Girl Interrupted!!!

Photo courtesy
Photo courtesy

I was 10 in JSS 3
We were young, happy and free of worry
Our songs and laughter carried by the wind
Our dreams were wild
Ambitions unlimited!
In New Bussa where school was
There was the River Oli
But we did not fetch water there
We fetched water from the bore-hole in the middle of school
For a 10-year-old girl
It felt like 10 kilometers from my dorm

If the senior girls really wanted to punish you
They told you to leave a bucket in front of the dorm
Take a spoon to the bore-hole and use it to fill the bucket
I usually started to cry before I started the journey…
Two hours of walking from bore-hole to dorm with an almost empty spoon
All the other senior girls were begging on your behalf
And you were released!

School was so much fun
And so routine
We were woken by school bells or the house prefect’s belt at 6.30
Bathed and brushed by 7
At the “dinning” by 7:10 where we said the Muslim and Christian prayers in unison
Breakfast over, we formed a straight file
And walked the other “10 kilometer” walk from dinning hall to class by 7.30
Even on the long straight file to class
All the gist from last night passed from girl to girl
The ones in Unity House, told the ones in Peace House
What senior So-and-so did
The ones in Faith House, told the ones in Charity House
About the bush-baby they heard crying last night

By 7.45, we were seated in class
Barely got enough time to settle
Before the Maths teacher came in…
I hated Maths and he could tell
So he always started class by saying
“Hajara, wear your louvers, so you won’t claim not to see the board”
The guy called my glasses louvers! And wondered why I hated his class
He turned back to the board
I stuck my tongue out
We all giggled
After which he promptly said, without turning back
“Hajara, you are serving detention today”
I stuck my tongue out again
We giggled, everyone in class will write my lines with me anyway
We were free…

Classes were over at 2
Lunch 2:15, went back to the hostel for 3
Siesta started at 3.30
In the 30 minutes between lunch and siesta, we washed our clothes
And talked about our next “socials” when the boys from Borgu,
The Federal Government Boys college nearest to us in Niger State will come over
We knew they would only have eyes for the senior girls
But we knew we’d grow to be senior girls one day
And hopefully start to get love letters and cards in the mail
We were free
Our thoughts were about our choices
We were free to be children no thought of being brides

Siesta started at 3.30
Was over at 4.30
At 5 we went to prep
At 6.30 we went back to the dinning
And at 7.30 we were back in our dorms
Showered and ready for lights-out at 8

My greatest fear then was the Maths teacher
And I easily learnt to deal with him by sneaking out before Maths class
Hence my degree in Law
My actual greatest fear were the wicked seniors and they were very few
I learnt to deal with them by TOTAL avoidance
And faking the occasional asthma attack,
After which no one wanted to come near you
For fear of being the senior who killed you

We called our house matron “Cari” because she always said
“You are making a caricature of yourself”
We called the Vice Principal Admin “Baba Burewa”
Because “Burewa” means ugly in Yoruba and he was…
We had code names for one another
Joined Home Economics because you could eat chin-chin, pancakes
and chicken when you had Catering Practical
We joined poetry class because Mr. Adekanye was the only youngish male teacher in our all-girls school
We stayed on because we fell in love with poetry for its own sake

We were young
We were free
Our cares were limited
Our choices simple
We engaged our wits
The society “parented” us
If you misbehaved in public any older woman could spank you
After spanking you she would say “tell your mother Mrs So-and-so spanked you because you did this”
If you were stupid enough to tell your mum
You got spanked again for “disgracing her outside”
Because it took a village to raise a child

Schooled in Niger, spent vacations in Jos, lived in Kaduna,
College in Kano, lived in Abuja as well
A female child in Northern Nigeria and life was beautiful for me
Today’s young girl in those same places
Lives a different life
Fears going to school
Big men with guns may shoot her at night or take her away
What they will do to her, my adult mind fears to think
She fears being a child bride
Because though this has always happened
A senator has made it a trend for a 60-year-old to marry a 10-year-old
It used to be that you married young but married someone around your age too…
Now she can’t go with her mum to the market
For fear of a bomb going off
Can’t play in the fields because it’s not safe…

Girl interrupted
Childhood snatched away
Budding dreams
Cut before their bloom
Bring back our girls
Bring back our girlhood
Bring back the environment that allowed us thrive
Girl interrupted
Must now be corrected!!!




30 replies to “Girl Interrupted!!!

  1. I spent five years at Police Secondary School Dutse kura in Niger state. Mine was a mixed secondary school . On saturdays and public holidays we freely walked the streets and had lots of fun. I do not want to bring all that up here. It pains me now to know that no mother would want to send her girl to any place in the North now. The violence has desecrated the beauty in those places. It may never be the same again. I pray those innocent little ones come back home, I hope their innocence will not have been completely destroyed.

  2. I spent five years at Police Secondary School Dutse kura in Minna,Niger state. Mine was a mixed secondary school . On saturdays and public holidays we freely walked the streets and had lots of fun. I do not want to bring all that up here. It pains me now to know that no mother would want to send her girl to any place in the North now. The violence has desecrated the beauty in those places. It may never be the same again. I pray those innocent little ones come back home, I hope their innocence will not have been completely destroyed.

