I am blessed to have attended one of the best secondary schools in Lagos, Nigeria. For the first four years, I commuted to and from school and home. The secondary school structure in Nigeria is comprised of Junior Secondary School (JS 1-3) and Senior Secondary School (SS 1-3).
I took classes in Biology, Physics, and Chemistry and encountered difficulty during those years. My parents tried to remedy the situation by hiring a tutor for after-school and weekend lessons. Unfortunately, my troubles persisted.
Eventually, we decided to give boarding school a try. It would give me greater access to teachers and put me in close proximity with students who knew better.
I was both excited to live with my friends and nervous about all the details of hostel life I did not know. For weeks on end, I packed and re-packed my box of items required for boarding school. We would wear boarding school uniforms made out of ankara fabrics.
Being a newbie, I brought a little extra than indicated just so I wouldn’t have to call home so soon. By the second week, one of the two buckets I brought went missing. When one of the senior girls inquired about why I brought two buckets, I told her that since laundering was by hand, I wanted to have one bucket for washing and the other for rinsing. When my second bucket went missing, I understood why she chuckled the way she did.
During the first few weeks, I lived in Matron’s Flat, the one that housed mostly the senior girls. I would pretend to be asleep just so I could hear them gossip. It was delicious! I was also careful not to giggle so they wouldn’t stop. While I slept on the first night, I rolled off my bed as I was not accustomed to sleeping in such a tiny one.
Because I lived with the senior girls, I often showered last. I could prevent this by waking up earlier and getting ready. We were up by 5 am every morning.
I occupied the lower bunk and bumped my head a few times when I arose forcefully. By the end of the month, I was moved to Flat Eve, where I got to see my classmates and juniors. Life in boarding school was regimented and every hour was accounted for. Every class, from JS 1 – SS 2, had daily chores. The SS 3 seniors were exempted as they were preparing for their school-leaving certificate exams.
As time went on (and I don’t intend to toot my own horn), I became loved by juniors, respected by peers, and trusted by administrators. Below are five ways this experience shaped me for university life.
- Money Management
Parents left a certain amount of money for their children every academic term. Said money would be used for plaiting hair each week and buying tuck shop. “Tuck shop” was the phrase used to describe snacks and drinks consumed on the weekends.
If this money ran out before the next visiting day, one would simply look on as others munched on their snacks. This skill has come in handy after graduation.
2. Study Habits
My primary reason for going to boarding school was for my academics. Every day, we had scheduled prep time. Prep was two hours dedicated to studying. During exam periods, many students voluntarily extended their study time.
Being in the company of other students meant that I picked up on good study habits, and asked my peers questions I didn’t have answers to. In University, nobody forces you to do the work. Having this experience has made it easier to hit the books even when I don’t feel like it.
3. Time Management
In boarding school, every hour was accounted for and there was minimal time to laze about. We were up at 5 am and were in bed by 11 pm. After light out, students who were up but not studying would be disciplined.
It was beautiful to see everyone function like units of a well-oiled machine. If an event was off by a few minutes, other things suffered. I still hold this lesson dear to my heart. And although it is hard sometimes, nothing compares to the joy of a productive day.
Every now and then I ran out of laundry detergent and people offered me some of theirs’ because I was friendly with them. This quality has also helped me in forming relationships quickly. In my life today, I can bear witness to the power of a pleasant manner.
5. Dealing with Homesickness
This part was hard, both on me and my parents. Legend has it that my dad would drive by my boarding house just because he missed me. My mom would also plate my food many weeks after I left home. Once I knew what homesickness felt like, it became a little less difficult to deal with after I moved for university.
If given a second chance, would I attend boarding school? Absolutely! I owe many life skills, stories, and memories to the walls and people who housed me for those two years.