Arafa

The Great Scholar International School (GSIS) was not particularly great, scholarly, or in any way international. The proprietress, Mrs. Eucharia Odumah, a retired public school principal, had originally intended the school to be a “special” tuition centre for WAEC, JAMB and NECO. The Centre became wildly successful. Over the years, she grew it into a thriving unaccredited school for children from households that could not afford government-approved private schools and did not want their wards in rundown local public schools.

Mr. Segun Abogunrin, who taught Math and Physics, was one of the original tuition centre lecturers who transitioned into teaching full-time at GSIS. He had outlasted countless teachers (and two principals) and liked to tell whoever would listen, of the days when the school was a wood structure housing three classrooms and a handful of students.

Two days before he went missing, Segun Abogunrin followed his usual weekday routine: he woke up beside the wife of his youth, got dressed in khakis and a striped green and yellow shirt, ate his usual breakfast of bread, butter and a hot cup of Pronto, dropped his twin daughters at their school and drove his Saturn SL1 to GSIS. He parked in his usual spot and taught his usual classes.

During sixth period, while teaching quadratic equations in SS2C, he flogged a student. Arafa Jesutofunmi. It was not odd for him, or any of the other teachers for that matter, to flog a student. Teachers routinely and indiscriminately flogged students at their whim and for all infractions: late coming, noise making, poor scores, insubordination, perceived insubordination, and late payment of fees.

And so, when Abogunrin flogged Arafa, he did it without specific malice towards the girl. He was simply doing what he had done countless times before, to dozens of other students that incurred his ire. There was nothing memorable about it. He would go on to flog two other students before the end of the school day.

The next morning, Arafa’s mother, Sekinat, came to school with her daughter, demanding to see the person who had left the thick and bloodied welts on Arafa’s body. Arafa led her mother to the principal’s office, where they both stood, waiting. Mother and daughter were of the same height and shared the same features, except that Sekinat’s face was lined with age and vestiges of a difficult life.

The principal entered the office a few minutes later with apologies. “Good morning ma,” he greeted, settling into his uncomfortable chair. He gestured at the white chairs opposite him, but Sekinat ignored them. “How can I help you ma?”

“Your teacher beat my child,” Sekinat replied. She placed her hands on her daughter’s shoulders and turned her, so Arafa’s back was facing the principal. She lifted the faded grey T-shirt Arafa was wearing and showed the principal the swollen marks on her daughter’s back. The welts looked to be from at least a dozen strokes of cane from a very heavy hand.

“Look at how someone treated my child. Look at how much he beat her! Kilode?! A child, not an animal. See the marks all over her body!”

Mr. Okanlawon listened with a carefully neutral face, masking his annoyance. He hated dealing with parents. He hated dealing with students, teachers, and even the proprietress. He hated looking at class report cards. Hated it all. It was beneath him. In his former life, he had been an assistant branch manager for an illustrious bank, with designs of becoming a branch manager within a few years. Then came that ill-fated week in February 2002, when the Central Bank revoked the licenses of several banks for insolvency, and just like that, he found himself back in the murky job market. Most banks (the ones that were not affected by the CBN revocation) were not hiring ex-bankers, and at the ripe age of 42, it was difficult for him to pivot into an entirely new career.

He had found this job by luck; his wife and Mrs. Odumah were both deaconesses in the same church, and when the former mentioned to the latter that her husband was out of work, Mrs. Odumah requested an interview. She was looking for a principal, and it would be fortuitous to have one that could act as an accountant, and treasurer, and administrator for the same pay.

Okanlawon was pulled from his unpleasant reverie by Abogunrin’s entrance. “Mr. Abogunrin,” he started. “Welcome. This is Mrs. Jesutofunmi. Please explain why you disciplined Aisha.”

“Arafa,” Sekinat corrected.

Abogunrin took a few seconds to appraise the mother and daughter before he responded. “She was rude and was disturbing the class. She kept interrupting me while I was teaching, and then hissed at me when I asked her to leave the class.”

