“Avoid bad touches. Abstain. Go straight home from school.” All these campaigns and more were imparted to us every single day through the posters that hung in the school compound and through the numerous talks that the school administration arranged. We were only expected to conceive ideas, not babies. But because some girls were unheeding, they conceived the latter. The school community looked at these girls as weeds. It was imperative for the weeds to be separated from the plants.
To separate the weeds from the plants, they used a process called “screening.” Once or twice a term, we would be marched to the school clinic where our stomachs would be thoroughly pressed. No one knew the day or the time that the screening would happen because the school administration purposed to surprise us.
Standing in line waiting for your turn to be screened was always nerve-racking. You couldn’t look too serious because you worried that other people would think that you were worried. You couldn’t look too happy because it would look like a cover-up. You couldn’t let your tummy out because on that day, people with big tummies always received suspicious looks. But most importantly, you couldn’t miss screening because it meant that you had something to hide.
I had nothing to hide. It’s just that they called for my class during the Art lesson. The Art teacher was very passionate about teaching the subject but no matter how hard he tried, I just couldn’t draw. I am a compassionate human being so sometimes I dodged the classes to save him the trouble of teaching the likes of me. I’m sure he appreciated the gesture because he didn’t seem to mind my absence.
But I wish I hadn’t been so compassionate that day. I found the school nurse waiting for me in the classroom and as soon as she saw me, she grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me to the school clinic, much to my dismay, much to everyone’s amusement. She was muttering under her breath and the only words I could make out were; pregnant, face your fate. I wore a smile and tucked in my tummy but I knew that the damage had already been done.