Innocent Prisoners, The Life Of Caroleans (I)
Technically, prison is a domicile for the deviant in society, meant to isolate them in order to protect them from the general public, themselves and as a form of rehabilitation. Well this story isn’t about the aberrant in society, it is about optimistic young individuals who sought to seek the best of knowledge and thus ended up in an academic prison. St Charles is single sex school (males) that was first established in 1953 at Wiaga and was later moved to Tamale in 1955 were it is now situated. Its primary goal was to train highly disciplined and intellectual priest for the Catholic Church but in 2001 the school reached an agreement with the government to start absorbing students as a Senior High School while still serving its divine purpose. Students of St Charles are referred to as ‘Caroleans’.
Just like the tales of secret detention facilities which harbours hardened criminals and are only often heard of, without a fair location of where they are situated, St Charles though is situated in tamale and is one of the best Schools in Northern Ghana, few people in tamale actually know where the school is located in tamale though they often hear of it. The school is isolated and has a wall around it, and within the wall there is another fence separating the students from the masters’ bungalows and school administration .Life as a Carolean (student of St Charles) starts with you being searched like a suspected suicide bomber approaching the Holy Vatican seat. In St Charles they shared the philosophy that all men were created equal and should be equal (just like how inmate prisoners are equal), they therefore searched all students before entry into the school, thus the students often refer to the school as ‘St Charles Minor Prison’ or ‘The School Of Hard Knocks’-because in the schools all the blows and waves of life knock you each day, and also there was a man who had perhaps the hardest knock ever, he could give you a knock and your brain will literary hibernate, so believe me, if he gave you a knock, you had to take a nap, no two ways about that.
At the inception of the school, students were required to bring only their clothing and not any form of provision or food stuff. Every student therefore depended on the dining hall as money was just a piece of paper in the school because nothing was sold in the school, not even water, this was meant to do away with the social classes of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. The school often had water crisis and students merely had water to drink, we could hold our taste for a full and a half day, well talking about bathing, it was a great luxury, some could do a whole month without bathing but interestingly wearing a white shirt every day, that is survival, about 90 % of freshers in every badge came back to the school after their first term experience against their will therefore making them prisoners of academia.
Every Carolean (student of St Charles) was a criminal until proven innocent; well looking at things it is rather every Carolean was a criminal just that some were never caught. Each Carolean lived as if the next day is the doomsday, life in St Charles seemed forever, you don’t know which action of yours could offend the school, though there is a constitution with laid down rules and regulations, let’s just say it was a military region and the constitution was overthrown, judgment was therefore made by the last dictator ‘General PK’, mind you, not the chewing gum, for he was no way similar to it, unlike the chewing gum which is soft and flexible, this man was as rigid as the rock of Gibraltar and as conservative as the word, he was a man of antiquity and therefore stack to the ways of antiquity.
Before being a carolean, I heard tales of a truck in the school, one which had not even a single wood nor a single robber attached to it, a truck that was fully metallic and seemed to date back to the time of slavery, but the tale was before my eyes one unfortunate afternoon when we were told to uproot a mammoth tree as a punishment and carry the logs to the kitchen to be used as firewood , this was one of the normal punishment in the school, others included digging a pit large enough to be called a swimming pool and covering it with stones all again, there was also ‘disco sweeping’, that is sweeping mid night with a touch light, another insensate act was that, some caroleans were sometimes locked inside the toilet and made to pound the fecal matter through the man hole using a stick, thereby inhaling all the gaseous components the faeces, this was even done in absolute darkness because the toilet scarcely had bulbs in it, I remember one inauspicious midnight, as I went to attend to nature’s call, I didn’t have a touch light because a touch light in the school was like iPhone few people had it, as I went in, I stretched my eyes to its full lenses to see if the toilet was occupied but it seemed free, behold as I removed my pants and was squatting, a hand tapped my ass and this was the day I believed every human has super powers within them, you just need the situation to unleash it, at that moment I let loose my flash powers (the fastest superhero), till date I don’t know how I got pass the toilet wall because I know I didn’t use the exit, after the tap on my ass the next thing I remembered was me panting on my bed and my dorm mates asking what went wrong with me.
If you were unfortunate to receive punishment from the assisted headmaster, the luckiest you could be was if he gave you a hard knock on the head, doom unto you if you were getting lashed by your neck using a water hose which we called ‘vuvuzela’. One portentous afternoon, we were being matched to the assistant headmaster’s office for allegedly speaking vernacular. As we approached his office I saw a group of students who seemed to be prostrating, so I thought they might be muslins praying, but thinking of it, no way will muslins be praying in front of this man’s office. So I deiced to take a close look while thinking of my own fate, as I got closer, behold this were not muslins and neither were they praying. I saw a ‘vuvuzela’ in the air descending unto the poor soul of a prostrating Carolean’s neck with the speed of light and the shear force of a bullet. There my soul darted before my very eyes as I cogitated of my own fate. As he was done with the massacre, he called me to his office and I was a little enraptured because I thought I was going to receive counseling.
He had a cross with the statue of Jesus on the wall; so he said to me ‘boy look at Jesus’ as I was raising my head I called unto Jesus in silence to perform one of his miracles, perhaps let me evaporate and condense somewhere far from here, before I could conclude my fancy meditation, I felt an anguish in my neck as if my head was been chopped off and at that moment my life accompanied with my soul flashed before all my sense, he had descended a water hose unto my poor ignorant neck that was stretched to look at the savior in hope of it being saved. If you had to get punishment from them and you looked ugly to them, you were seen as a bulldozer and thus given an infinite amount of trees to uproot (till they are satisfied) and if they happens to forget about you, well you are a dead goat.
As St Charles was geared towards serving the lord’s course, we attended chapel twice a day irrespective of our religious affiliation. We had mass every morning, devotion in the night and had benediction on Saturday nights. St Charles was well noted for its highly disciplined students though it was rather more of order than discipline, there were merely other forms of academic activities and entertainment, so all we did was brood on books and give thanks to our maker.
They say if you go through difficult situations, the rest of your life will be easy and if you go through easy situations, the rest of your life will be difficult, it is like going through hell and finally being sent to earth, no matter how difficult the earthlings feel, to you it is heaven. St Charles was an inferno to all caroleans, now as we are being unleashed unto reality, we are like cliffs protruding into the oceans, no matter the shear force of the waves of life that hits us, we do not succumb, for we have being through worst. This is just a tip of the iceberg of life as a Carolean, life as a Carolean is like Dentes inferno, a journey of stumbles, torments and toiling but yet adventurous.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Mohammed kamaldeen and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana.