Obafemi Awolowo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Queens school is a city Palm House Capital, Casuarina full of ladies, Baobab Lazy bones” my sudden nostalgia triggered by the fact that I am attending Dr Funke Adedeji’s 50th birthday celebration.
I dedicate this piece to our beautiful queens that passed on in the journey of life: Stella Ojo, Omoyeni Abiodun – Wright, Titi Ayeni Nee Ogunlesi, Ayopeju Ariyo and Funmilayo Odutola nee Ola gone but never never forgotten!
My Mum was adamant that I should attend The Holy Child College, Obalende Lagos a safe catholic education as she her self had attended The St Teresa’s College Ibadan (Holy and Saint the girls were far from that lol). I had taken the Federal Common entrance and my schools were Queens College Yaba Lagos, Queens School Moor Plantation Ibadan and Federal Government College Warri. I also took the Lagos State Common Entrance with Holy Child topping the list. I passed and was called for interviews in all the schools my Mum had brainwashed me totally for Holy Child my Dad on the other hand wanted me to go to Queens College or Queens School. I attended all three interviews but the Queens School interview was special. I spent three nights and four days at the interview as they wanted to assess ones suitability for the boarding house. Toyin Oni Okpaku ( a senior) was assigned to look after me and I stayed in dormitory F on the right side of what was called “desert” it was a weekend of my life that will stick forever, there were games, sporting activities and a taste of what I later discovered was called “socials”.
From then on I told everyone I was going to Queens School on the Moor Plantation, my Mum was not too happy about this, she hurriedly went and got my uniforms and books for Holy Child. At the end my Dad made the critical decision I was going to Queens School as I was not taken in Queens College Yaba and Warri was too far for him.
Men! I was so happy off to Kingsway we went with Michael Chukwu my Dads personal assistant (house help) to buy everything I needed for boarding, feather pillows and all! Everything was bundled into my dads estate (station wagon) Peugeot 404 to Ibadan the second phase of my childhood!
At the residential gate I was received and registered by the Grand Dame Matron Apata otherwise known to us as “Mama Apata” a woman who made us toe the line! Matron Apata was a synonym for “Law and Order” when I think of her now I call myself to order.
I was placed in the brand spanking new dormitory of Palm House Second block ground floor. I met Lolly Deks (Ibilola Onadeko), Tola Pierre (Tola Peters) Tomi Omidiora, Omobowhale (Mobo Daramola) what we all had in common was we all came from Lagos and so as soon as it was lights out we all started crying in concert (exaggerated homesickness).
Queens School Ibadan was the flag ship girl’s school for the then Western region of Nigeria modelled after the British Public School system to breed women leaders into the New Nigerian society. The routines and regiments were so strict we envied the girls in the (Saint Schools). Queens School Ibadan was the idea of the late Obafemi Awolowo one of the Nigerian founding fathers and the first Premier of the Western Region he believed that the girl child must get as sound an education as the boy child to this end he split Queens College Yaba Lagos into two halves one half stayed in Lagos and the second half was taken to Ede and later relocated to Ibadan which was the capital of the region.
The ethos of Queens School Ibadan was discipline, discipline and discipline.
Tuition in the then Western Region was free so all my Dad paid was N30 per term for my boarding!
I had been sent to this school to become a disciplined lady and to be honest much of what I remember was the discipline.
Mrs Emuleomo also known as (Child carrying Palmwine) our housecraft and cookery teacher was a giant of a lady who suffered no fools I once got a hot slap from her for being silly! (albeit she knew my Mum). Mrs Thompson (Mama Tommy) our Yoruba teacher, she had a field day with me with the entire class laughing their little heads off I would be made to read “Alawiye” and because of my funny accent Mama Tommy will make me stand with my hands up at the back for the duration of the lesson. Come the next lesson she would call me again to see if I had improved but alas no. Finally she called my Dad who had grown up on the streets of Isokun (Ilesha) with her to report me. My Dad never admonished me for it probably the reason for my poor yoruba today.
Ah Mrs Adelusi our English teacher in form 1 and 2 can never forget her she was one of the polished ones, speaking with an English accent, could not understand why she could not straigthen or perm her hair! She had a massive bush of hair which she forced to the right side of her face! English lessons where so boring that i spent most of the hour seemed like a life time to my little mind reading Denise Robbins and Mills and Boons under my desk my partner in this crime was Bimbo (Oluyinka) nee Akinsola.
