make due with what we have

The first time I resigned from my job was after winning a football competition for my school. It was a diocesan football cup. My school was in a remote place. Oh, may I remember one of the kids that died after the tournament. May he keep resting in peace. Amen.

Just two weeks after, the principal in charge of the school did the unthinkable. We had gone to this tournament with absolutely nothing. I remembered the students telling me about football boots. They saw the first school they played wearing new boots and they felt inferior before them. We need football boots they had told me. I looked at them and smiled. I have met with the principal before the tournament and requested for boots. He complained about money. But I know it is not about money. He considered buying boots a waste, or should I say being extravagant.

Before the match I had gathered the students. I told them we should make due with what we have. I told them I strongly believe in them. I told them it doesn't matter how we look. I told them boots and Jersey don't play. Only legs can play. I made them look at themselves with pride. I told them to just win the match for us and I will make sure we go to the next game with boots. My words did the magic, as I saw smiles. I saw students ready to go into that field and do some wonders. People were practically laughing at them while they were moving into the field, but they are in high spirit. The boys were small, but Fantastic footballers. As the coach, I always turn people around me into little fan club. I know the importance of a gearing fans in a football game. They did the needful. The game started with my boys beating them.

After some series of footballing, we qualified for the semi finals and will be meeting the prestigious CKC. Yes you heard me sound and clear. I said Christ The King College. I heard they brag too much, and for sure they didn't fail to show me their bragging styles. Due to the change in time of the match, from 9am to 3pm, I complained that my players will become weak and hungry. Jokingly one of their teachers said I should not worry, promising that they will feed us and still win us. I think they underestimated us.

3 pm, the game started. It was right in the home field of CKC. I heard the likes of Peter Obi, Obiano, Peter Odili and Soludo all played in that field. We scored them first, and in the second half of the game our goal keeper gave away a cheap goal for them. These guys nearly shout down the field. I think they couldn't believe what they are witnessing. The game ended 1:1 and there came the penalty right after the extra time. The goal keeper that gave them that goal became their greatest nightmare. He perfectly saved two of their penalties. My team won the almighty CKC and we graciously moved to the finals. It was like a festival of wailing as those children from CKC kept crying under the rain. It was so a painful sight to behold. One of them had to faint and was resuscitated.

The final was moved to the stadium somewhere in the city. There again, my team came out victorious. I had one of my best attacker on that team stay on the bench. Something they detested. I know if I am to beat a boarding school, I have to be calculative and technical. When the game started, we were already one goal down. After the first half, I introduced the guy on the bench. Our opponent never believed the person I introduced is one of our best. Who will comfortably leave out his best in such a crucial match? It is a gamble I was determined to play.

Within 10 minutes of his introduction, this amazing kid got the ball from the flank, dribbled the defender and within a twinkle of an eye he is face to face with the keeper. I was praying within my heart, so that he won't miss it as usual. And before I could conclude the prayer, he has already buried the ball at the back of the net. It was an amazing equaliser. That was the second time my team went behind in that tournament and came back to win. The game came to an end and the Referee motioned for penalty shootout. As usual, our keeper did wonders and we carried the day.

We were to go for the cup in one month time, and I resigned two weeks after the tournament. It happened that the principal saw a student that went for my bag outside; I gave the student the bag to keep on my table immediately I came to school and he had it seized. It happened that the student forgot the bag and upon remembering it went for it during class hours. With all the excuses, he refused to release it. I had to go there myself and the principal also refused. I have my wallet, my charger and my little breakfast inside that bag. These things did not move him. I said I should hold the student responsible, and I told him I can't go back to the student when I know he is with the bag. To cut the story short, he gave me query and he got a resignation letter. Moved on without any hope of another.

I started teaching again. This time in a school that have zero regard for their teachers. A school full of packaging. A school that pays previous salary on the 15th of a new month. A school the proprietor turned the teachers against themselves. A place adults calling themselves teachers will comfortably record the discussions of teachers in the Staff room and send to the proprietor on WhatsApp. A school with a beautiful structure, but rotten from the inside. An example of a white painted sepulchre. Again I had to resign and leave.

It is always good to work in a place that won't hurt your mental health. Teaching is a nice job, but bastardized in Nigería. In Nigería when you say you are a teacher, they call you a poor person. And some school owners help in making life difficult for their teachers. Many private schools don't pay on time. Some don't pay at all during festive periods. Isn't that wickedness? During Christmas period you won't pay your teachers because you feel they won't return. Did they not work for it? Why do you enjoy taking peanuts that belong to another? Why?

There is nothing like working under a matured mind. A place both the proprietor and the principal look at what you are capable of and not on your ability to gossip and spy on your fellow workers.

Respect to those amazing kids. You made me and yourselves proud. I remember them dancing towards my place after retrieving the cup. Without necessary equipments, they went to the tournament and conquered. That time I felt like I am Arsène Wenger. 😁

Elochukwu Ohagi, Philosopher, Teacher And Activist, 2022.

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