My name is Emeka Hakeem Onabanjo. I live in a third world state inside a third world country. I am 12 years old, in secondary school or what you call High School; my second junior year, and I really don’t know where my life is going right now.
I know I am not expected to know what I want for my future when I am not even a teenager yet. Don’t worry, you’ll understand after you read my story.
You see to understand my story, you have to know some basic things about me. My parents are dirt poor, like scraping the bark of trees to use as charcoal/firewood to cook the little produce that comes out of our ‘garden’. Food that never seems to satisfy us. The always ‘eating without meat or fish’ kind of poor.
The last time I ate fish was when my ‘rich’ uncle came to take me to the urbanised-rural part of town and brought fish for my father. Fish that my mother immediately cooked for us, including my three younger brothers to share.
Well, in truth I was glad to leave that house because six of us living in a single room bungalow which only passes as a glorified mud house was just too much of a burden for me.
So here I am now in the bus travelling with my uncle, tightly hugging my nylon which contains all the clothes I have – about three shirts, a short and two very well faded and discoloured jean trousers. Hey! I had to give some of my clothes to my younger ones. Boy, they sure are growing up fast.
I begin to see the sights the city has to offer, buildings made out of concrete, painted in different colours.
Goats and Chickens moving around freely on the streets (this actually made me laugh. They shouldn’t dare migrate to my village because they would definitely have to partake in the hunger games), restaurants here and there. In truth, the city is really something.
But then we pass the city, the bus starts speeding fast on the untarred road, raising dust and making us close the windows. Now we are technically in a moving hell with bodies sweating like the body of a cup of ice cool water.
We get to the village in the city (that’s the best description for it) and then trekking a few ways down the road, to his house. A house which is a step up from the mud house I was living in back at home but isn’t that much different from it. At least it’s just us three – my uncle, his wife and I – that’s staying in the shabby two bedroom bungalow.
Now my new life had begun. Every day I wake up by 4:45 am to clean the house and do my chores, which three days a week includes; walking a few miles to fetch water, pushing two 25 litre kegs on a wheelbarrow. By 6 am, I am on the farm weeding, hoeing, planting, harvesting whatever is on ground for that day. Then I go home, eat, wash the plates, bathe and then start trekking to school.
I usually barely make it. Always getting to school by 7:38 am or 7:33 am on good days. Not like the good days mean anything since once it is 7:30 you get flogged/punished for coming late. I’m used to it now, the cane striking my hands and buttocks.
Only some teachers who know what’s up with me usually try helping me escape punishment by sending me on an errand or something. And then I sit in class, half listening to the teacher, quarter part thinking of the stress the present has to offer while hoping for a better future.
The remaining quarter goes into asking the supreme being for help because any moment now, I can get chased out of class for not paying my school fees. Yet I am still one of the brightest minds in class, only constantly bested by Agnes Christiana Silva. She has no worries so why shouldn’t she be the best.
She’s a beautiful girl, by the way, high class and not for someone poor like me. Then there is Francis Williams, the pompous arrogant arse (wow finally, I am using the words I learnt from the dictionary accurately).
It’s a struggle between us three, then there is the rest of the class. From the poor homes, sad children going through what I am going through or even worse to children from middle homes, to the rich and chicken-eating children.
“That’s what makes you special” my home economics teacher said to me one day, “you are the only one from a poor background doing even better than those who have nothing to worry about. Those who have so much time on their hands that they spend it eating and literally enjoying the good things in life”.
I can’t say she’s wrong, though, I believe I am special, I just hope the world gets to see it before my body gives out.
2 pm and the bell rings for the end of school and beginning of afternoon lessons if you pay for it of course. My uncle who is supposed to be paying my school fees but hasn’t, wouldn’t hear of the lesson. Heck, he doesn’t even know about the lessons. I just tell him school closes by 4. Anything to escape the ‘glorified slavery’ life that I am living.
These are precious times for me 2-4 every day when I go to the library and immerse myself in books of all sorts. Science fascinates me and art intrigue me but then I want to have the satisfaction of counting and seeing so much money like bankers do. I will probably have a tough time picking which to major in when I get to senior secondary, if I ever get to senior secondary since now I am owing two terms worth of school fees.
Whew! Such life.
By 4 pm, I start trekking back home. My daily dose of ‘fitness’ complete. On getting home, I eat then go to the farm again to work. Back home by 7 pm, do whatever is there to do like washing my uncles and his wife’s clothes (weird washing at night seeing as I am not a washing machine), bathe, do my assignments, pray to God for a better day tomorrow, speak to my family back in the village on the phone and lie to them that everything is going well in the ‘city’.
I usually tell them that I am doing well in school (which is true) while omitting the fact that my uncle has yet to pay my school fees for the second term running now, and then sleep like around 12 am.
Till a few hours time when I wake up and live the same life.
It’s just like that Tom cruise movie slogan. A movie Agnes gisted me about. She’s such a beautiful story teller by the way, oops! I’m going off point. she tends to make me do that. Anyways, the slogan ‘Live, Die, Repeat’ which in my case is almost right, because with the way my body aches every day before I sleep it off, I can swear that I usually die instead of sleep, only for oxygen and my alarm to wake me up by 4:45 am.
But what can I do except ‘live, die and repeat’ until something better comes along?
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.