Stephen Agboratang Makes his Dream
By Ndim Bernard Ngouche (Cameroon)
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Stephen Agboratang’s Senior Primary School; G.S Akonakang
The new academic year was to begin in a week’s time and Stephen Agboratang and his close pal, John Peters, had nothing at the back of their minds except studies when schools re-opened. Stephen, now a big boy by his father’s standard, had new responsibilities that included cleaning of dishes, pots, the house and the tethering of goats before going to school. Fetching of water was no problem for there was a spring just within the confines of their compound and his beloved mother could do it though, to their chagrin of her husband.
Stephen Aboratang’s program meant that his timing had to change so that he could face the realities underground and match with them or face the tedium. He and some of his mates travelled six miles to school and back, meaning that each had three miles to school and three miles back. It was tedious and hard for kids so he could be spared the early years of his schooling from any household chores. This was to allow him to grow and take up his responsibilities with the passing of time.
Agboratang, being a child so advanced in reasoning than his age and most of his peers, knew what was expected of him and did just that and most often more than what was expected. He was gifted in insight and was sharp witted, so his father had groomed him for so long even without knowing. Stephen Agboratang had closely followed his father to tether goats and sheep. So he knew the task that awaited him each passing day come the new academic year. Out of convenience his father; Agboratang Bismarck sold off some goats and all the sheep that were to be tethered by Agboratang Stephen. This had lightened Agboratang’s workload, for all the goats and sheep were close to thirty five. About twenty two were sold off from the lot, giving Stephen a smile in the face; for his task was lighter.
Then his long awaited new academic year had come and all his desires for it to swing at a speed made him smile all to himself. Class Four was now a serious class and their no nonsense teachers, Samson Sam and Alberto Calmus, were up and equal to the task. This new class had 80 pupils. The reasons for this geometric growth in student enrollment came as a result of the fantastic results obtained by the school over the years. This gave Government School Akonakang prestige and a place in the sun. Every Child of Akonakang was proud to be an ex-pupil of the Government School Akonakang. So it was a place of reference for teachers, even at the Divisional Teachers meetings.
Stephen and John Peters were not carried away by the crowd they saw in class the first day in their new class. As usual, they strategize as to maintain their names on the honours role. Stephen told him it was no luck but an aspect of very meticulous hard work.
Stephen, with all his books and very bright new uniforms, was the star of the School. He was the most respectful, clean and smartest in their class and probably in the whole School. It won for him friends and enemies alike. This did not mean anything to him for he knew that he already was born with enemies as well as friends. Their teachers taught them long division, addition by using the thousand hundred tens and units, subtraction and cross multiplication. This was so pleasing to the class. It was still the very first week and classes were still timid and sluggish.
Then pupils were asked to master the times table and recite by heart from the 1-20 times table. This was the beginning of trouble for so many pupils who could not master it. Each pupil who could not recite as appropriate was given a good dose of the cane, fondly referred here as “doctor do good’’. So many pupils adjusted and made their teachers smile at their progress.
Another huddle was the repetition of proverbs for each pupil had his or her own proverb to recite each morning before the beginning of the class. Stephen’s proverb was “A bird at hand is worth two in the bush’’ While that of John Peters was “If gold could rust what will iron do” and so on and so forth.
They took their studies so seriously, for they always wanted to please themselves and their
parents by passing so well in all their examinations. After attending classes for close to three months, the examination time table came up announcing examinations for the first term break fondly called Christmas break. It did not bother John Peters or Agboratang Stephen. They knew that, come sunshine or rainfall, they would maintain their outstanding record and honour list. As a result of hard work they harvested happiness and went home to meet dancing parents and brothers whose results were also colouful and bright.
My Children and children of my youth, their mother Martha Akokah Agboratang will sing and clap her hands pointing the heavens. Nobody enjoyed this joy of hers like her. She was overwhelmed each term and knew the results would always be the same. As usual the results came out with Stephen and John Peters topping their class. Stephen’s mother danced and danced with alacrity as her son has made her proud of being a mother for her peps were never sucked in vain she concluded.
The rest of the results were but a conclusion for his mother for she knew how resilient the son was when it came to maintaining his number “the number one in class” It just came as predicted in the second term and summer holidays. Summer Holidays were once more around and Stephen had to stay around helping his mother and juniors. He took to trapping birds and playing with his junior kids so as to give their mum time to do her duties without listening to complains from conflicts amongst kids which came to play with her own kids from neighboring Compounds.
