It was a cold morning. Violet sniffed as she scooped out jollof rice into the five flasks on the counter. Sochi was standing at the entrance to the kitchen, bouncing on her heels. She was already dressed in her uniform and had her school bag hung over her shoulders.
“Is your father ready yet? Has he come downstairs?” Violet kept the emptied pot on the sink and started putting some chicken drumsticks in the flasks.
Violet sighed. They would all be late. “Oya, come and take the flasks to the dining. Where is Nma’s lunch box?” Violet washed her hands under the tap.
Sochi carried a flask. “The other one is still in their room. The one she came back with yesterday is dirty.”
Violet nodded. “Fast-fast, take it to the dining. Let me go and get it.” She rushed out of the kitchen. As she passed through the dining room, she cringed at the mess of bread and tea that had been made on the table.
Oyim was coming down the stairs as she went up. He was already dressed in his uniform. “Are the children ready?” he asked trying to put on his wristwatch.
Violet stopped to help him with it. “Almost done. Are you going to have breakfast?”
He shook his head and brushed away at his shirt. “Not today. I’m almost late and I still need to drop the children at school.”
“Okay then.” She hurried on up the stairs. When she returned downstairs, she met Oyim trying to comfort a crying Nma. The mess on the table had gotten worse.
“What is wrong with her?” She packed the last flask on the table into the box, putting a pack of Caparison and some biscuits with the flask.
“She wanted to open her flask and daddy queried her so she started crying,” Sochi said. She stood at the door, holding Chike’s hand.
Violet handed the flask to Oyim. “Just take her like that. She will stop crying in the car.” Violet watched as they headed out of the house, then she looked at the mess on the table. “I’m so going to be late!” she muttered as she set about picking up the cups and plates on the table.
She drove into the school some minutes past eight. Unfortunately, her attempt to sneak past the principal’s office was unsuccessful. As she was passing through the office, he poked his head out of the door scaring her out of her wits.
“Late again, Mrs. Maduka?” His pudgy face seemed to have acquired more pimples in the past few days. He pulled at the tie around his neck.
She smiled uneasily. “I’m sorry. The children-”
He shook his head. “No, no. I am not listening to any excuse about your children this morning. This should be the fifth time you’re being late this week, eh?”
It was a Friday so it wasn’t difficult to grasp the meaning of his words. “I wasn’t late yesterday or the day before,” she put in quickly.
“Well, it doesn’t seem like it.” He stepped out of the office and shut the door behind him. He tapped his feet on the ground. “Do I need to invite you to my office for a talk so that you will understand the gravity of the situation?”
Violet was already shaking her head. “No sir, not at all sir. I already understand.” Being invited to his office would only mean one thing for her—a reduction in salary and being taken off one of her classes. “It’s not going to happen again, sir.”
“Of course, it won’t.” He smiled. “I sure hope it won’t, because a majority of the students have decided that they would like you to be added to the Disciplinary And Counselling Committee. It won’t make sense if a teacher in the committee is always late to school, don’t you think?”
“Excuse me, sir. What do you mean?” She looked at him in surprise.
He shrugged. “The committee will be holding a meeting after school hours. You wouldn’t mind staying back for an hour and a half, would you?” Without waiting for a reply, he stepped back into his office.
Violet was still in shock as she entered the staffroom. She stiffly found her way to her seat, muttering ‘Good morning’ to the few teachers in the room. The Disciplinary And Counselling Committee. It was not so big a deal. The DCC, as it was called was a committee of seven staff that were responsible for meting out punishments to offenders of the school’s rules and regulations, staff and students alike. They were also responsible for the free counseling service offered to the students. However, the counseling branch of the committee was practically nonexistent. Students were not as enthusiastic about sitting in front of a counselor and talking about ‘life’, especially when the same teacher could be the person that would punish him or her in another scenario.
One reason Violet was astounded by the decision to let her join the committee was that the members of the committee were mostly staff that had been in the school for more than five years. She had barely spent a year in the school and she was made part of the committee. How did it happen?
She looked at the notice board at the back of the staffroom and walked towards it when she saw that there was a new notice pinned on the board. One of the members of the committee, Mrs. Anyanwu would be going on a two-year Sabbatical and she would be filling in for the woman in the committee. She reread the notice. A vote? She didn’t know how the members of the committee were usually chosen. She had not even thought about the committee since she started working in the school.
“Congratulations,” Nafisah’s voice came up beside her. Her seat was the nearest to the board.
“Thank you.” Violet nodded. “Did you know when the vote for this took place? How come I didn’t know that they were looking for someone for the committee?”
“Oh, I don’t really know. I heard Mr. Matthew saying that it was not a real vote. The principal just told the students to write the name of a teacher they want to be part of the committee and put it in the suggestion box in the hall. Your name was written on most of the paper slips.”
“I didn’t even know about it. Is this how they usually chose members of the committee?” She looked at the notice again.
Nafisah hesitated. “I’m not sure. I’ve not been here long too.”
Violet slapped her forehead lightly. “Look at me, I forgot that you are a corper.”
She went back to her seat. She wasn’t sure if being on the committee was a good thing or a bad thing, but she knew that she wasn’t all so enthusiastic about sitting in the same room with some of the members of the committee—Mrs. Hannah, always looking to fault her; Mrs. Nwosu, a friend and avid supporter of Mrs. Hannah; Mr. Friday and his harsh methods of dealing with students; Mr. Yomi, the Yoruba teacher that liked to talk philosophy; Mr. Okwu, or Pastor as he was often called, that liked to speak hellfire and pain on anyone that so much as said something that Jesus Christ didn’t say in the bible; and the last member. Mrs. Irene was the only one as Enita would say “used her head well in the committee”. She took a deep breath. The activities and deliberations of the committee were carried out away from the eyes of other students and teachers. The only evidence of their existence was the building located beside the administration block, as opulent as the principal’s office. It consisted of two rooms, a meeting room and a counseling office that was occupied on rotation by members of the committee.
At least it had an advantage, Violet mused thinking of the alone-time she would have in the counseling office.
Only one word was in Violet’s mind as she bade Mrs. Irene goodbye and headed out of the DCC meeting room. Awkward. After the principal had introduced her to the other members of the committee, questions about her suitability for the position were thrown around in undisguised manners. The heated argument that followed when the principal insisted that the students had chosen her and they couldn’t go back on their decision continued for more than thirty minutes before they grudgingly accepted that she would be a member of the committee whether they liked it or not. It didn’t mean though that they would easily take her as one of them. She was not like them. She didn’t have the qualifications. She was not experienced; her time in the school didn’t amount to a year; she didn’t have the backbone to discipline the students. They didn’t hide their opinions about her. What she understood as the meeting neared its end was that she was simply too ‘young’ in the school to be a member of the committee.
“Don’t worry. They will come around.” Irene had told her when the meeting was over. She had approached her soon as the others started leaving.
“You can’t blame them.” Violet shrugged. The other woman tried to make conversation with her, but she was too weary to go along with her. She hadn’t planned to stay this long at school today and she still had to purchase some things at the market for the soup she would cook that night. And then there was the dreaded conversation she had planned to have with Oyim.
Not today, she thought grimly as she drove out of the school. The last thing she needed after the drama with the DCC was another one with her husband. It could wait, she told herself. For the hundredth time that week, she tried to convince herself that she wasn’t avoiding the fact that despite his promise, her husband was still cheating on her. She was only waiting for the right time. When the right time was, she didn’t know.