My thighs were aching and begging for mercy. A quick glance at my wrist told me that it was a few minutes to midnight. I was one of the few SS1s left upstairs in D Dorm who was still doing this unnecessary exercise. In Achimota School, we called it ‘adanko’, when you cross your arms, hold your ears and squat up and down, up and down. You only go to bed when you have sweated enough. And since I’m not one who sweats readily, I was among the last to leave. The senior, by the way, had his coffee next to him as he was wrapped in a school cloth reading his Chemistry GAST textbook. What a waste. While my mother probably thought I was asleep, I was doing punishment because some senior decided that the SS1s in Aggrey House should be punished for coming back from prep 5 minutes late.
Yes, if you were fortunate enough to experience Secondary School (and not this Senior High, or whatever it’s called) those were the good old days. True, those who experienced the 6th formers had more tales to tell, but since I saw none of those days, I’ll only tell a few stories that I heard.
I’m probably not the best person to tell homoing tales. Motown isn’t exactly known for its slave drivers parading as senior students (unlike Adisco or Koforidua Sec Tech). I mean, by the time I was in SS3 it was actually cool to be good friends with the SS1s! No chance of meting out similar atrocities on those behind us.
Homoing really can’t be defined, the way I see it. Is it punishment? Harassment? Cruelty? I really don’t know. All I know is, most juniors can’t wait to get into the position where other people will also mention their names with bitterness, for whatever immature reason. After all, it’s all part of school life.
Totally unnecessary, but what would secondary school be without it? For instance, what benefit was there in making the SS1s form a circle and knock the head of the person to his right? And before anyone could finish massaging the pain out of his throbbing head the senior announced that we were turning it around, knocking the head of the person to the left. Disgraceful. For what reason?
Maybe I was a bit naïve, but looking back, I wonder what I was thinking sometimes. One senior in my house sent me to go and collect his notes from another senior in Livingstone House. This guy from Livi put a stone in my hand and asked me to give it to the guy in my house. Foolishly, I was marching along, making the short walk to Aggrey House. I shudder to think what my fate would’ve been if one kind-hearted senior hadn’t asked me why I was carrying a stone and saved me from some more unnecessary work.
But one boy from St. Augustine’s told me that a senior asked him to tell one other senior that he was a fool. Obedient well-trained boy that he was, he sent the message. He ended up kneeling down till 3am the next morning for calling a senior a fool. His days in George’s House were never pleasant till SS1 ended.
In Achimota School, we had a rule not to eat in any buildings (except the D-Hall, of course). My Dorm Monitor once invited me and two of my friends to a meal of gari and corned beef by his bedside. We couldn’t believe our luck. At the end of it, he asked the question, “Why are you eating under school roof?” I could’ve choked. He actually made us weed the stubborn grass in front of the house.
This was the same senior who first made us stand up in the dining hall because he appeared in the dining hall, to our shock, at the tail end of lunch on Wednesday and asked for his plantain and beans. We the SS1s, of course, had eaten it, assuming he wouldn’t come. He never came, anyway. We forfeited our siesta to jog in the dorm, supposedly to jog off the excess weight we had gained from eating his food. And in the evening, he ate our meat. It’s only as I type this that it’s dawned on me that that was his ploy all along.
And it was the very same senior who said I should bring my chopbox from the Chopbox Room and tell him everything in it without opening it. I would lose anything I missed out. So if I had three sardine tins left and I said I had four, then I was a liar and would scrub the gutter. If I had two, then it means I have more than I need, and would pay the difference of one.
I was a kind senior, if I could say so myself. The worst I did was seizing an SS1 boy’s mattress and making him spend the night under my bed. For two nights. And when I released him, he slept on the wood of his bed till I felt appeased. I didn’t do anything like one friend, who made one junior ‘set his back’ and had the outlines of his fingers tattooed on the boy’s back. This is the famous ‘bomadze’. The junior bends low and waits for the senior to slam his palm into his back. It was also nothing like one senior in Gyamfi House, who asked a junior to pick all the dead leaves off the ‘yooyi’ tree because he bathed outside the bathhouse.
Someone please tell me why me and two others decided to play ‘chaskele’ one holiday. Some wicked senior (and I was in SS2 by this point) ruined the fun and said it was against school rules, because we had breached commonsense. Silly. We scrubbed every inch of the bathhouse.
This was nothing compared to what happened when the 6th formers carried out their reign of terror on campuses across Ghana. I even heard one story of a master being tossed out of a window in Suhum Sec Tech. The poor guy had gone into the dorm under the cover of darkness to see juniors undergoing some homoing. As he was writing down the names of the seniors responsible, he was spotted. I heard he limps to this day. True or not, I’ll never know.
One boy in Ghana National College told me that he was asked to kneel down at the ‘atonko’ because he was study mates with a girl a senior was rather unsuccessfully conning.
So that’s my trip down memory lane. Stories I’ve grown to laugh at. I could go on forever. But then, I’m sure you’ve suffered worse things than these. I’m just dying to know, about 10 years after my days in Achimota School, what happened in other schools before and after I went to Motown, especially the girls’ schools and the Cape Coast schools. Let’s hear your own experiences, and send a shout to the most cruel seniors you encountered in the good old SS days.
Thanks to Esi for allowing me to guest blog. Quite an honour, actually. Please read up my posts on my own blog, The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge. I talk about the hilarious side of taking public transport in Accra. Dig in.