I was literally shaking as I stood in front of the classroom, eyes shut so tight I could see silver stars beneath my eyelids and wondering if I was going to go blind. Hands outstretched in front of me, palms out, I dared not ease the tightness of my shut eyes. I figured opening my eyes would increase the pain I would feel once that piece of hose pipe landed forcefully on my palms. I could almost feel the pain, anticipating it and almost crying out loud. I squeezed my legs so tight for fear of wetting my pants right there in front of the whole class as I waited for that beating.
It seemed like I waited for an eternity, which just increased the fear I felt and worsened the shaking. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I opened one eye really slowly, hoping the beating wouldn’t land right when I opened them all the way. Surprisingly, that highly anticipated sting of pain never came. Not the physical one anyway. I opened both my eyes fully in order to take in what was going on. My teacher seemed stunned, like she couldn’t move or say anything. She just stood there, gawking at my hands, mouth half open, one hand on her hips, the other raised close to her face still clutching the hose pipe that would reduce me to tears, amid cries for mercy. I was so sure she was ready to hit me but something did not seem quite right. If she was going to hit me, why was she taking forever?
I had always heard of kids being beaten in school by their teachers but had never experienced it personally or actually seen a student being beaten. Kids in the neighborhood always spoke of how they took a beating for noise making in class or not having had homework done. But it never happened to me, not once. I drew comfort in the fact that I attended a private school, one where beating of students was unacceptable. Boy was I wrong! After third grade, my dad decided it was time to change schools because my current school was negligible; my little brother and I had suffered accidents on more than one occasion during recess which landed us in hospital, always happening at the same time like it was synchronized. And so, off we went to another private school, one really known for its high performing students and ridiculously high fees. I wasn’t keen on going to this school mainly because I hated change and also, once or twice I had heard of students being flogged by the principal and it always sounded so harsh!
I had no say in the matter though, and off we went to Tree Tops Primary School to start off fourth grade (my brother was in second grade). I was in a class of at least 25 students, all smart and intelligent. And the teachers, they all seemed friendly at first. Until the one time I encountered a near beating from the teacher who had me seeing silver stars behind tightly shut eyelids.
It took me a few seconds to realize why the beating I so highly anticipated and dreaded never came. As I held out my hands towards her waiting for that beating, I had started to sweat. It took less than a minute for my hands to start dripping of sweat, all this exacerbated by my current fear of the oncoming beating, which never came. This knowledge did nothing to alleviate my sweating hands.
Sweat was dripping to the floor from each hand, creating a small pool where it landed on the floor. One second I had dry hands and the next, I was dripping as though I had just immersed my hands in a bucket full of water. I guess my teacher failed to understand what was going on and instead looked on in confusion and fear. In her shoes, I probably would be frightened too. Well, maybe not frightened, more curious and wanting to know what was going on, how, why it happened. But not her. No, not her. The words that followed from her mouth have never really left me.
To be continued in the next post…