By Juliet Rogers
Sanctuary High School (S.H.S) is located on the hillside of the city which stretched parallel with a deep valley, just beneath it. A shallow stream gently flows in the heart of this valley. It is clean throughout the year, refreshing the students. Thirsty students were often seen with their cupped hands, helping themselves, quenching their thirst in the absence of the pipe-borne-water. Here, scattered silver-round brick buildings representing S.H.S was established by the colonial masters and had contributed immensely to national development in every way. It had always been among the excellent schools in the city of WABODU. Everyone wanted his child to attend S.H.S considering the excellent track records in its excellent public examination results. It has produced classical professionals, including engineers, medical doctors, barristers-at-law, accountants, economists, teachers, lecturers, social workers, and the list goes on.
The day Senesie Tambii and Brima Stenor gained admission into S.H.S was remarkable. Both were in full gear to do their best to continue their excellence that accorded them the entrance which was always a herculean task in such a prestigious school. They stemmed from the rest and avoided every negative influence. “Boys, be at your best at all times, for we are living in a competitive and collaborative world,” the valley breeze had helped the principal’s voice to carry the words to them, igniting their sobriety in every academic endeavour in their school.
It was early that afternoon when the day’s temperature was at its hottest, somewhere approaching two O’clock, waiting for the last bell to end the day’s ordeal – two things were always on their mind: the scorching heat in the class of fifty (50) students, next was the food awaiting their arrival home. Their class suffered the most heat since the ‘ada’ tree that shaded the building had been cut off and left the building to the merciless rays of the sun. After school, the students would quickly walk home and gulp in anything their parents might have prepared in anticipation of their coming home. But that day directed their attention to something else and not their usual hurried walk homeward. The sound of the bell competes with the cacophonic voice of the students outside – thickly trooping towards the common bill board of the school. This gained prominence over the dingdong of the bell. “The armageddon, the armageddon, the armageddon,” the students outside shouted, for this was how they referred to their timetable that scheduled the second term examination. This examination was very important in S.H.S because failure in it will disallow a student to write the promotional examinations. Thus, even before the end of the academic year, every student had known whether he will be promoted to the next class or not. While they were out there, perusing the timetable, with noisy anticipation of a hefty examination, Brima’s attention was redirected by the sight of his uncle who had been sent from their home, Tarliya, fairly a big city of a high commercial value. Brima grew static. He had spent one term and that was almost the end of second term. Neither his uncle nor any other family relation had ever attempted to visit him at school, a school that was located nearly thirty-five miles away from his home. He was not friendly with his uncle. His lazy uncle always felt that the boy would deny him his brother’s properties upon the death of Brima’s father. Saffa Landaka, for that was how he was called, never did anything to upgrade himself either at school or a trade; therefore, he had always envied who was obviously conscious that his father’s shop and many other assets and estate belongs to him, and to him alone, especially when he was the only heir. He had always confirmed this to Uncle Saffa Landaka. The sight of him that very afternoon brought many unanswered questions to his mind. “Is he here to harm me by evil spell? Is it that he is here to smear me with ‘bad luck’ so that reproach will be my portion anywhere I go?” He could not ascertain the motive for his presence until he approached him.
Brima Stenor has actually forgotten about the timetable. He no longer took part in the loose conversation that freely flew around. “Why are you in such a loss like someone in a trance? Are you seeing a ghost?” These were the questions his friend, Senesie muted after observing him for a while. All Brima could do was to gesticulate with a pointed finger in the direction of his approaching uncle who had almost wedged his way to reach him in the thick crowd of students.
With nothing to tell his nephew, Saffa Landaka held him tightly onto his wrist and started pulling him away, gently dragging him from the crowd of students. In the same style, Brima also held on to Senesie’s hand in a firm grip – it became a tog of war being drawn in only one direction. As his uncle drew him, he also drew his friend. When they were a little away from the crowd of students, the words that formed the sad news came out reluctantly: “Brima,” he paused hesitating to break the sad news to his nephew. “Your father, our father is dead.” Before he could complete the remaining words, Brima yelled, and he collapsed in the arms of Senesie Tambii. As the drama continued to unfold, Senesie dropped the paper he had copied the timetable and focussed on his friend’s strange situation.
Brima went with his uncle that day to Tarliya. He took four days. Returning to school to write his examinations, he surprisingly performed excellently well. Because he had studied before, his father’s death did not negatively dent the good quality of the result.
However, his third term suffered debilitating effect because of the trauma his wandering thought brought him. Even before the fortieth memorial ceremony of his late father, Brima Stenor invited his mother in his room. He opened up his mind to her before the reopening of third term. “Mother,” he said “I’ve been on the road of education, formal education and my journey has been excellent, but I think I have to change my opinion on this. Now that my father is dead, I think I should continue my father’s business before opportunists step in to claim it,” he concluded. “Are you sure you are making the right judgement?” The mother asked. “Remember, your plan has been to become a medical doctor,” she concluded. But Brima was resolved that he will continue his father’s business. His dream is to become a big and successful merchant. He no longer concentrated at school. He neither copied notes, nor did he do his assignments. In fact, his respect for teachers dropped to the lowest ebb.
His classmate and friend, Senesie Tambii, raised a concern: “What is wrong with you? We’ve gone nearly a month into the third term, a term that will gain you the most desired promotion to another class. Did you do Mrs Nicole’s assignment on the conjugation of the verbs ‘to get’ and ‘to have.’ You most know and do one. Choose one – ‘A’ or ‘B.’ ” Standing there with a stern look on his face, he protested: “I’m no longer interested in your foolish and hopeless assignments. Let Mrs. Nicole goes to hell together with ‘he comes, he came, you come – no more – I’m now a business man. I’ll become the next important continental merchant – look …” “Shut up,” Senesie agitated. “Remember what I’m telling you,” he continued, “They will steal your wealth, all your riches, but there is one wealth that no one steals, no matter how smart and skillful the thief will be; he cannot steal your knowledge you’ve acquired; therefore, acquire it today, and you are wealthy forever.”
That was how Brima dropped out of school and stoutly engaged in his father’s business. He started to thrive quite well, with new friends and connections. The fame of his business went beyond Tarliya. His success was on the lips of even toddlers. He lavishly spent his money in order to gain fame. Every youth was his youth, every criminal was his criminal, every challenge in the lives of others was his challenge. He paid salaries to his numerous business agents every mid-month, some of whom were not productive with virtually nothing to contribute to the life stream of the business; regrettably and foolishly, some business items, though yielding great interest, were dangerously illegal – Cocaine, ecstasy, heroin etc were stored up annexed to his main shop. He dealt in them all.
Three years afterwards, business started starving, to the point where he could not pay his workers. They became disgruntled and planned to rob him which they accomplished one night. There is no more estate to revamp his collapsing business, for he had sold everything in the past to beat up his father’s battered business into his own design. Taking a law suit against suspects could not help him because he hadn’t the financial muscles to maintain the investigation, as well as the lawyers; this forced him to drop the legal venture. After three years of fruitless exploit, the case was thrown out of court for want of evidence.
Bumping into Senesie Tambii, Senesie, now a medical doctor, who had already learned about his predicament, could not allow him to explain himself. He remained his unfortunate friend what he told him 10 years ago: “… there is one wealth that cannot be stolen, no matter how the thief is smart, and this special kind of wealth is knowledge, the knowledge you rejected; it was the best road worth taking, something you and I chose, but you diverted your course to take another – goodbye!”
Juliet Rogers is a Societal Engineer, Life & Emotional Intelligence Coach.