This now was going to be Stephen Agboratang’s mantle of responsibility. This load though at times heavy was a career builder for little and innocent Stephen Agboratang and his siblings. Always God has reasons why things happen so that they remain as lessons for generations to come. Stephen Agboratang still accompanied his mother to the farms when chanced for his goat’s tethering and looking after his juniors was more of a priority being a boy than trailing his mother. The summer holidays came and so ended after three and half months. Stephen had all his books bought and his Insurance and Parents Teachers Association Dues paid. This amount was 300 FRS Cfa and every pupil had that levy to pay each new academic year.
It was now Class Five and Stephen and all his new class mated were braising the odds and counting their blessings this far. Stephen was in for another shock of the year and why not of the century. His father fell seriously sick and was constantly between the hospital and home. It drained him financially since there was never any good Community Health Fund that could assist him during this painful period of his health problems.
Stephen asked from his mother what the problem was but only tears and lamentations could be seen. It took him lot of fortitude and courage to ask directly from his father and in his agony replied “Son take heart when I die for I am on a no return posture” Stephen could not understand his father’s message for he was a big time joker. So, many days later, Stephen came back from School only came to discover so many strange faces plus those of his Small Town; Akonakang. His father Agborakang Bismark had gone to join with his beloved brother, Stephen’s wonderful uncle in the world beyond.
Shock, bewilderment, consternation and outright heart sinking were what Stephen went through. At least he had his mother and John Peters to comfort him with all the comfort he deserved. The mother constantly showed him portions of the Bible that were consoling such as Matt: 11:23 “Come unto me all ye that are heavy laden and I will give you rest, take upon you my York which is lighter and I will give you rest” This verse was so consoling and comforting to say the least. His mother was a very zealous and wonderful woman who loved and adored her husband as the Church demanded. This sadness did not sweep Stephen off balance from pursuing his goal and dreams in life.
The death of his father saw a solidarity not witnessed before in Konkani and this was all brought by Stephen Agboratang. The Head Teacher of Government School Akonakang Mr. Clarkson Thomas was up and ready to give a speech. In his speech he said “Agboratang Bismark was a man who saw reason in giving his children the best of quality education and today had sown seeds in the minds of his children” The fertility was seen in Stephen Agboratang whose record in his school spoke in volumes. The School sang mourning songs and songs that were to sweep away sentiments and renew hope for the future was not lost but life gone back to the giver.
Here Stephen saw the need to become a Medical Doctor as he dreamed so that he could give medical counsel and medication to people in need. He wept alongside his mother, aunts, uncles and brothers who had come to share in this great sorrow. Stephen Agboratang was a pupil so determined and so strong spiritually and physically that nothing could break him from keeping his focus. After having his father buried and mourned as custom demanded, he regained School and classes as usual were his objective. His friend John Peters and other new ones like Pierre Descant and Carlton Louis assisted him to copy his notes so as to keep him in balance with the rest of the class.
He thanked them so very fervently for helping him heal a wound so deep in his heart with their love and sympathy. It was going to be so short lived for Stephen’s joy were only a matter of months or days as a dark cloud kept hovering over his head. He had noticed his mother’s health was in a slum and no amount of comfort had cheered her as before and she ate very little of food even her favourite water fufu and eru. Stephen Agboratang was his mother’s last ditch and equally his reason for clinging to his dreams.
One night his beloved mother started coughing and coughed so much and for so long and Stephen could only manage taking her to the Akonakang Community Hospital. Unfortunately; there her mother had suffered from a severe stoke that had damaged her cerebrum rendering her incommunicado or unconscious so to say. She remained in this position for close to two weeks and finally gave up the ghost in the hands of his first son; Stephen Agboratang. Stephen Agboratang had wept sore over the past months and he was just simply stupefied just as he was over taken by grief.
The Head master and his School once more show a lot of consideration by assisting their star in giving his mother a befitting burial. The Head Teacher, Mr. Clarkson Thomas in his usual manner asked the pupils to show a lot of support to Stephen Agboratang who had suffered from more than a storm all in one year. He said losing a parent is sad and losing both is a tragedy very few could overcome. This was the most painful moment of his career he said with tears almost kissing his black coat especially won for the occasion.
He had never witnessed the passing away of both parents of any of his pupil in one academic year. It is lamentable he said and called on all to support the orphan rather than exploit him. He in conclusion asked Stephen and all his junior brothers to read Psalms 23 which he started to read as such “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want for he makes me lay down in green pastures and his staff comforts me…..”This was going to be Stephen’s strongest consolation and reference for a very long time to come in his entire life.
Being a broken spirit, he took that verse as a special part of him and each moment he thought of his late parents, he got comforted. He has learned to become so strong now that he was an orphan battling with his father’s goats and fruits plus very large portions of land which can be sold with ease at affordable prices any time. Through out the program he sat so cool and reserved.