I was never caught and called out but was shocked that Mrs Adelusi had reported to my Dad, from then onwards my Dad furnished me with the “African Writers Series” I was to stop reading Mills and Boons. Stop reading while lesson were going on I did not, I was soon caught reading “Jagua Nana” by Cyprian Ekwensi during science lessons. “Jagua Nana” was a sacrilegious book at the time to the prudish teachers.
Monsieur Shobo was more or less my favourite teacher as an 11 year old child in form 1 he did develop the love of French in me which was soon quenched with ice water by the next teacher the only things i know in french today is what Monsieur Shobo taught me almost 40 yrs ago. I really did think he was French (must have been a bit ignorant) and when he left we were all crying, we actually had a send off evening in the assembly hall for him. One of the songs we sang was “E ha Monsieur Shobo nlo Oluko wa ni O! Ibo ni o nlo Monsieur Shobo wa tete so fun wa, kaba mo le re, ibi ti oun gbe O! This brings me to Bisi nee Bamigbade the first visually impaired girl to attend Queen’s. Bisi stood next to me as we sang and I was to hold her hand so that she knew the direction in which we were moving to the songs but Bisi being Bisi insisted in going the opposite direction! Bisi was a very strong character and could sometimes be a snitch!
My class prefect in form 1i was Sister Bisi she was very small and cute her best friend was Sister Idowu Ayoola or so. I remember that her Mum died and the entire class was hit by this because we really liked her.
Some of our terminology then was “Yam”, “Aso” , “Ayo”,” Echi” or “Echa”. “Aso” was derived from the word Assorted and I think one fell into that category if you had Marks and Spencer (St Michaels) undies and Clarks sandals. Also in your food box had to have Ginger Nuts, Nice and Rich tea biscuits! If you only had Oxford biscuit aka (pako) and blue band butter in your food box with garium sulfate (gari) and you had the misfortune of wearing “BATA” shoes or “LADIES ABANA” you will be in the “Ayo” category! ”Yam” meant besto my “Yam” in form 1 was Bisi nee Salami we used to walk hand in hand from class to the dorm together and share stuff from our food boxes we soon fell out (maybe she found a new “Yam”) i cannot for the life of me remember why! One thing I could not understand was why we had to use “Box Iron” this was a victorian contraption filled with charcoal it was a bliming nigthmare! You had to light it with some horrible thing called Ogusho (sponge matted in palmoil) I had never seen charcoal how much more Ogusho! I spent the entire laundry time trying to light my box iron to no avail!
My Mum had given me a nice Morphy Richards iron with a 3 metre cable because she said there might not be many sockets but i was not allowed to use it. We had to starch our uniforms and use that dreaded coal box to iron. If not for my efficient school mother I would have been coming to school in blackened uniforms. Mama Apata used to come and drive us out of the dorm I remember on one occasion one of my classmates had to grab a uniform from the line. My school mothers name was Fatima Tijani, she was in form 3 when i chose her, generally speaking school mothers had to be in form 4 but my set was the first set to take in an extra arm (i) so there were not enough form 4 girls. The Queens School “School Mother” system was totally different from what obtained in other schools it was like a mini mentorship if a school daughter was untidy the school mother was held responsible. My school mother was very neat and was starched to the hilt! I soon became the neatest girl in second block ground floor thanks to Sister Fatima Tijani. In my first corner in form one where Busola Fabamwo one year ahead of me, Stella Ojo my classmate and Dele Osibo nee Akinola also my classmate. One of the big Seniors I remember in my first year in my dormitory was Sister Bampe nee Ayodeji, my Mum had bought me Avon Powder, Avon Body Creme and the matching perfume it was in a red and white packaging but I cannot remember the exact name. Sister Bampe came to me with her giant sized Saturday night powder (It was dark blue with a man and woman dancing) she asked me if I wanted to exchange my avon things for this powder I readily agreed because I liked the fact that it was big and i loved the picture! I did not realise I had been chanced.
