Finding a job after school is another school on its own if you’re familiar with Nigeria, West of Africa where I come from. It’s a school where you suddenly realize the hole called a university education never prepared you for any of the experiences and harsh realities of becoming a graduate at a time when your grandfather is sitting on the throne.
You suddenly feel stupid to call yourself a graduate when you have roamed Lagos looking for jobs of 45k with the semi-illiterate seke telling you there’s no vacancy. Or the boss that just landed from Harvard and just started a cleanup company looking you head to toe after three schedules of interview and tell you, you are not qualified or the pay is not qualified for your certificate.
So after you have tired, you decide to take a teaching job to manage till “e go better.” Mehn I was there but my teaching experience preceded that. Before I go on, there are exceptions to what I am about narrating.
After NYSC, I got this job on a platter to teach English and Literature in a private secondary school establishment. The pay was commendable on the average, I still had a little change at the end of the day. So I hopped in, taking a total of 35 lessons every week, JSS1 to SSS1.
It should have demoralized me but it appeared teaching was a second nature after writing. I remembered the owner of that school stylishly yabbing me when she read on my cv that I had studied theater art – her sarcastic remarks bore the undertone of one who feels superior to. I didn’t blame her, after all she was right.
Not long after I resumed at my duty, issues of salary payments started erupting now and then. And all gracious thanks to Almighty ebola, she withheld our September salaries saying we didn’t resume because of the outbreak. For a little Miss like me, that was insensitive and inhuman, how were we to flaunt government orders to have schools locked till the outbreak was curtailed.
This disparity caused us to go on a no-teaching day after few months. The result was that she called me into her office to blast me for partaking in the strike. In her words, I owed my loyalty to her because I was once a student of that school and I didn’t have any right to go against my masters. Huh! I wasn’t going to make her see her insensitivity. So, I briefly murmured an unrighteous apology and left her office.
The status quo remained at equilibrium until one morning, one of the senior teachers walked into the library where I always stayed in solitude away from the noise and chattering – even if I was a common junior level teacher, I knew my life shouldn’t start and end there, so I chose the barely equipped library to myself.
She was with some examination paper and asked me to come to the examination hall to assist the students.
With a mock shock on my face, bike asked her what for and she said their first Junior WAEC was English language and literature and since I was their teacher, it fell in my place to help them solve the problem in the exam hall.
Now, let me digress a little. This practice was common when I was an SSCE student but not on this unholy, unashamed way. I had my fair share of examination malpractice but that was because I didn’t know any better. And though the university is where most students learn bad stuffs from, every dirt the secondary school system had implanted in me was purged in my 100 level first semester. How that happened is another gist for the future.
Back to the present, I came back to this same school with the mindset to illuminate the students by being a dutiful teacher. I took time to explain literary terms, give vivid illustrations and spend ours mentoring them on the need to stand for themselves without depending on the school system. And someone from nowhere with a paper calls me to come write on some white-marker board for students who were supposed to be taking a national examination. Not me, I turned her down straight to her face and she walked out with that subtle “your own don finish” silence.
After a while, another teacher, HOD Academics, called me into the staff room to discuss same with me. In a bid to point out the errors of the system, I collected the papers and looked through, a dry smile on my lips. Could it be I had spied out the likeable exam questions because hands down, everything I ever taught them in the classroom stared back at me. I told him I would be doing the students a disservice if I ever ventured into the exam hall seeing I had taught and prepared them mentally for the examination. I excused myself.
Hours later while I was walking down the stairs for my next period, some of the students accosted me. I had to stop on my track and find out how they fared. To my utmost surprise the girls told me the exam questions were the exact things I taught them in class. They went on to inform me that the examination malpractice still went on and that the answers the teachers gave the students were wrong since they themselves compared with what they know. One of the girls said to me, “Aunty Esther, they should have left us to do our best. The assistance was not necessary, they just made us look like fools for reading our book.”
I was told to write my resignation letter and leave the school else I would be disgraced. The next month after I got my 30k salary, I returned their books and took a walk and since then I have vowed in my heart that no level of poverty or need will make me teach in any school except its owned by me.
And yes, for education in Nigeria, especially the secondary schools, they’re a fluke, arrant nonsense. I have no resolve whatsoever to desire certificate from people especially if it’s from a Nigerian school.
Like we say: Beware I am a writer and whatever you say may be used in my work. Sorry Alma Mata but this shifty system is taking our future nowhere. I hate to think about a future where my kids will have to copy answers for their exam questions from the board written by the same teacher that spent months, even years teaching them. No, I hate to say, it’s here upon us.
After quiting this job, I decided to pursue what was on my certificate but the experience was not the best. A nollywood producer almost ruined my life.