  3. Simply apt. Bring back our girls!!! Who will, who is endowed in Nigeria,? Govt? Or the ppl?. This helplessness is palpable.

    1. The helplessness is palpable but we must do our part, keep speaking up and drawing the spotlight to these issues. And when we get the girls back we now need to start addressing the underlying issues that have brought about the state of the nation. We need to be the change we want to see and start demanding real accountability from our leaders.

  4. I enjoyed this. I too went to secondary school in the north and while there was the occasional scare from ‘Maitasine’, it was still a beautiful experience. Sad state if affairs we have today.

    1. It is. May God heal our nation and May it’s people rise up to do what’s right, set foundations of honesty, peace, fairness, justice and accountability, so that Nigeria will begin to thrive again.

  5. Hajara, this is a wonderful piece of poetry which I believe is in honour of the Chibok school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents. Our prayers is for their safe release and return to their parents. Cheers

    1. Thank you so much Mr. Akpabio. Yes it is in honour of the girls abducted from Chibok but also for every girl child in the north, and every boy child who also now fears school. It is in honour of a nation blessed with so so much but which exists way below potential. It is so we will all be stirred to make Nigeria work and thrive.

  6. Hajara, your musings are very reminiscent of how most girls boarding house experiences were. I do have to say you have an excellent memory. I too spent spent my first year away from home in Federal Government College Azare, Bauchi state. I was just 9 years old then. My parents were worried because I was so young but there was no fear for safety then. I on the other hand just could not believe that I was on my own and just loved the experience of being away from home.
    My guardian was mallam Inua, he would pick me up from school and fly with me by air to Lagos. In my last term I came back by train with other students through the deep North passing through places like Mokwa which is the only station I remember.

    My family went to places like Yankari Game Reserve, Kaduna and Jos on vacation, we stayed in guest houses owned by father’s hausa and muslim friends who went out of their way to make us feel very at home, we loved and respected them and they loved us and respected us. We came back south on a train ride that crossed the River Niger and Benue confluence. Those were unforgettable experiences.

    My girlhood as a Nigerian had no restrictions in my thought space, my limitations did not grow out of a fear of what might happen at night to us in our dormitories or when we went to the market, rather it was the stories of the bush babies who cried at night, the very harsh and bitter harmattan that caused people’s feet to split on the heel and lips to chaff so badly it seemed like I had a mustache. That scared me more.

    I sigh with the longing of why did we let these things be taken away, and how can we bring Nigeria back to a better place. I know that we all have a part to play. The Government of Nigeria is non existent, Oil money created a nation where industry, productivity and the collective mean nothing. I feel very deeply for the Chibok parents and girls and know that something good must come out of this situation. The nation must unite and search within itself for the truth to the question ” Why are we here” at this place at this point in history” why?

    My prayer and hope is that every single one of those girls is found and returned home. That the stories about them being married off among the men who took them are mere stories and not the truth. I pray for Nigeria and I pray for the *Chibok Girls *

    1. Oh Modupe! I love your comment! It reminds me of my childhood. We were always at Yankari Games Reserve for holiday. I also like that you say the nation must unite and search within itself the truth to the question “why are we here”. In the truthful answer to that and the desire to take corrective action is the solution to our Nation’s problems. Thank you for stopping by, stop by often.

    2. Modupe, this strikes a chord with me as I also, all the way from Lagos, went to FGGC Bauchi. I was pretty young too, eight in JSS 1 in 1989. I could have gone to any school in the south but my father deliberately wanted us to experience different parts of the country. Thus, my siblings went to FGGC Gboko and FGC Minna as well. Nostalgia hits with me with a force as I remember those carefree days. I remember the unity, the ways parents through the PTA worked together as a team to ensure our transportation and safety. My sis always went to Gboko by air with their PTA chartering a plane. My bro went to Minna by rail with other students from Minna and New Bussa. I, for whatever reason, went by road to Bauchi. We would leave the National Stadium in Lagos in an entourage of about 20-30 “luxurious” buses filled with students going to different federal schools. At Ogbomosho, the FGGC Ogbomosho bus would leave us. Same for Ilorin, Bida, Minna, New Bussa students at different times. Getting to Kaduna by night, all buses would stay in a motor park overnight because the parents didn’t want us traveling at night. At this point, it would be only students of the fed schools in Sokoto, Gusau, Zaria, Azare, Jos, Langtang, Potiskum, Bakori, Maiduguri etc. Suya sellers swarming round our buses with eagle-eyed PTA reps watching our every move. Honestly, I’m crying as I type because that Nigeria is gone. Do you guys know that the murders of the 20+ boys in Feb happened in a Fed Govt College? Hard to believe!!!!!!!!
      The night spent at Kaduna frequently led to lifelong friendships with students from other schools and later liaisons during inter-school debates and such. What is most amazing is that you had southerners from Lagos, from Owerri, from Eket sending their children to schools in faraway Borno. That cannot happen anymore. I had no worries then beyond surviving the cold harmattan. Right there in school, we went to chapel, the other girls went to the mosque. Honestly, without wanting to make it seem over-idyllic, I cannot remember having any religious conflict of any sort with any of the other girls.
      I can’t imagine being at FGGC Bauchi in this present climate. The fear, the uncertainty. By the way, Yankari Game Reserve pretty much shared a fence with FGGC Bauchi. Awesome school with the hills, hills, hills.
      My nostalgia over, let me get on my knees and pray for my country. I wish to one day roam Northern Nigeria without fears for my safety and most importantly, I want every girl to have the same opportunity as I did without any fears. I pray for the safe return of the Chibok girls and all the other girls that have been kidnapped over the years without the government caring.