Sekinat shook her head as he talked, “that is not what my daughter said happened! She said she corrected a mistake you made, and you beat her as if she stole something!” Again, she turned her daughter this way and that way, displaying the injuries on her face and arms.

“She is a liar,” Abogunrin countered. “Corrected my mistake? I have been teaching for 20 years! What correction can she make?”

“You should not have beaten her to this extent,” Sekinat said quietly.

“I will not apologize for disciplining a student! Your daughter does not have home training. That is why she thinks she can talk and behave anyhow she likes. If you won’t train her at home, she will be trained outside.”

“I trained my daughter very well.”

Abogunrin snorted derisively. “It is not evident.” Okanlawon cleared his throat and stood up. “Mr. Abogunrin…”

“No!” Abogunrin countered. “I will not be disrespected. I suggest you do a better job with your child.” He looked at his wristwatch pointedly. “I have a class to teach. Is that all?” Without waiting for a response, he walked out of the office. There was a beat of silence; Arafa kept her eyes on her feet while Sekinat and Okanlawon had their eyes on the door Abogunrin had just walked out off.

Okanlawon cleared his throat softly. “I am very sorry ma. I will personally look into the matter. Will Aisha be attending classes today?”

“Arafa.”

“Ma?” the principal asked.

“Her name is Arafa,” Sekinat answered coldly. She looked at the principal in an assessing manner and then nodded as though coming to a decision. She took her daughter’s hand and walked out of the office.

The next day, Abogunrin drove his Saturn to school, parked in his usual spot, got out of his car, and walked out of the school compound, without a word to anyone. Around 12pm, when he did not show up for any of his classes, the principal sent the school messenger to his house to check for him.

The messenger returned with a distressed Mrs. Abogunrin in tow, her face shrouded in worry and a lot of fear. “He left home this morning,” she repeated to whomever asked, and Abogunrin’s green car, parked in front of the block of classrooms was irrefutable proof that her husband had indeed left home that morning and driven to school. As the hours went by, her tone went from questioning to accusatory, implying that whatever had happened to her husband, had happened to him in school.

At 6pm when there was no sign of Abogunrin, the principal sent the messenger to the proprietress’s house. Mrs. Odumah arrived at the school impeccably dressed, suitably worried and exuding authority. “Mrs. Abogunrin, I promise you, we will find your husband,” she said, inviting Mrs. Abogunrin into her office.

The gateman confirmed that Abogunrin drove into the school compound but walked out almost immediately after parking his car.

“Where did he go to?”

“I don’t know,” the man responded, distressed. “I didn’t check.” The next morning, the matter was reported to the police. They questioned everyone to no avail. Morning after morning, Mrs. Abogunrin resumed at the school and stood by her husband’s car, as though hoping that if he would not come home for her and their children, he would at least come for his beloved Saturn.

The police were helpful for a few months. They interrogated everyone they could, and when Mrs. Abogunrin pointed accusing fingers at Sekinat Jesutofunmi, naming her as the last person her husband had had a disagreement with, the police arrested her. Sekinat was released after five days, on the DPO’s orders. The DPO did not tell his men, but every night after the woman was arrested, he dreamt that he fell into a deep well filled with dead looking bodies clutching at him, chanting Abogunrin’s name.

Mrs. Abogunrin went to Sekinat’s flat and begged the woman for forgiveness. She appealed to their shared motherhood, begging on behalf of her two children who still needed their father. She went back again and again to beg; she went by herself and with emissaries – a pastor, an imam, a traditionalist, family members – but nothing changed. Abogunrin did not return home.

 

1 Comment

  • Ikenna Onwumere

    5 months agoReply

    Hope this is not this tales end

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Welcome! I am a recovering writer learning the ropes again. It is a pleasure to have you on this journey with me. I hope you enjoy reading the stories I write, as much as I (hopefully) enjoy writing them.