The Head Teacher beckoned him to come forward and make a speech. In his eulogy which carried flame for his passionate message, he exhorted all who had come to acknowledge the strange visitor death. He said” I am happy to have learned from your smiles how short tears flow and that in every situation there was sunshine even in the darkest hour. This can only be seen provided there is a desire to see beyond our pain and grief especially when it is so fresh and vivid like mine.
I am thanking all of you for coming and granting my mother a befitting burial which I owe all to your support. I know that I am now an orphan but a respectful orphan with a task heavier than a thousand tons of sand” Even John Peters could not hide his tears as well as all the pupils and their teachers from his heart touching speech. It was rare for an eulogy to be given a standing ovation but this one deserved it and got it.
He took to his studies so seriously and promised himself to stay on top at all levels in his academic wilderness. It was a mission well defined and he knew it had to go all through for it to become meaningful. Stephens and John Peters outstanding results were no longer any shock to themselves or to their teachers and mates. They maintained a clean slate with their brilliant results by still topping their class. Stephen though through a trauma still shone like stars at night.
This made him hugged by all teachers of Government Primary School, Akonakang. This dried the eyes of Agboratang for to him his parents were still around and alive. Like before the second and third term results were but a fore gone conclusion. Stephen and John Peters were always doing their thing while others could only trail them from the third positions up to the last pass in class.
He foolishly thought that his entire trauma was just loosing his parents and wanted to concentrate on his studies. This was unfortunately not going to be as his step mother had lots of surprises up her sleeve for this young and innocent boy whose dream must not be derailed. He for once saw these schemes and knew that he was now like a hen that must protect its brood with her wings if they must be protected from the kite. The loss of his mother had transformed him completely thus converting him into a man at a very tender age. This to him was an advantage which he utilized so well to his advantage. He vowed to fight this scheme of his step mother without turning his back and gave her a run for her money.
This was the darkest moment in the life of young and innocent; Stephen Agboratang who must become a father and mother to his juniors and himself. Worried by other problems such as threats made by his step mother, this became his toughest moment in his entire life. He equally had promised his father that he will give the goats all the care and protection they deserve. This was a promise he kept so close to his heart for it was one of the elements that kept the bond developed by his late father and himself. Stephen Agboratang was not only smart and intelligent but equally very hard working. It was never like anything had happened to him though he had maternal aunts and uncles to lean on. Stephen was as joyful as all the young lads in Akonatang. Stephen Agboratang was now on his summer holidays and needed a lot of time for himself so as to prepare for his brothers and himself as they embark going back to School; come September.
September came and it was soon the 12th and Schools resumed and to his greatest surprise, the Head Master had bought all their books and new uniforms. Mr. Clarkson Thomas was only showing his support at a moment of great loss. Stephen Agboratang never expected this and therefore was obliged to have them. Stephen was so frugal and this necessitated his selling of what he had bought to prepare for the smooth running of the school year for every brother of his and even his step brothers. Mr. Clarkson Thomas promised him that he was always with ready and willing hands to come to his assistance especially during trying moments. It was in the sixth year of his primary studies that his step mother took the matter to the Court of First Instance of Akonakang.
The case was Stephen Agboratang Versus the people for Stephen was the Accused while his step mother the Plaintive. Class six had 58 pupils and had as teachers Mr. Mah Martin Ntam and Fusi Ambroise Che. It was going to be a transitional class as they prepare for the Common Entrance Examinations into Secondary and Technical colleges and the First School Leaving Certificate. Classes were tough and much expected from the pupils. A lot of emphasis were placed were placed on Geography, History, Civics, Human rights, English Language and Mathematics. This was going to be the base of their studies and the base of their future examination. Stephen and his friend, John Peters kept holding their ground with flying colours in the exams that were set. It was the same for the second and third terms as results got read out and report cards distributed to all the pupils as they prepare to go unto summer holidays.
Stephen had refused to allow the legal proceedings to cloud his mind and concentrated on his studies. This was much to the chagrin of his step mother who thought that she was going to hurt his studies and mar his performance or at worst derail his dream. Though Stephen had to be in courts his studious life did not change and did kept him doing so well for he had all his text books to glean and was not bothered no worried
It was a miscarriage of justice so glaring that the blind could even see but because of “chop I chop” there was no trouble tabling it and having it registered. It went on and on for weeks and months all seemingly in favour of his step mother who had bought almost everybody either with money or with the use of her bottom power or both. She wanted to displace and dis-orientate these children of her late senior mate whom she hated with so much callousness. It was not working as she thought in her scheme and it irked her so much that she could die from her frustrations and from all the shame she has incurred from the Magistrates and some lawyers. She had become a public dog and each moment she passed by people snarled as if stung by bees.
