From the title, you can guess I am a teacher. But you may think this is about sleeping on duty. No! You see, when I say, “sleeping in my classroom” I mean to say ‘living’ or residing, as in, turning my classroom into where I live. And this is no school hostel either. Now that is clarified, I wish to let you know that it isn’t all that bad.
Haven’t you heard of stories of people in other parts of the world who made weird places their home such as the airport? Let me share a story by Janet Bednarek, a professor at the Department of History, University of Dayton, who wrote about how a 36-year-old man named Aditya Singh, this January, was arrested after he had spent three months living in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport as a short term resident. She reported that “Since October, he had been staying in the secure side of the airport, relying on the kindness of strangers to buy him food, sleeping in the terminals and using the many bathroom facilities.” Unfortunately, after he was asked for an ID, which he couldn’t produce, Aditya got busted by the cops and that ended his jig.
People are homeless
In Lagos, people who have made the bridges and bus stop their homes are into the millions. Governor Sanwo-Olu recently opened up a new flyover in Agege. I guess he may not have realized why hundreds of homeless Lagosians were jubilating in thunderous applause. Such bridges are abodes to millions of people who find solace provided by the shelters of these flyovers.
Please, do not get the wrong impression. I am not homeless. Already in my 50s, this is just one way of surviving the harsh economy gifted to us by the caricature of a government that does not bother about the welfare of its citizens. Over six decades have elapsed in this country and the same old issues of infrastructure, power, health, education, shelter, water, security, and transportation for the commoners still pervades.
Why do I sleep in a school?
Why do I sleep in the school where I work? Residing in my classroom helps to cut the cost of transportation. My home is quite a distance from where the school is. Transportation alone, every month, gulps 33.3% of my salary. Rent takes away almost 20%. School fees for my four kids wipe out another 20% and my take home, the lowest average earning for a Lagosian, is a mere three times the minimum wage! In the end, there is barely enough for the other necessities of life: food, clothing, health. When these necessities come knocking, others must give way. It’s a journey through hell, I must say.
I would have preferred a higher paying salary such as N400,000 (four hundred thousand nairas) per month which is a mere $800. But such nice paying jobs are nowhere to be found in Lagos. The lack of jobs, truth be told, made me venture into blogging. So once in a while, I pop up an article or two hoping to get the attention of the world. Lately, though, I’ve been getting dizzying spells of frustrations and disappointment because, after two years, my blog refuses to yield a single dime.
Nigeria is still in a recession
February just ended and I distributed my paltry income into school fees, house upkeep, and sundry. As usual, I was left dry. Then my wife called me on phone telling me I needed to send more money for the new week coming up. There I was, in my classroom, on a lazy Sunday, with my back on an old rag duvet spread on the floor, all I could hear is Michael Jackson’s Speechless. I was speechless for one minute before I cut my wife’s call. It seems ‘madam’ refused to believe that we are still in a recession. Please, don’t mind what the Federal Government declared that Nigeria is out of recession, WE ARE STILL IN RECESSION, PERIOD!
My nostalgic experiences
To prepare for the new week ahead, I cooked a pot of beef stew on Saturday. At the Ogba market, where I bought beef worth a thousand naira, I thought I could outsmart the meat sellers by buying the beef in two places. I pleaded with the first meat seller begging him to sell N500 meat. I did the same thing with a second meat seller. My purchases turned out to be quite expensive. The pieces of meat were about 12. The next day being a Sunday, I received two visitors (security guards working in the school). I entertained them with rice and beef stew.
I still feel this dejavu nostalgia whenever I think about how a biochemist like me ended up as an Art teacher. If the pay was great, I may have been satisfied. But, it’s like, I’m stuck in limbo. I’m not moving anywhere and sometimes I feel my life force is slowly giving way. I’m no longer the young and energetic man who was ready to take on the world. I certainly am no longer that handsome starry-eyed youth imagining how he could take over the world by showcasing his raw talents of music, comedy, and art. I’m now in my 50s, I’m a man whose dreams have been broken by a broken country.
My new mission on earth
If I had a wish from a genie, this would be it: get three million naira (about $6000) and build a cheap house in Badagry so that when I die, I can be buried in my property. Believe me, that is my new mission on earth. If you wish to assist in actualizing my goal, feel free to send money directly through this blog’s donation page. In the meantime, I lie down on my raggedy old duvet spread on the classroom floor, as I await a new week of teaching children how to do art.
I woke up around 2 am reminiscing on my current predicament and thought of sharing a piece of my life with you. I hope to write more, so please keep in touch as I pass through this phase of life. Have a nice week.