School Memories: Of the rich, the poor and the pretentious

We had three major categories of students.

There were rich students. They would arrive from their mansions seated alone in the back of big tinted cars. Their underpaid, exhausted and starved chauffeurs would then carry their heavy suitcases to their respective dormitories.

They would spend the whole term never having the opportunity to chew on the meat of weevils or other strange elements we occasionally found in our food.

Their testimonies about God’s goodness generally revolved around going on trips to places whose names the rest of us couldn’t pronounce. Or getting brand new electronic devices we didn’t know were in production.

Then there were poor students. This category of students was sent to school with prayers and empty suitcases.

A poor student was likely to arrive at school with a goat’s smell or other people’s sweat probably from being squeezed into the only small vehicle that transports people and animals from her village.

Even if a poor student arrived at school unscathed, you could still identify her based on the level of enthusiasm with which she would partook of the school meal on the first day back from the holidays.

It was as if poor students were in school not just to learn but to escape poverty-related catastrophes such as hunger.

Because they fed on beans twice a day, students were bound to pollute the air especially on hot afternoons. Even if the pollution was caused by another category of students, the poor got blamed for it.

For instance, for every episode of pollution, the rich students looked on in disgust and judgment. It was as if the rich students’ bodies had an in-built factory that emitted gases that only smelled of fine perfume.

But the most interesting category of students was that of the pretentious. These were poor students who took carefully calculated measures to hide their poverty.

At the beginning of term, at least one pretentious student was sure to let out a loud gasp. “Oh my God! I forgot the bag containing my eats at home. I placed it right next to the fridge and left it there.”

If you asked that student why she couldn’t just call home and have the bag delivered, she would look at you as if you’d ask for her liver. “My mother would kill me. She has been telling me that I am careless because we are rich.”

Then there those that were always claiming that their eats had been stolen even though there was no report about a theft in the past.

It even became an inside joke at our school to hold out your cup and beg for sugar by saying, “Girls stole my sugar, some sugar.”

Whether the invented story was about carelessness or theft, you all took turns taking care of her.

She would come to you looking repentant and regretful for the burden placed upon your life.

But her all her pretentious remorse could not compensate for the physical and emotional pain with which you parted with your grains of sugar. She was supposed to know. She was poor like you.

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