The final verdict was the most humiliating and she lost to her son who would have treated her as his mother if her heart was not hardened by voracity and malice. She wept in court and cursed everybody including persons who had sown to stand by her for she was bound to win. Stephen’s lawyer gave him a lee way to remain in School and study than come constantly to court to stand on the duck.
It was only at the passing of the verdict that he came to court and had this very charming and disarming speech to offer “It has been a very long and tedious journey that has dried us all of our family joy and pleasantries which have gotten stuck in the flotsam and jetsam of this court. If I knew that my father’s and my mother’s bereavement will offer me, his eldest son to the hands of pythons who have gathered to eat his flesh raw, I would have known my enemies. I am glad that my family has lost and won this battle and I am privileged to have all what was ours into good protection. Our step mother and our mother is still our mother though she has dragged our family image into mire. I wish to thank so incalculably the brilliant performance of my brother and friend Esq. Lawyer Sylvanus Quinoso for winning this very intriguing court case almost turned drama. We are going home so pleased that it was over and done” His legal gigged nut almost in tears held his hand and kissed his forehead saying. » I have seen in you a very exiting and strange conviction propelled by a raw determination to overcome all challenges and stood watching from behind. Now I know that you really deserved my support even without a fee. I have not forgotten that I had promised in my inner chambers after our first court session that you have become more of a junior brother than a punter and I will keep to my words”
The pact of brotherhood had being signed though without blood but by the most trusted bond, our words. Stephen Agboratang now had somebody who could stand by him in all circumstances and at all times.
Out of the court was almost time for his last year in the primary school to begin and all was set for Schools to begin as September was approaching and finally the reopening date came at last; the 12th of September. It was now time for a kill so as to make it to College with the same flight as it began in the first day in School. Class seven fortunately had his class six teachers made by the Head teacher to teach his class six pupil and some transferred cases and repeaters blended. Mr. Mah Martin Ntam and Fusi Ambroise Che were so delighted and overwhelmed for it was a wonderful work that they did in class six. They were both up to the task and were willing to write their names in gold. The lessons of class six were only emphasized and some few new books bought like a new English Course for English Speakers by University of London Printing Press and equally a new Mathematics for those writing the Common Entrance and First School Leaving Certificates and a French Course for beginners equally by Cosmos Printing Press. This was done to emphasize the importance the government held in the three most vital core subjects in College. Stephen Agboratang was so cleaver in both subjects and it did not puzzle him or his friends who have come to learn his zeal for hard work. His performances in the class assessments were impressive and cool so were his assessments in the first term and subsequent terms.
His Head Master; Clarkson Thomas was all ears smiling for the success of a boy who have proven he is a man of iron and steel. Stephen Agboratang scored once more his usual mark of 18.5 on 20 and won a Government scholarship to study for his Ordinary level Certificate exams. It was the same fate repeated when the First school Leaving Certificate results were out. Twelve out all one hundred best performed pupils were from Government Primary School, Akonakang. It included his name and that of his three friends who were delighted for he had propelled them to prominence. It was the best thing that had ever happened to Government School Akonakang and made the chief and the Divisional officer proud of this historical milestone. Government Primary School Akonakang had scored an impressive one hundred percent in both the Common Entrance and the First School Leaving examinations and the news was spreading like a good air fragrance sprayed in a room. The chief of Akonakang, Brook Tataw Ntangtang, the Head Master Clarkson Thomas and the newly appointed Divisional officer Louis Marie Ngwa held meetings designed to seek a common ground aimed at organizing a graduation gala to thank the teachers Mr.Mah Martin Ntam and Fusi Ambroise Che. Equally of importance was it thanking the pupils? Food and drinks were assorted and people ate and drank all to their full. It was all in all a great fiesta for the kids and the very last for them who were leaving the Primary school to ever meet again with the Head Master Mr. Clarkson Thomas, the rest of the teachers who had taught them and their School mates behind them. It was a significant rendez -vous and a wonderful memento for both persons at this great occasion. Its reminiscence will keep ringing a bell at each academic year and most especially to the final class Pupils as they prepare to write their examinations. This was going to be a sing song and a wake up anthem for Stephen Agboratang and his mates who all give credit to their performance to him. Stephen had a fire of determination and zeal so strong that his rivals could only copy while he maintained the original. He had become the dynamo of his batch and class right from class one and right from day one in the primary School.