In my time in Queen’s School some of the seniors were kind of tyrants, the A level girls stayed in single rooms at the two ends of the dorm but the form 4 and 5 girls stayed in cubicles. One of the ways a tryant senior could call a junior to send on an errand was by bellowing in yoruba “Omo kan ni be yen” or “Eran kan ni be yen” and may the gods help you if you were the “Omo” or “Eran” nearby. As for me the artful dodger I always made a quick dialogue with my legs (mo sare be ese mi soro) and scampered to the toilets or upstairs depending on where the voice came from.
The most powerful student when I was in form one was the formidable labour prefect Sister Dupe Aina, I was not sure if she was human like us or some kind of robot machine! Her uniform was starched to the hilt no single hair out of place! She used to plait her hair in thread in style called “pineapple” it was the best style to set your beret. When she walked into the dinning room it was as though “SANGO” had arrived. On Saturday morning before we sat to have our breakfast of Bread and watery corn beef stew she would arrive like a “god” and bellow out in a formidable voice the punishments for misdemeanor for the week. I can’t remember the crimes that little girls like us had committed but the punishments where akin to a sentence! I being a sly one was lucky never to have had my name called in the dinning hall. The worst of those punishments were things like hoe 6ft by 6ft or clean the form one block toilets (some putrid pit latrine with no running water) or scrub the main gutter which we later named “Omidiora’s gutter” as it seemed she was perpetually asked to clean it as a punishment. Another powerful and formidable labour prefect was Sis Biola Adaramaja but this was in my form 2 or so.
Little did I know that my Dad’s expedient descision that I was to go to Queens School, Moor Plantation, Apata Ganga, Ibadan, Western Region, Nigeria (how we used to write our names in our books) would send me on the adventure of a lifetime one to which I would allude to for the rest of my days. I started Queens School in 1975 in the days when Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi was the Governor of the Western region. Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi and Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson of Lagos State where the only two Governors in that era that where not indicted for corruption. Indeed it was a time of heaven on earth in Nigeria.
Form 1i 1975 (Roll Call)
Akinsola, Bamigbade, Daramola, Kanmodi, Latinwo, Ojajuni, Okwuchi, Ola, Oladiji, Olaleye, Olanihun, Olatunji, Olatunji,Olawo, Olugbekan,Omidiora,Omisore, Omitowoju, Omotoye, Onadeko, Oso, Osoba, Owosina, Oyemade, Oyenuga, Oyetunde, Peters, Popoola, Popoola, Salami, Samuel, Savage, Sogo, Tanimowo, Wright(of blessed memory), Yesufu
I cannot remember very much from my second year in Queens School but I do remember spending a lot of time in the main gutter with Funke Olawo dissecting tadpoles and playing with the little fish that swarm through I had started to enjoy Biology it was in this year I learnt about the Paramecium, Amoeba and Spyrogira I can still label them in my sleep! It was also in this year we used to go for games in the Blue and White painted Queen’s School Lorry. It looked exactly like the Lorry Tafa Dauda used to drive in Oxford English that we read in Primary 2. I used to be so proud in this lorry especially that it had our name emblazoned boldly across I think only Queen’s School and GCI (Government College Ibadan) had this type of Lorry. In later years the school had coaster buses and the long luxurious type bus.In later years I remember I used to hide my palm sandals under the long bus on the way to assembly and change into my sandals. I was never any good at sport probably because I never had enough to eat that even to swing a tennis racket was too much for me. The tennis coach would cry eyes on the ball watch the ball but ball would hit me in the face before I could muster any strength to swing the racket.
We used to go for hockey, tennis and swimming I failed at all three!
Every year we used to go Liberty stadium for a match past I think it must have been for independence day but the best school was chosen for matching. For Queen’s school girls this was taken very seriously we called them the “School Marchers” we would watch as they practiced for this day and the leader would bellow as they marched “Short Steps, Short Steps Ele Short Steps, Short Steps” then she would bellow out “Ayes Right means One Two” which meant Eyes right in a sharp silent count of 1,2. Of all the “School Matchers” Sister Nike Akinola aka Eesobay, Sister Yinka Fadahunsi and Sis Morolari Kuyebi stand out in my mind they were the leaders and if I may coin a phrase “Bellowers”.
