“Hey! You there, can you please tell us the meaning of Nightingale”, the principal’s voice echoed in Ayomide’s mind. She could hear someone talking but she didn’t know the owner of the voice was pointing right at her, not until a hand tapped her from behind.
“He’s talking to you”, the girl behind her said.
“Me?” Ayomide asked shocked by the girl’s word
“Are you deaf or what. You without the school uniform”, the principal seems to be annoyed.
Ayomide suddenly realized she was the only one not wearing the school uniform on that morning’s assembly
. Before she could utter any word, the principal ordered her out to stand right in front of her fellow students and tell them the meaning of Nightingale.
She climbed up to the podium slowly. She was a bit ashamed now. Who could have thought that a carefree girl like her would be intimidated by the principal? She stood beside the principal lost in yet another series of thoughts.
“Now tell us”, it was the principal again.
“Night-in-gale”, she pronounced the word as though it was the separate words.
The senior students burst into laughter when they heard her. The JSS 1 students didn’t know the cause of their laughter but some of them could be seen smiling
“Quiet everyone!” the vice principal who has been quiet seen the beginning of the assembly that day commanded.
“Nightingale”, the principal corrected Ayomide ignoring the student’s laughter.
The principal, Mr Gbadamosi is a man of discipline. He doesn’t tolerate indiscipline. It has been his tradition every session, since he joined the school, to ask the new intakes the meaning of Nightingale which is the name is the school. Every session has always been the same. No JSS 1 student has been able to provide the meaning correctly. Then, he will always take it upon himself to tell them the meaning but he has never met anyone who could not even pronounce the word let alone give the meaning. He was amazed and was already planning on the best discipline method when he heard the girl’s voice for the second time that day.
“Singing bird”, Ayomide said. “It means the bird that sings melodiously”
The principal was astonished. He couldn’t believe that the girl who he corrected just now on the pronunciation of Nightingale could actually know its meaning. The whole student in the assembly hall were quiet. If a pin drops at that moment, it won’t escape the hearing of both teachers and students of Nightingale Academy. The JSS 1 students on the other hand awaits the stern looking principal’s disapproval. Instead the principal announced…
“A round of applause for her”, they could all hear the principal’s voice.
Right from the moment she answered the question, Ayomide knew she was right.
. She remembered reading it somewhere in a story book. “Nightingale flew across the sky”, she could remember vividly. As inquisitive as she was, she immediately checked up the meaning in her dictionary. Still, Ayomide let out a soft smile when the principal announced she was right. She wanted to leave the podium as soon as possible.
“What’s your name young girl”, the principal demanded interestingly.
“Ayo’, she responded immediately as if the question would automatically take her back to her line or so she thought.
“Ayo?” the principal was surprised. He wanted to scold her but acted otherwise. “You need to tell your name and surname my dear. You’re not among your friends”, he advised calmly bending a bit to peer into her worried face.
“My name is Ayomide Cole”, she responded with a smile.
“Okay! I see you have potential. Keep it up”, the principal commended. “It’s good to have you in our school, go back to your line”
Ayomide kept smiling until she got back to her line. “Could it be I’m beginning to like this school”, she thought.
After that moment of triumph, the vice principal, Mrs. Smith, read out the school’s rules and regulations from the school’s handbook among which are; lateness and laziness are not allowed, obey your senior at all time.
“Failure to comply with these rules attract punishment to the deterrent… I mean appropriate punishment from the disciplinary committee”, she concluded her speech.
Ayomide knew she has violated two of those rules just this morning, her first day in school.
“If o only my mom had enough money to pay for my school’s transport. If only I didn’t have to change my school, if only we didn’t move from our old house, if only my dad was still alive”, Ayo muttered to herself taking herself down the memory lane on why she was late that morning
. But here she was with no choice. Her mom had told her that she would have to be trekking the distance to and from school everyday as she couldn’t afford to pay for transport. Ayomide doubts if she could cope. “If only school wasn’t a necessity”.
Ayomide’s mother, after the death of her husband had managed to secure a job as a clerk in an organization a bit far from their new home. She was employed based on the knowledge of computer training she acquired during her pre-university days
. Before her husband’s death, she never bothered to work because her husband provided all that she needed. Things has changed since then, she now have to fend for herself and her beloved daughter.
Due to the distance of her workplace from where she resides, she always leave home at exactly 5:00 AM and comes back between the hours of 7 O’clock and 9 O’clock at night depending on the traffic she encounters. Although this morning, she didn’t go to work early just so she could go to get daughter’s school to pay all necessary dues. She already took permission from her boss at work, he was however considerate
Mrs. Cole left home 30 minutes after her daughter did and headed straight to the latter’s school. She got there while the students were just marching into their classroom. She entered into the cashier’s office where she met Miss Bimpe, a young lady in her mid twenties.
“Good morning ma”, the cashier greeted with smiles on her face as soon as Mrs. Cole entered her office.
“Good morning”, she responded.
“I’m Miss Bimpe”, the cashier introduced.
“Erm I’m Mrs. Cole”, she reciprocated.
“What can I do for you ma”, miss Bimpe demanded politely after offering her a seat and welcoming her to the school.
“I came to pay my daughter’s school fees”
“Okay, may I know your daughter’s name?”
“Ayo… Ayomide Cole”
The cashier looked up the name on the laptop in front of her
“JSS 1 student right?” she demanded from Mrs. Cole
“Yes JSS 1”
“Okay, her bill is 35,000 naira with additional 6000 for transport if you’re willing ma”, Miss Bimpe explained.
Mrs. Cole paid a sum of 30,000 naira to the cashier and promised to pay the balance of 11,000 before the months runs out.
“I hope you do know that your child will be sent home if she doesn’t balance up within the first four weeks after resumption”, Miss Bimpe reminded.
“Oh! Yes I’m aware and I promise to pay before then”, Mrs. Cole said. She initially wanted to pay the whole sum of 35,000 naira at once but after trekking the distance herself, she realized it’s really far from home and wouldn’t want her only child to continue. She then decided to pay for transport but the money with her couldn’t cover all the expenses just yet.
. She hopes she can pay the rest before the end of the fourth week. Her thoughts were interrupted by the cashier.
“Ma, your receipt”, miss Bimpe handed over the receipt to her.
“What about her uniform?” she demanded.
“That would be given to her along with other necessary things”
“I can take my leave then?”
“Not yet ma”, Miss Bimpe responded and handed over a piece of paper to her. “You still have to fill this form”
Mrs. Cole filled the form hurriedly while constantly checking her wrist watch. Miss Bimpe noticed this and advised her on an easy way to pay the fees without having to come to the school.
“You can pay the fees via mobile transfer or by going to the bank”, miss Bimpe advised. “The account number is below the receipt”, she added while collecting the filled form from Mrs. Cole and handed it over to her almost immediately “Ma, you have to sign here”
“Thank you so much for your assistance”, she appreciated after appending her signature on the form.
“You’re welcome ma. Enjoy the rest of your day”
Mrs. Cole hurriedly left the cashier’s office. At the gate, she glanced at her wristwatch. It’s past 10 already.