Walking past the classroom corridors with juniors and seniors avoiding you & pleading the blood of Jesus; classmates making the sign of the cross on the chair you just got up from; fearful gazes and stares in the hostel and countless sessions of prayers against you is not the ideal situation for a 10 year old away from home…
The pain of returning to school after the holidays was always heart wrenching. I literally could do anything not to go back. Not much because I was leaving home but because of what would be awaiting me in the hostel. I had almost no friends at the time as everyone was careful of being initiated. It wasn’t always like this…
I started off my secondary education in the 1990s in Federal Government College, Ilorin. It was the farthest my nine years old self had ever been away from my home in Lagos. Little wonder I spent most of the school session in the sickbay. I was best described as “a bag of dry bones”. After a while year of sickness and not settling in. It was time for my parents to think of the next step. I was transferred from the school clinic into the vehicle that came to pick me on the last day of the term. Thanks to the good Samaritan who helped me pack my few surviving things from the hostel, I would have gone back with nothing.
Of course, my parents had to quickly settle for a new school in Lagos that was easily accessible for my mum to visit me. If only we could foresee my emotional future in my new school. My new school was a Baptist mission school. Because the decision was not concluded on time, I had to join the school in JSS2 second term. I was quite excited that I was going to a new school, close to home and it was a private school.
My joy was however short lived when I returned from home the next term after a short sickness break and started noticing the strange stares and gazes. Had I done something wrong? Did I forget to do my portion (designated morning chores)? I didn’t have to wonder for too long, as some seniors called me and asked me to confess to them. Confess what? That I took something? Or that I told a lie? Those were mild issues. But that wasn’t it. It was a bombshell that would blow my mind, emotions and social relations for the next couple of years.
They said “I was a witch”. Whao, I never knew that. This was a new revelation. How come I was just hearing this. It was a news that shattered my little world. Unfortunately, the rumour spread like wild fire and almost all believed it. I became a plague that needed to be avoided. Seniors and juniors would be singing victory songs whilst passing by me, classmates avoided using my things or lending me theirs. It was traumatic.
Sadly, I couldn’t even confide in anyone because I almost started avoiding myself. I tried to convince them that I was’t a witch but a little girl who just wanted to enjoy her childhood. But every attempt I made was used to blackmail me. It was so bad that I feigned nightmares to avoid going back to that school. I would latter come to learn that there was a witch the session before that confessed and was expelled but she promised to come back so they thought she came back as me.
Of course it affected my academics: I mean how do you explain a girl who started off amongst the first five in the class moving to the last position by the next term. It took me almost two years of emotional trauma before I eventually told my mum at home (through my younger sister though). Then she came and met with the school authorities and told them off. Well, it got better and eventually I was able to fully enjoy the last year of secondary school (high school).
But I tell you, those were hard times. Very hard times. I got suicidal. I had written a note, and went to the place I planned to execute the act but something overwhelmed me and I wept bitterly, bitterly that my head hurt so badly. No child should go through such stigmatisation and emotional trauma. These things lead to depression, mental health problems and sometimes suicide.
I can imagine a lot of the people involved might have forgotten about this… Funnily, I don’t remember the names or faces of the accusers again. I’m healed now, totally free and forgiven because Christ took all the pain away at Calvary… The Joy I now feel is beyond this blog can convey to you… You too can be healed and set free!!!
I encourage parents to listen to the spoken and unspoken words of your children. Let them feel free to confide in you no matter what they have done wrong. No child should be made to navigate through life without love, emotional support and guidance…