I spent most of my days in Queen’s School in a semi slumber, more like a long holiday I understand now why my Mum would have preferred I be a day girl at least my academics would have been monitored better. When she did monitor me I scored 254/400 in my first JAMB attempt but of course failed my certy (WAEC) woefully and my second attempt at JAMB 276/400.I Looking back now my parents were really liberal with me I never got told off for being asleep in Queen’s School! my Mum was always telling people how brilliant I was I suppose she could see beyond my daydreaming!
There were not many male figures around the boarding house but there was one poor guy that used to shift the refuse around he walked with a slight limp we did not know his name but we called him “Baba Monsuwe” , as soon as we saw him with his wheel barrow we would bust into a song that goes “Baba Monsuwe I need your love to gba rome rome 2ce, My darling Monsuwe I’ll never never let you go! Poor man would try to wheel away as quickly as possible with his limp. My early years in Queen’s School were filled with so many pranks in form 2 or 3 we had Sister Wura Akinleye Adamolekun as our prefect we used to play pranks on her for which i am sorry for now! Too scared to say what we used to do! We also had Sister Moremi Soyinka not sure if she was one of us because we all used to catch “esu su” together during what was meant to be prep time. I never studied anything during prep anyway. In my year “LollyDeks” Ibilola Onadeko who went on to study aeronautical engineering was the master planner, in form 2 she detected by spying or intuition that Bimpe Ojajuni later on called Womitenren was using a talisman pen from India! In those days the adverts for talisman were inside a magazine called “Drum”. Of course I found myself as a fellow prankster searching through Bimpe’s locker we found nothing but as soon as she entered the class for afternoon prep we started singing “Tali” “Tali” “Talisman” we made her life a misery she confessed that she had written a letter to India for the Talisman pen.
The best food day was Dodo and rice with mackerel fish it was served on a weekday evening and so my friends and I the usual culprits in form 3 decided that we would get to the dinning room early to set the tables! Our tables were red in colour and our plates where tin plates every table was given a tin bowl of fish it would have like 10 pieces. (Clearing the tables after food was an art, one person would stand at the edge of the table and one person will fling the tin plates to her until the pile was complete) My friends and I quickly took a piece of fish each from a tin bowl into our own bowl and ran to the desert to eat it hurriedly but as we rushed our friend Tola Peters Akinola got a fish bone stuck in her throat! This was scary and considering Tola was asthmatic we had no choice but to go to Matron Apata. Mama Apata called us Ole! Ole! Ole! we were lucky the matter ended with her.
We boarders from Lagos used to come to school quite early and as usual would have sometime for our usual pranks, not sure whose idea it was but of course I was there and after this prank I was really scared I would be suspended! We decided to go to Florence Osakuwa’s house in Odo-Ona as we got to school early but it was not an innocent visit to a classmate who lived round the corner. I am ashamed to say that we went there to inspect how the Osakuwa’s lived need I say more! Florence’s house was still under construction we really misbehaved and when she came back to school she threatened to report.
Some surnames and meanings in form1i 75-80
Osakuwa -> Orisa Ko Iwa de
Onadeko -> Onadi eeko fun awon ton bo lehin
Omidiora -> Omi diun owora
Kanmodi -> Ikan moo odi ko beru ojo
Our closeness was second to none it was not unusual to know everything about my classmates families and all their siblings even if I never met them! I knew everything about Isara in Remo Division of Ijebuland, I could picture everything even the bridge that Oba Akisanya built because Ibilola was from there I knew all about Oba Akisanya the elite King there at the time. I knew all Tola Peters siblings and cousins yet I just met some of them in 2012 and I actually told them who they are. Mobowale’s stories about Mopa via Kaba and the early days in Liberia! The best thing from Queen’s School for me is the valuable friendships. One of my closest friends was and still is Dr Adenike Oyemade also known as Panla! and she still is very firm and taunt very health conscious. I used to go home to her place on Arigidi street on exeat days we kept on through all the years.
