the craft for so long.

I’d like to thank the Twitterati for shaming me out of hiding. I’d been meaning to snap out of the funk and resume blogging but when one of my old blog posts suddenly started making the rounds on Twitter, I logged into my blog and was shocked at how long it had been since I had last published a post. I honestly thought it had only been a couple of months. Somebody say deluded!

Well, I’m back with a brand new series!

QC LogoYou know I like to document my memories and what better memories to pen than those I amassed at Secondary School?! If like me you went to a government boarding school in Nigeria, you will know that it was a life changing experience. For those of you that don’t know, I am a QC girl…that’s Queen’s College to my non Nigerian readers. It was one the most popular schools in the country and while I will admit it was one of the better government schools, there was nothing posh about it. Really, nothing!

Lack of ‘poshness’ aside, I don’t regret my time there. It taught me so much about the world and life in general. I always say that QC was a pretty good replica of the real world. There aren’t many schools where you will find the daughter of a driver sat next to the daughter of a multimillionaire. We had students cutting across the tribal, class and financial divides and it really did give you a glimpse of real life.

Many of the relationships I made there are still going strong and while academically I didn’t learn a damn thing, I did learn how to pass exams, iron without an iron and rebel without appearing rebellious!

In this series, I will share some of my secondary school stories with you. Each story will be complete so there’ll be no waiting for part two. It will be interjected with other posts though so if you find that next week I write about something different, be not confused.

The first story will be up this week. I am not active on Twitter so it’s not the best place to look for me. If you subscribe to this blog, you will get an email alert when the post is published. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates!


Instagram: @wailacaan

Happy Wednesday!



A Whole New World

I was 11years old and leaving home for the first time. I’d been home alone with my mother for two years and I envied my brothers their independence. My mother and I turned up at my new school with my two bulging suitcases in tow. The prefect at the check-in desk had a check list as long as my face and efficient mother that I have, I wasn’t missing a thing. Not even the twelve dozen handkerchiefs they insisted I bring.

Parents of new boarders were allowed into our dormitories to help us settle in. Most JSS1 girls cried when it was time to say goodbye to their parents but I didn’t. As soon as my mother had helped haul all my property to my dorm, I gave her her matching orders.

“Don’t you want me to help you unpack?” she asked in surprise.

“No mummy, I’m fine, you can go now.”

The seniors laughed at me. “You had better let your mummy stay as long as possible because as soon as she goes you will start crying.”

Cleary they didn’t know me. I smiled at them politely and then sent a frown my mother’s way.

“Mummy go now!” I moaned.

“Okay,okay, I’m going.”

As soon as she left I unpacked my bags and made my bed. I couldn’t wait to tie a wrapper round my chest, bra straps on show, and lie in my bed like everyone else was. I could taste the freedom…and it was sweet!

I’d been there twenty four hours when I had my first run in with a senior.

“MEE, take this bottle down to slabs (the taps) and fill it with water for me.”


As soon as I responded the entire dormitory went silent. I was confused. Had I done something wrong?

“Why not?”

“I don’t feel like going downstairs.”

She smiled at me and patted her mattress. “Sit down.” I sat.

“Let me explain how things work around here. I’m a senior and you’re a junior. When a senior asks you to do something, you do it.”

 “What if I don’t feel like doing it? It’s not by force is it?”

“It is by force. If you don’t do it, she will punish you and believe me, you don’t want to serve punishment.”

“What kind of punishments can they give you?” I didn’t get it. Only my mother, aunties and teachers had ever punished me.

“They can ask you to kneel down and fly your arms. Or pick pin. Or hang from a bunk. Or if you really piss them off, they can beat you.”

“Beat me? I will beat the person back!”

At this point, all the seniors in my dorm had gathered round us and were listening in awe. The laughter was deafening.

“Don’t worry, you will soon learn. For now, take the bottle and go and fill it for me.”

I obeyed. I wanted to go and visit my cousin to explain this foreign concept to me and the slabs were en-route.  When I replayed the conversation to my cousin she laughed herself to tears.

“Thank your stars that the senior was nice to you. Anyone else would have punished your life out.”

“Please this punishing business, how does it work? You mean any senior can just punish me if they feel like it?!”

“In a nutshell, yes! I suggest you do as you’re told if you don’t want to land yourself in trouble.”

I stared at empty bottle in my hand, thanked her for her advice and headed to slabs. I wasn’t ready to be punished, not just yet. I knew I would be at some point though. There was no way I was going to spend all my time running errands for people. Some of them would just have to accept no’s from me but until I figured out which one’s I could afford to defy, I smiled politely and said yes to every Tom, Dick and Harry.