The Art teacher’s memoir began when the alarm from his android phone buzzed at 4.30 a.m and Lakemfa jolted back to life surrounded by his mosquito net.
The smell of acrylic still hung in the air. A reminder that a painting job had been rounded off four hours ago. Lakemfa said a silent prayer and crawled out of his mosquito net. Several small holes in the mosquito net would have been large enough entrances for the indefatigable mosquitoes. But the diehard Art teacher would not permit these tiny carriers of death to touch him. He simply tied up the holes with a white sewing thread. The art studio where Lakemfa sleeps lacked window nets so a bed net is an absolute essential if he was going to survive sleeping in a primary school art studio.
Unfortunately, Lakemfa had to find out the hard way that female anopheles mosquitoes from the valley close to the primary school, do not forgive at all during feeding time. The result of his complacency was a disastrous battle with malaria fever.
Lakemfa had approximately two hours forty five minutes to prepare himself. Within this time frame, teachers and pupils would pour into the school like an army of hungry soldier ants. He certainly would not want them to find out that he sleeps in the school.
Part of his daily itinerary included the use of the toilet, bathing, brushing his teeth and having an early breakfast at six thirty. But after today’s morning routine, he checked his phone time and it was just five forty five a.m. This was just too much time before school begins. ”How do you while away a whole hour of bliss?” Lakemfa whispered to himself. He decided to go back into the net and read from his android phone.
Electricity is a luxury in Nigeria. Lakemfa had certainly prepared for blackouts in his art studio/bedroom. He had invested in a 15,000 mega AH power bank; two energy saving light bulbs that can be plugged into a power bank; a mini hand fan that can also be powered by a power bank. A rechargeable flashlight is also very essential.
It is noteworthy that these electrical gadgets are 100% Chinese. What would Nigerians do without cheap Chinese products? I am not saying that the Chinese have done anything wrong because they, the Chinese, did provide solutions, albeit temporary, to a big Nigerian issue. This issue has rendered the country totally poor, backwards and degenerate. Poor Nigerians! They are still at a loss on what to do about provision of constant electrical power. Many household depend on electric generators powered by fuel. Even the Nigerian government is clueless on what to do about this MONSTER of the dark.
All dressed up after having his early breakfast, Lakemfa decided to read the following article from an education website in order to while away time:
The publication, “Ideal True Scholars,” published a research carried out by Bosah Ifeoma, et al, that classroom disruptive behaviours can be prevented and controlled when stakeholders join hands together. The publication added, “The researchers in line with the findings recommended among others that the government through the school administrators should provide a conducive learning environment for both the pupils and the teachers and the parents should ensure that their children are provided with adequate learning materials…bla-bla-bla.”
Lakemfa hissed and muttered, “The government will do nothing about such a research.” Suddenly his mind glazed and instinctively went into an override. Mental pictures of his horrendous marital disaster flooded his psyche.
Lakemfa’s wife gave birth and the child turned out to be another man’s! He struggles once in a while with this mental demon. Sometimes his thoughts turn into a wrestling bout. Four months before her delivery, and after suspicions and quarrels, she had confessed to her infidelity and sort his forgiveness. Despite this, Lakemfa could not overcome the mental torture. In order to suppress the pain, the art teacher forced himself to become a prisoner of conscience. He confined himself to sleeping in his place of work in order to escape reality.
That is the simple explanation of how Lakemfa ended up sleeping in a mosquito net, in a school. His real intention was to avoid contact with his wife. Another way he banishes pain is to spend hours and hours browsing the internet on his phone. His phone had become his best buddy and confidant. He is so tormented that he just couldn’t trust anyone.
The fresh morning breeze soothed Lakemfa’s psyche as he battled his demons. Focusing on how his morning class would go, the Art teacher noticed a slow movement through the windows. Iremide Ikeh suddenly sauntered into his art studio and ‘demanded’ the Art teacher allow him play with plasticine. Lakemfa jolted back to reality as the chubby brown Nigerian boy stood at the doorway with his hands folded in front of him. ” Iremide! Manners now…You should greet your elders in the morning. So what do you say?”
Iremide is not the average primary school pupil. He is dyslexic. “Good morning Mr. Lakemfa. May I play with plasticine?”
Lakemfa teaches in a highbrow private school in Lagos, Nigeria and the school had deemed Iremide ‘special’ due to his short attention span and occasional disruptive behaviour. But you need to admire the little boy’s chubby good looks and lovely phonetically sound English. Academically, he is way below average. Iremide is nine years old in primary three with learning disability.
Of course, Lakemfa did not get heated up in anger at the effrontery exhibited by this little boy. Irenide’s insistent ‘demand’ innocently spiced up with the word ‘please’ literally unlocked the door to Lakemfa’s heart. “Okay, Iremide. But take note of assembly time.”
Happiness sprawled all over the boy’s face like a spider weaving web in speed motion. Iremide wasted no time. Lakemfa noticed his gleeful expression as he kneaded the plasticine dough with his chubby brown fingers.
During break times, Iremide never failed to show up at the art studio. He models a diverse array of perfect plasticine dinosaurs. Every dinosaur had a name. He would also name the specie. “This one is a Pteryldactyl. This one is a Tyranosaurus Rex and that one is a Brontosaurus. Some names seemed unfamiliar to the Art teacher.
The art studio became Iremide’s ‘only’ classroom. A second HOME?- pun, intentionally added. Whenever Iremide gets to school early, he stayed in the art studio until assembly time. Unfortunately, Iremide can’t stay after closing hours because he goes home by school bus.
Lakemfa knew he had found an Art prodigy.