      1. Amen & Amen dear Manny! Amen! “I want every girl to have the same opportunity I did without any fears”! That is what I want as well. I schooled in New Bussa and took those Kwara Express buses from Lagos there. We sang most of the way from Lagos to Niger State. Character was the basis of friendship not religion. Those were beautiful days and our tomorrow will be more beautiful. I don’t know the how of it yet but I know the good people who want the best for the nation must begin to rise, speak up, must begin to occupy political office. We must start to right the wrongs. Let’s play a part in being the change we want to see. Thank you for stopping by! Stop by often.

  7. I was raised in Benin City, so I really cannot relate to growing up in the North however my heart grieves for the missing girls! I like the fact that Nigerians are speaking up though I still can’t understand why our leaders seem to be playing games with the issue.

    I hope after the girls are found other fundamental issues would be addressed too. Thank you ma for this piece.

      1. May God save our land, may he hear the cry of the people and come to our aid.May God make a way to freedom for theses young ones in a country where there seems to be no clear system or justice…….these young girls…so innocent yet may never again truely enjoy their innocence… do you deal with their fears, the voices in their heads, the shadows… can a girl interrupted be repaired?

        1. I feel you Damie. We will do our part- we’ll keep drawing the world’s attention to it, keep praying, start asking the right questions and also start having the right conversations about what it takes to build a nation where peace and justice reign.

  8. …she’s just a child, she wouldn’t choose this for herself, no one would…

    What kind of country do we live in where little girls in school just disappear? What kind of land is this where education becomes a dangerous choice? It’s easy to exclaim at the news and go back to our lives because the sad fact hasn’t hit our homes. All those who sojourn in the North can pack their bags and come back home; but to where will the rural Adamawa farmer run? And what will we do when the evil spreads across the divide?

    1. That’s why we must intervene now, because there is life after they come home, because there was a reason this agitations started, there is a situation that has allowed this situation to degenerate. There are the issues of inequality, poverty, corruption, neglect, mis-information and unemployment- all of these need addressing and changing and it is us- Nigerians that can change it. Let’s start demanding real change while also being the change we want to see. I appreciate that you stopped by. Thank you.

  9. I read through all these comments and my heavy heart felt a tad lighter. I was in Queens college yaba and at one point, we hosted students from so many federal government was fun, like you mentioned we were friends not based on the color of your language , but on the color of your character. I got admission to university of ife, but my dad insisted that I go to unijos so I could have a diverse experience. He took my brother on a train ride to Jos to school in the air force secondary school. I miss my country both literally and physically. The idyllic past is gone, replaced by emptiness, uncertainty and a bleak future. Before the abduction of these girls, I had been thinking of sending my daughter home to learn our culture but I will rather have her with me than become a mother whose strength has departed, whose.courage has failed, whose.resilience has faltered , whose.eyes are tearless, yet red, because of some nitwits.who.are.carrying out the agenda of evil men.

    1. I feel you Yemi and I think your decision to wait is right. May God guide our decisions and May Nigerians begin to rise and be the change we want to see. Thank you for stopping by. Big hug.

  10. Reblogged this on diademstots and commented:
    It’s over a month since the kidnap of the chibok girls, let’s not keep quiet until our voice is heard everywhere, our prayers answered and the girls brought back home..

  11. Captivating……I also benefitted from education in the north,and like the Author studied law as an offshoot of a genuine hatred for maths,….we would look forward to visiting schools like kufaina FGGC,BAKORI,etc…..a typical secondary school was a mini Nigeria,what do we have now;a nation on the verge of an ethnic cum political meltdown,……..When these girls are found,what next!,they have a lifetime ahead of them,how they get treated,recieved and regarded by society should be our joint responsibility,those brave young ladies are the héroes of a nation at war with itself….

  12. I went to a FGGC Benin city. We were very optimistic, hopeful and free. Part of my worries for the girls is how they would get over the traumatic experience. Wouk tey ever be the same? Pls let us always remember them, their families and our country in our prayers.

    1. Adesuwa, the longer it’s getting the more worried I get about trauma recovery but humans have always been resilient, I keep hoping to wake up to the news that they’ve been brought back so that healing can even begin. Thank you for stopping by.

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