As the by and large first in the Country when results of the common Entrance and First School are mentioned, his Head Master, Mr. Clarkson Thomas gave him the floor to make a speech. His speech was first, that of his Head Master second and the Divisional officer spoke last. Stephen Agboratang had this to say “Communities are built like minds are constructed by great architects who happened to be our wonderful and lovely teachers. It would have been a zero attempt or at worst a folly to think that we could have taught ourselves and made history by scoring a hundred percent. We heartily thank our parents , the Government for all the wonderful sacrifices made by offering these edifices for us to come and study and the teachers who have being trained to train others become better persons upon graduation. Without any attempt to take all your time and dispossess you of the enjoyment of your party for which you came to have. Keep having fun for we have lots of fun for your enjoyment. Thanks to all invited who have thronged the ceremonial ground and most especially to the newly appointed Divisional Officer who is gracing the occasion for the very first time.”
Then was the turn of the Head Master who beaming with satisfaction got up and first waved. In his usual style smiled and then began his speech “Today is a very extra ordinary day in the life of this institution Code named Government Primary School Akonakang. Today we have been forced into history and we share in this historical cake baked by pupils we are here to usher off so that their new Journeys can be smooth like butter cones mixed with milk. We have nurtured them with love and care, given them moral, physical and spiritual guidance to this level and are not jealous that we are missing them. Every parent understands that all children grow into adulthood and therefore will not want to hinder this very giant step brought in by nature. I wish to thank those who have made us proud and most especially Stephen Agboratang who have shown us that orphans are only issues of the mind that can be weeded off and killed if supported. His dazzling performance has never being a shock to me since I became the Head Teacher of this illustrious Primary School. We have made history not by our power so we thank God for this occasion and for the love and care taken over us during our stay here with the Pupils. Thanks once more to all the members of staff and to our Divisional Officer for gracing the occasion. We can’t forget our Legal gigged nut; Sylvanus Quinoso for giving Stephen Agboratang all the support after losing his parents all in one year. It could have been a debacle for this young mind to rot for want of sponsorship. We can only say Ayongha kia for all he has done to our brother shading light to better prospects for him to keep his dream alive”
In his capacity as Chief de Terre, the Divisional officer had this remark to make.“I have come to listen and to hear your cries of joy at this occasion and heard plenty of them. I have being enthused by the very inspiring speeches made so far and touched by that made by Stephen Agboratang. He is a very wonderful lad and deserves our praises so that he will keep the flag of this community flying like the giant kite. I did not keep you abreast with my plans for this day. I came with prices for the best outstanding pupils and best outstanding teachers of this institution. Obviously we know that the brain behind our being here is no other than……and the response was loud and clear (Stephen Agboratang). The officer asked the Head Teacher to hand these prizes to those concerned after his speech. I have come to promise to always have my ears listening to all complaints coming from your wonderful School that have made us proud. I have come to announce commitments we have made to construct a fence round the School to put off Intruders and thieves from straying into your School. The funds are here so a commission should be appointed to take charge of its implementation. Thanks so very much for all this wonderful wits you have produced and thanks for all the patience exercised in handling all these young brains and bringing them up. We are proud of your efforts as well as the Divisional Inspector for Primary Schools. It is always with so much delight and pleasure when we chat about this famous school”
It came like a rumbling for Stephen for little was expected except the nice food and plenty of drinks to gulp down as a rinse of the gullets after food. The gifts which the Divisional officer brought were now shared at the close of the party to the recipients as was instructed. Stephen Agboratang received an envelope of three hundred thousands and other received theirs ranging from one hundred thousands to fifty thousands. It was all joy as the day rounded up.
Stephen now was a college student in the making and understood what was expected of him. There was no room for errors as he embarked on a second phase of his studies. He planned all his projects and designed his scheme of work so that it matched equally so as to give him the freshness deserved for the start of the new academic year. This long vacation his very last as a primary School pupil was equally his most obvious longest in expectation. Every passing day to him was important as he waited the 12th of September even though it was still July 10th 1968. His juniors had grown and could now share in his responsibilities and house chores. He was now their leader and knew that it was co-operation and cohesion that could stir this ship to calmer shores as he was about to set out for studies though still in Akonakang. Being scared that his younger ones will not give the same treatment to the goats that have to the highest degree increased in number, he undertook a lengthy demonstration lesson for his kid brothers on how to show the goats love and protection. It was indispensable so that these goats will not stray and obliterate crops and bring in conflicts with the farmers. His brothers learned so well and understood the dangers it will pose if it happens to take place. Stephen was so gladdened by this show of understanding