By Kate Henshaw
“F rom North, South, East and West we come to FGGC Calabar. With honour and loyalty yield ourselves to thee, to mould and groom. Rolling land of pleasant memories, nursery ground of feminine graces; we adore and make the promise to shine for thee, FGGC”. That was our anthem in school, Federal Government Girls College, Calabar.
Wearing our light green shirt/blouse tucked into dark green tunic (JSS1-3) or dark green skirts (SSS1-3), white socks, brown school sandals and a dark green beret will complete the look as we filed out to morning assembly where the principal would address us. We would then depart to our different classrooms for studies with the different teachers each of whom had different characters we either loved or hated. I will come to that later on.
In the school, you were either a boarder or a day student. I was a boarder. I was terrified the first day my late aunty dropped me off at school on the first day of my resumption with an enamel bucket for my bath, a bowl for my soap and sponge, a broom, a cutlass and hoe for weeding, two cans of carnation milk, one packet of St Louis sugar, some beverage and cornflakes, my uniforms, bed sheets and other assortments. I was taken to my dormitory which was called Enene House and along with other new entrants; we met with the House mistress and House Prefect and were taken to our bunk beds, given lockers and shown where to keep our boxes.
We were given a tour of the house and given the rules and regulations. There were five houses in the school for boarders namely; Enene House (purple), Queen Amina House (green), Moremi House (blue), Remmington House (brown) and Mary Slessor House (red). After classes we would get back to the dormitory and change into our day wear, chat with friends, do our assignments or just chill in the room. I had a school mother (an older student) who looked after me and made sure I was ok.
The school was quite big and had a lot of grounds to explore. It had undulating hills, quite a number of building dotted round, lots of green grass and trees all around. If you explored far enough, you would even come across a stream. You could not go round the whole school in a day, it was that big. Enene house was very close to the gate. There were two entrances into the school. The first one took you to the administrative block while the second one gave you access to the boarding houses.
The dining hall was situated at the bottom of the hill from where my house was located. Meals were often swapped for a particular preference, for example if I did not feel like eating egusi soup served on a particular day; I would swap it for a meal I loved on another day which would mean a double serving for me. I loved that practice. Weekend meals were a lot better and hardly any boarder missed her meals.
It pays to also be nice to the lady in charge of the kitchen as you might just be the beneficiary of extra meat, fish or a bigger portion of food. Provisions in the lockers were reserved for special days so one had to conserve till visiting day arrived and your parents or guardian would bring more provisions so you could replenish your stock.
Our teachers each had their quirky characters; Mr Afuekwe had a boisterous and energetic nature and taught physical education. He was also responsible for coming round to the dorms on Saturday mornings as early as 4am and we would be roused from our beds by his persistent blowing on his whistle to go jogging round a pre-arranged route.
He was also responsible for training us in volley ball, hockey, badminton, basket ball, long jump, high jump and table tennis. Mr Onyenagiri taught geography (or was it biology), he was soft spoken and had one sleepy eye; Mr idika taught mathematics and he was short with a round pleasant face. Mrs Emesi taught English.
She wore glasses and had a slow way of explaining things to you with a gentle voice. Mr Nwametu was our religious studies teacher; he had a strong character and sort of a hard stance about him. Mrs Okon was my house mistress and also taught English.
She would make sure you spoke in Queens English each time she interacted with you and would be quick to correct you if you did not. Mrs Otuka or Mem Otuka as she liked to be called taught French and woe betide you if you got your tenses wrong; she would pull your ears or rap on your knuckles with a wooden ruler! Mrs Nwachukwu was always nicely turned out in her outfits and high heeled shoes which you heard pounding the passage to class if she was headed your way. She taught fine art. Mrs Inyangudo was our Vice Principal though she is late now and Mrs Bassey was the Principal.
Each and every one of them made an impression in our lives and till this day, anyone who was in my year, still remembers their every nuance. When we do get a chance to meet, which is few and far between, and worse still for me because of my schedule, we always have a laugh and remember the times when we were boarders at Fegocal Base, as we call it.
To be continued.