Wednesday, 28 January 2009

What is the connection between Mentals -Morning assembly.

Do we still have mentals in school? Growing up, this was one definite way that school started for me. My first real alma mater was located somewhere in La not far from Alonte Bar (if you don’t know this is opposite the La Palm Beach Hotel) - Kojo Sardine and the Trade Fair.(first real alma mater because until then the schools I attended were to keep me busy till my mama came for me.or is it that I have forgotten - got to ask my mum!) I remember these morning rituals, they are ever so ingrained in my mind (and you will understand why by the end of this text) as well as the connection between mentals and morning assembly.

Okay so back to this great school, (its alive and kicking by the way). Mentals always started at 7:20 am after a bell is rung for a period called silence. Silence period was not really a period of silence ( still to find out why we used this name). Silence period was after we had swept our sections of the compound (I was in red (house one) which also came after having my long walk to school which was also after I had taken my morning tea ( by this I mean it could be coffee, cocoa or real tea) at home. You see my school was in our area so I did not have to take a trotro or any sort of transport.( which is the way it should be for most kids).

Now about the walk, on the way to school you usually met friends and caught up on the latest kokonsa or who had the ‘’new wili’’ (new release) or what Jagger Pee did on TV theatre the night before. Even if you didn’t watch it you had to think some story line up and give your tale with ‘’hmmm’’ ‘’eheh’’ ‘’paa’’ and the likes.

The sort of friends you met on the way depended on the time you made your way to school. There were the early morning birds who even on a rainy day were never late. And if you happen to meet Rahman ( not his real name) then you were really late in which case you double your steps or start thinking of a good excuse to give the teacher on duty, failure of which your back/buttocks are subjected to some early morning ‘’hot coffee’’. (I mean lashes/caning in case the dadaba’s don’t get what I’m saying). (One of our teachers was so good at this, that he developed 2 ways of caning and depending on how lucky/unlucky you were he could give you options- do you want normal caning or german strokes. Imagine! Sorry my poor back)).. anyway more about canning/ lashes later in another episode.

So now that you know how I got to school, let’s get back to the mentals. Mentals (and its agonies) started when you got class 2.(most of us were around the ages of 7and 8, except for the few methuselahs who had managed to sneak in among us kids unnoticed). In class 2 a one Mr Roberts, gave us our first intro to many unwelcomed mentals. His was pure orals. (written mentals started in the senior classes). Immediately the bell goes for silence Mr Robert would pick up his cane and pick a poor soul to begin with. In truth mentals was over within a space of 20 minutes. But being there, one minute was an eternity of torture. During this period we would all become white as our little powdered faces and few us would become reflective, praying to God that something would happen to the teacher to stop all this madness ( oh yes I did pray) . Even the noisy and too known girls and boys were mute and became ‘’bedee’’ ( i.e.soft).

The thing was, you had to learn the times table and not only that but to be able to remember it by heart. Added to this is the pressure of a tall cane loving teacher before you about to swing his cane at you ( as if he was weeding his overgrown cassava farm) if nothing sensible came out of your mouth within the 2 nano seconds of him asking you with a shout ‘’sevvvennn taimes eighhht..’’ I tell you that even if you had learnt it all the previous night before at that moment and unspeakable point in time you will forget it, you become mute, the whole class is silently watching you, and even though it was a funny sight nobody laughed. Because the woe you are witnessing would soon become yours. You could only laugh after you sat down on your lashed bottoms. He usually asked for the times table counting after seven or eight because you couldn’t say the tables fast enough before he gets you with his cane. Even if you start saying it in your head (hence the word mental) by the time you got to eight or seven the cane swinging like cassava farmer would already be at you doing what he loves best. We were bonded in this ceremony because of the unfortunate situation we found ourselves in, so as you stood in your seat you go through every question asked as if it was your own, and wonder how you would fare if that ‘’sevvvennn taimes eighhht..’’ shout had been thrown at you. You also silently prayed that someway somehow you will get yours correct and be spared the mornings caning. In this environment the notion that learning is meant to be fun had not been born yet.

But there was a saviour, which also came in the form of a bell. This bell signalled the end of a session (which we gladly welcomed) and the beginning of another dreadful session- morning assembly- i.e if you didn’t bring your handkerchief to school or your socks was not white enough or something of that sort. It meant another caning session. No wonder most of us hated school that much. So now you know the connection between mentals and morning assembly- german strokes nkoaaa!!!

There were some funny aspects (a lot of them ), but that would have to be told another day.

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