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An unforgettable early experience at BBHS
by Femi Ajana
I arrived in Nigeria equipped with a basic understanding of Yoruba, nothing I had been told could have prepared me for my stay.
BBHS was my father’s second choice, he had wanted me to go to Abeokuta Grammar school, but fortunately their quota for first year students had already been matched so I was admitted to BBHS. The irony was that my father worked for NTA Abeokuta and I had visited Oke Egunya on many occasions without being aware that I would be singing about it for the next five years.
As I stepped into BBHS Oke Saje, I surveyed the immense land that was to be my school for the next five year. My father and I went into the Principal’s office and we were met by the bursar who took us through the registration process which consisted of filling out a form and adding my name to the register. The Principal dropped in to the office while we were filling out the forms and he introduced himself as Mr I.O. Idowu.
The next stop was to the tailor to get my School uniform made, imagine my horror when I found out that the school colours were the same as the primary school local to us in Ibara (Ogbe Primary School). Even though I joined the school in the year of free education my dad insisted on buying me a mathematical set (my first ever) and the first of many copies of Sankey and some exercise books.
My dad dropped me at School on the first day and I was directed to the church hall for registration. I surveyed the school grounds from the front of the hall, the canteen and food sellers stands were directly opposite, the food sellers were already setting up their stands, "Iya oni buns" seemed to be the most popular as there were a gathering of students even before she had finished setting up.
The first day we were allocated to classes and I was allocated to 1C, somehow some of the students got to learn that I had come from London, someone coined the phrase ‘Aje Butter’ and it stuck. After a week my dad informed me that I’ll be going to school on my own, he saw me to the taxi rank and introduced himself to a student of BBHS (one Senior Fatai Ogunbodede). My dad showed Snr Fatai our house and a deal was struck – Snr Fatai agreed to branch at our house everyday so we could go to school together.
Snr Fatai was very punctual he would get to our house at 7.30am without fail which was more than enough time to get to school. I was not as punctual as Snr Fatai and when he came to the house I would invariably be eating breakfast or ironing my shirt, by the time I was ready it was usually 7.45 which only left thirty minutes for the journey from Ibara to Oke Saje. I noticed that Snr Fatai would get anxious if we were running late and I didn’t understand why until around my fourth week in the school. At the school assembly the principal came on to the platform in front of the form four class rooms with his head bowed, I soon learnt that whenever Mr Idowu came to the assembly with his head bowed one of his students had bought the school into disrepute and this usually ended in someone being caned.
On this occasion, he had behind him a group of around six boys who were all late comers; they were motioned into the corner and they knelt down all throughout the assembly. I thought they had been forgotten about, but just as the assembly was ending the Principal motioned to them and exhibited them as the tardy group bringing our school into disrepute; they were all given ‘six of the best’ – an euphemism for six strokes of the cane. This was the first time I had seen any thing like this I found it very amusing the way the boys jumped around when the cane hit them. I knew they were in pain but I couldn’t understand how the quick wrist movement of the teacher issuing the punishment could cause so much pain it appeared that the teacher did not move a muscle but without fail every stroke of the cane resulted in the same jumping around.
A week later as Snr Fatai and I were walking up to the school we heard the bell, everyone with a white shirt started to run for the assembly points. I lost Snr Fatai along the way and by the time I got to the Bell ringers stand point I was out of breath I couldn’t run anymore, not even the sight of Mr Idowu could move my legs. I leisurely walked up to him making sure to say hello, he probably didn’t believe what he was seeing "The bell has gone and you are walking. Follow me," he thundered.
I was led onto the platform opposite the form five building, the assembly flew past and before I knew it I was being primed for ‘six of the best.’ I heard the cries from the assembly ground of "Aje butter" "e fe pa" I smiled weakly not knowing what to expect (as) the teacher (my French teacher) motioned for me to assume the position. I would learn to my cost never to bend over too much or clench my buttocks just before the cane hit. The pain from the first impact of the cane on my buttocks was unbelievable, before I knew it I was running towards the field, holding my back and screaming at the same time. The whole assembly was reeling in laughter including the teachers; that was one of the many occasions I was glad I did not attend a mixed school. I was coaxed back to receive the remaining five, but only because the teacher realised he was dealing with an amateur and relaxed the strokes.
In one day I learnt so many lessons the principal one being whenever you are late run like a mad man for the assembly point.
The assembly point was usually the venue for the public canning action, I remember on one occasion (after my first flogging experience) Snr Man Willy (I forget his real name) was given the choice of ‘36 of the best’ or expulsion. He chose 36 and was given his punishment at the assembly. On that day Snr ‘Man Willy’ went up in my esteem he took all 36 without tears – that was some feat.
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