Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Greener in Bo School

Bo School Badge and motto
Ask any Bo School student and he will tell you that there are certain things about the school that are so hammered into you that even on your death bed you are bound to remember them. The first is your admission number. There were a lot of boys in our day  who used to claim to have gone to Bo school, a rare privilege in the provinces in those days. Just ask them what their admission number was and if they in anyway hesitated, for even a fraction of a second, then they were either suffering from some inexplicable mental disorder, or just simply never darkened the doors of that noble institution. Bo School was opened in 1906 for the sons and nominees of Paramount Chiefs in Sierra Leone.

Bo Town
I went to Bo School not by any wish of mine, but by the desire of my guardian and brother-in.law Mr. Mohamed S. Kanneh  who felt that I needed some manly discipline to take life seriously and that the renowned discipline of the boarding home life of Bo School  was sure to do just that. I had grown up in Freetown and  had wanted to attend either the Prince of Wales Secondary School or Sierra Leone Grammar School as did most of my classmates, but as I had no control over my destiny in those days, I grudgingly put Bo School as the first choice on my Selective Entrance papers. The decision was however a major blessing for me as my guardian was transferred to Bo that same year to head the Ministry of Social welfare.

By the time school got around to reopening that year, I had forgotten all about POW and Grammar School and was looking forward to Bo School with optimism and longing.I looked forward to a life that I imagined would be free of any form of parental control at least for  three terms in year.  In spite of all the stories I had heard about Bo School, I was sure that my cousin by marriage the late Sheku Kallon would protect me, as he was in upper sixth at that time and I was told that sixth formers practically ran student life in Bo School in those days. Boy, was I ever wrong to think that Sheku Kallon would protect me!

I was taken to Bo School one Sunday evening to get accommodations and prepare myself for the beginning of school the next day. I was driven to school by Mr. Sankoh my guardian's driver, no relation to the notorous Foday Sankoh. Going to Bo School, driven in a brand new Toyota Stout was one of the first in a series of mistakes that I unwittingly made that would make that first term almost a living hell for me.

Main Administrative Building
When I got to Bo School I was dropped at Liverpool where Sheku Kallon had residence. Bo School has four residential blocks named after European cities; Liverpool, London, Manchester and Paris. On arrival I put down my iron trunk, my chop box and my small bag and asked a group of students sitting in front of the block to help me. The students came around, waited until the vehicle had left, put the chop box and bag on my head and ordered me to frog jump to the block. Thus was I welcomed to Liverpool block D, with my box on my head, jumping like a young frog. In Block D I was assigned a very narrow twin bed, which I was to share with Mohamed Kawusu Conteh, another new student, the son of a famous national politician.

That evening we all went to the dining hall for dinner and was introduced to the meal famously known as "Kondor". We had Kondor  twice everyday, at the end of the school day and late in the evening before night studies. Kondor never changed and the taste was always the same. It was either cassava leaves, beans, peanut soup, or potato leaves. In the rainy season potato leaves were replaced by the swamp variety, "gogodii". The Head of Dining and Kitchen in those days was a fascinating man known as Pa Sam King. Pa Sam King that evening told us, in faltering English, about the times and rules of the dining hall. After Pa Sam King had finished his address the school senior prefect, Steven K. Bio, brother of former head of state and current SLPP flagbearer Julius Maada Bio, divided us the new students from the old ones.

Steven Bio told us that we the new students would henceforth be termed as "greeners". He informed us that in the hierarchy of Bo School, greeners were nonentities or nobodies, with very little or no rights and privileges . "The names of greeners", he said, "were written in chalk, and could easily be wiped of the roster of the school". From thenceforth, we would not be addressed by our names, but by our admission numbers. We were expected to be the main source of manual labour for the school; we would clean the campus and make sure that no weeds were allowed to grow while we were in residence. We would fetch food for seniors too lazy or busy to come to the dining room, and if some seniors found it difficult to sleep, we were to go under their beds and "comfort" them to sleep, a euphemistic term for lying under a bed and pushing it up and down, while the occupant generally felt like a medieval king until he drifted to sleep. In essence Steven Bio introduced us to Bo School's  tradition of serfdom for greeners or rustics, the lowest of the low.

Ngolo Tamba,  A Founding Student
After Steven Bio had delivered his piece, he gave authority to every other school prefect, his cabinet, to come and introduce and say something about themselves . Each prefect generally tried to describe himself as being more terrible than the last one and when they had all finished their individual presentations, most of us greeners were quaking with fear, wondering what in God's name we had gotten ourselves into. After the prefects, the school officers were introduced, who were responsible for the day supervising routine affairs like cleaning and the dining hall. They also came out and did their show and by the time they were all finished, our Kondor plates were very cold.