By September 1977 I became a form 3 girl! Our classroom was in the old HSC building near the Dinning Hall. I remember Mr “Sparky” Sparkwell (school photographer) had come on the day of resumption and my friends and I, the usual suspects “Knacked” an “akada” picture at the side of our new class block the picture consisted of Omobowhale, Lolly Deks, Lara Olaleye, Tomi Omidiora, Tola Pierre and myself. In an “akada” picture you had to have pens in your hair, pencils behind your ears, and a text book and you had to strike an “I don’t care pose” like you were some nutty professor. I cannot remember learning much the only subjects i took interest in where literature, history and economics. My best subject was history our history book was written by JF Ade Ajayi I loved it and had read it from cover to cover it was no coincidence that i chose Political Science on my two Jamb forms in later years! I ended up not getting Political Sciences because one had to have done well in Maths to get into Social Sciences in the University of Ife. I was asked to chose anything else I would like to do. I also enjoyed housecraft I remember vividly Mrs Emuleomo teaching us how to clean a wooden surface “clean the way of the grain” she would say. At this point I knew i had no love for Physics, Chemistry or Maths (perhaps if the classes where smaller and I understood better i may have prevailed). My natural affinity was for letters and even though I had no concept of study time I always managed to pass the subjects where there were stories to be told. It was in this year that we had a literature teacher called Mrs Engurube also known as auntie Shola. In this year my penchant for mischief had reached a new high. Auntie Shola was well endowed in the back side area and so my friends and I had formed a song for her which went “Auntie show your Ike, I have no Ikebe, Auntie Shola show your Ike, I have no Ikebe”. Poor Mrs Engurube we must have really frustrated her!
It was also in this year that a singer called Chris Okotie who was a University student released a single called “I need someone” of course the words where changed into our own version.
One thing I loved in Queens School was Sundays mainly because I had joined the scripture Union (not because I understood what it was to be an SU but because we were giving Orange quash and biscuits). I loved the Sunday services and Assemblies too because I loved the Anglican hymns it was here I learned some of the songs that I sing today with my children like “Breathe on me Breath of God”, “I heard the voice of Jesus say come on to me and rest”, Guide me O my great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land” on good friday week we would sing “There is a green hill far away without a city wall, where the dear Lord was crucified, he died to save us all. We may not know we cannot tell what pain he had to bear, but we believe it was for us he hung and suffered there. O dearly dearly as he loved and we must love him too and trust in his redeeming works and try his works to do” As we sang this hymn I would cry all the way through I really imagined and pictured our Lord forlorn and alone.
Our hymn book was called “SOP” Songs of praise, it was an abridged version of hymns ancient and modern, it was a small blue covered book. To maintain ones “SOP” we used to wrap it in old Assorted biscuit paper so ones “SOP” could be wrapped in Rich Tea or Nice Biscuit plastic paper.
One thing we did a lot in form 2 and 3 was stamp collection, many of us used our pocket money to buy stamps and stick in a stamp collectors album. Lolly Deks was by far the best at doing this, she had stamps from the remotest parts of the globe.
In my time in QSI our Principals were Mrs Ayoola, Mrs Ogunbiyi, Mrs Ifaturoti and Mrs Fashola. I did have the bad fortune of once visiting Mrs Ogunbiyi’s house in Ibadan as my Dad was visiting her husband (Ijesha connection) and i was in the Flour Mills emblazoned 504 station wagon. I wanted to stay in the car with “Broda Ogundehin” the driver, but was not allowed too. The funny thing was that the lady did not even recognise me as a trouble maker in her school!
In 1977 was the year we had the 25 year anniversary for Queen’s School our guest of honour was Grace Alele Williams who is an Alumnus of Queens College/Queens School. For this occasion we were drafted into various dance troupes. There was the Umbrella dance, Hausa dance, Ibadan dance and so on and so forth. I was drafted into the Hausa dance the reason being that my hair was always done in the Hausa style with kobos attached to the ends jingling. The Umbrella dance was really nice they sang songs like “We’ll build a bungalow big enough for two, big enough for two my darling, big enough for two and when we are married a happy we will be, underneath the bamboo under the bamboo tree.. cos you are B E S T best of all the R E S T rest and I’ll L O V E love you all the T I M E time…….
To be continued
I will like to apologise to some of my big sisters in advance on this forum because history will not be complete if I do not write about the offensive “Shanu Oju Fete riran” and “Soke dile” Saga!
Since I first wrote this piece in April 2012 one of our beautiful Queens has passed on Funmilayo Odutola nee Ola
sleep on dear Queen!
Pls view: http://qsioga7580.wordpress.com/ to see the activities of the 75-80 set
Pls View:http://qsiclassof1973january.net to see the activities of our Sisters set 73-77