Primary school was tougher for some than most; I was among the ‘some’ that found primary school challenging. For one, I preferred to draw and write short stories along the binding of my notebook rather than work on multiplication tables.

My primary 4 math teacher, Mr. Allison, was patient with me, though he too must’ve wondered about my future.

Graduating primary school by eight, it was time to consider secondary school options. We took our exams and I did okay.  Then came the choice to go to the Navy Secondary School as a day or boarding student. All around, my classmates gushed in anticipation to attend boarding school. Kings college was in popular demand at the time.

The only thing I knew about boarding school was what I’d seen in American movies. Students would wear matching pinafores and sing songs while jumping on high bunk beds with their countless friends. In my eight-year-old mind, it would be a fun adventure and I couldn’t wait.

So when I got home that afternoon, I announced to my parents that I would be attending the Navy school as a boarding student.

My parents weren’t as excited as I was; in fact, they glanced once at each other and then back at me. “You sure?” my mother asked. I nodded emphatically. What could be more fun that boarding school, especially if it was anything like the American movie version.

With great reluctance, my parents relented and soon I was accepted into the Navy Seconday School. From that day on, I bragged to my siblings and all my church friends, telling them of the grand adventure I was about to embark on.

Then one day, my mom took me and my two brothers to the barber. At first, I was confused since the salon was on the other side of the neighborhood. She told me to sit on a chair while my brothers were getting their haircuts. Now, mind you, my mother made sure me and my sisters’ hair was in top-notch condition. We visited the salon every two weeks for a fresh perm, our locks healthy and long. At eight, my hair covered my shoulders and skimmed my back though at the moment, it was in a careless ponytail that brushed my neck.

I sat down to read a book with pictures while we waited for my brothers’ to be done with their haircuts, when I heard a strange buzzing sound at my left ear. Then I felt it. A lightness I hadn’t known before. My eyes caught the movement over my shoulder and that’s when I saw it; my long thick hair sliding down the nylon sheet onto the floor.

I jerked in my seat to look at the culprit, a dark-skinned man with a razor to my head. I felt sick to my stomach. “Mommy!”

She came to me and I could see tears brimming her eyes. I was taken back in shock that all my hair was on the floor and that my mom was crying.

On the way back, I numbly asked why. She said in boarding school, all the girls cut their hair.

“But I look like a boy!” I protested, vowing to despise the barber for the rest of my life.

As my brothers raced across the compound to our front door, my mom put an arm around my shoulder. “It’ll grow…” she said weakly, and I chose to believe her.

Besides, if losing my hair was the worst that could happen, I could handle it. Or so I thought…

(to be continued)

What about you?

Did you go to boarding school growing up? What was the first few days before going to school like for you? Traumatic? Exciting?

Let me know in the comments below and let’s commiserate together. 😉