As if this was not enough, almost every week we had the dreaded practice known as "drilling" The only rationale I can give for drilling was that coming to Bo School for new students was a crime and as all criminals faced some form of punishment, drilling was the series of painful exercises designed to punish us for our crime. Frog jumping, rolling on the hot tarmac in front of the dining hall, lying on the hot tarmac and pretending to be dead, were just a few of the exercises collectively described as drilling. Some of the senior students in those days used drilling to manifest  their evil or sadistic tendencies. One notoriously wicked prefect in those days, who every greener feared to even run into, was Albert Kangbai, popularly known as "The Gbai"

If Adolph Hitler had had Idi Amin for his wife and they had had a child, the product would have been "The Gbai". Albert Kangbai had the tenacity of a rebel combined with the mentality of a terrorist. He had very piercing bloodshot eyes and throughout that year, I never saw him smile. Those who were surprised at the depravity of RUF rebels in Sierra Leone during the war never met "The Gbai". During the war I was lucky to run across Albert Kangbai in Freetown, he was a policeman. Boy was I ever glad that man never joined the RUF rebels, he would have made Sam Maskita Bockarie look like a primary school boy pretending to be bad. "The Gbai" was simply evil in its purest form and to this day I can still vividly remember that sadistic grin he had, when we were being drilled. If Kangbai designed a punishment for you, not even Jesus Christ would convince him to modify it. The more you suffered the better he felt. In second term I had the bad luck of being transferred to Liverpool block A, where "The Gbai" had residence. In block A greeners were punished every morning before cleaning and school. One day I was lucky to come across a list of block assignments and saw that my name under London. I talked to a friendly London prefect who told me that I had right to go to London, because  it was my legal hall of residence. That night I packed my books and few belongings and as soon as everybody was asleep, I crept out like a thief in the night and went to London block B, where I stayed until I left the school. Unfortunately that night there was broom inspection for greeners and having no broom, I was punished until we were rescued by the Hall Master Mr. Bangura, but escaping the clutches of "The Gbai" was more than blessing enough for that night's punishment.

Old Bo School Boy in UK
Bo school in those day was however a great school, in spite of the above. The teachers were excellent and the curriculum was tough and vast. In those days, Bo School was the premier school in the provinces, competing only with Christ the King's College, CKC for academic excellence. Study times were organized, rigid and supervised and we had time to do our assignments and prepare for exams. The seniors interfered with everything, but did not interfere with our study time. Most of my classmates in those days now have advanced degrees in various disciplines and are renowned academics all over the world.

Segbwema blogger 4382 Sheriff
I will always remember my days of being a greener in Bo school.

8 comments:

Hamid said...

lol reading your blog brought a smile to my face for as a Bo School Boy who attended Bo School in the early 90's I cannot only relate to your story but to some of the characters that you depicted.

Georgina said...

Wow, your experiences reminded me at first of the 'fagging' boarding school boys had to do in British schools but the heat of the tarmag and The Gbai sound so much more extreme and petrifying! You have a very vivid memory! Really enjoying your blog, thanks :) hope once you weren't a greener you had a bit more fun!

Sheku Sheriff said...

Yap Georgina, after the greener days, the school became much fun.

Abdul Lamin said...

Interesting recollection Shero. You certainly took me down memory lane. I very well remember "the Gbai" and Steve Bio, aka "Gbesshima." Oh, how can I forget Pa Samking? Bo School was indeed a great school, a true reflection of what our beloved Sierra Leone should be. Thanks for reminding us once again, Shero. Regards!

Panga

Sheku Sheriff said...

Welcome Panga

Anonymous said...

Segbwema Moi,now you are reaping the benefit of that great school.The 'boot camp' like enviroment,the order of authority and most important,the 'silent' and prep hours,instil discipline and the importance of education.Furthermore,a crystal anecdote is the eradication of tribalism from both the mentality and attitude.
2581 Ibrahim D.A.

Adama kamara said...

Hehehehehehe.....I enjoyed reading this article so much.the writer is an unknown Comedian who have the talent of making people laugh at his fingertips.Probably he don't know that..I sat for Bo School in selective,passed,but unfortunately,rebel threats aborted my dream,my parents had to relocate to Freetown with i and my siblings. Now living in Australia with multiple of academic disciplines.
Thanks for the laughter...God bless

Adama kamara said...

N/B Albert Kangbai stole this story...movie directing as one of my careers,i can turn this story in a movie and Albert Kangbai can be the main character.