It started with a game, it seemed innocent. We were a bunch of 9 year olds bored out of our minds waiting for our end of term test results. The teachers marked the exams as we occupied ourselves. How? Well some days we were caned for “noise making”. There was a list of students who spoke during the supposed “quiet time”. What the hell do you expect nine year olds to do when no adult is around and there is a pack of cards around? Duh! Laughter, pain and yelling. Evelyne’s name was always the one someone was hollering out when Penny, was writing down the ‘noise makers’ names. Penny was the teacher’s ‘pet’. She did anything to please any teacher. Evelyne was the cheat in every game of cards.
Solo was always on that list as well, not because he was ‘making noise’ aka talking to his desk mates, but because Penny just didn’t like him. It wasn’t quite clear what the terms were, but needless to divulge too much information. It all revolved around a missing skipping rope that allegedly belonged to Penny – “Miss Perfect” that skipped its way into Solo’s hands. Solo like his name, minded his own business. He never spoke much and when he did he just had a way with words and cracked us all up. The teachers loved him for that during class. He was asleep when no teachers were around. It was amazing that he never had it out for Penny like the rest of us did.
Finally after two days of visitaions to the teacher’s staff room for a whopping the teachers got tired. It was a distraction and a point of irritation, so we were finally let out. Imagine that? One and half weeks of nothing but fun and games at school! Dad always found my attitude in the morning rather curious, no more tears, no early morning fights over breakfast, no moodiness. I was a chirpy eager child.
I will never forget, it was the first week of August, the rains had been pounding all July and this morning, the sun shone and warmed up the city. As always we had Assembly at 8am and then rushed to the fields to play. Chobo was the game. It was a stick in a mound of dirt and everyone playing would take turns to remove dirt from around the stick without it toppling over. Sounds simple and innocent right? Right?
For some reason Tabitha decided that it was time girls played this game.
“What was so sacred about it anyway for boys to play alone?” Tabitha barked at the boys. The boys nodded and gestured for us to join them, so we did. We were briefed of the rules and it was made clear, that this was an equal opportunity game, girls were treated the same as boys! “Finally” I thought. Gerald got a nice solid twig and heaped a mound of soil and stuck the stick through the top of the mound firmly.
One by one, we all scraped off a bit of soil from the mound, laughter turned to tension as the soil reduced around the now unstable twig. And then finally after 10 minutes of waiting, the twig fell during Tabitha’s turn. I have never seen anyone run that fast. Her school uniform flapped violently as boys and girls ran after her to Chobo Ngoto her. Pretty much punch her; from a dress flapping in the air, to legs and arms flailing in the air. Tabitha wasn’t able to make it to the ‘safe’ tree fast enough to avoid beating.
There was laughter, and then silence, Tabitha fell still, she wasn’t breathing and she was bleeding. I screamed and ran to the teacher on duty, who was passing the area, who sent a student to get the school nurse at the sanitarium.