Your Place Is Not In School?

Your Place is not in school is a short story about a young mother who neglects her daughter's decision in getting an education.

It had been five months since Benita lost her husband to an illness. In her lifetime, Joseph was the only guy she had ever been with. When he died, she felt her whole world did too. The day after Joseph died, his family members began to subject her to horrible, inhumane things. They had taken the little money he had left and the little dignity she had left. For three months, they made her go through rough times. They humiliated her in the city and also in their village. After going through those difficult moments, she became bitter towards her late husband, regretted meeting him, and also had five children for him. It wasn't the fact that he left. He left her alone with the five children to cater all on her own. Now, she understood when her late mother told her to take it easy with childbearing. She was all alone. Friends claimed to be broke too. She didn't have any of her family members alive. The in-laws were useless, only good for inflicting pain. She was left alone.

Now, more than ever, she regretted the fact that she didn't go to school and didn't get an education. The person she depended on for so long was gone. 13 If things were different, she would have been earning 300k a month from working in a bank or somewhere else. She wouldn't be selling foodstuffs at the market or sending her oldest child, Jessica, to the streets to get money.

Jessica reminded her so much of her late husband; She had his eyes, his smile, and his good heart. Jessica also had the leadership qualities that Joseph exhibited. She took care of her other siblings; Anita, Faye, Jonah, Jacob, and Jessica. She was like the mother when Benita wasn't around. She was just 14. Because of the way things were in Nigeria and also in her life, there was no money to cater for all their educational services. Anita was still two. She could only cater to Jonah and Jacob, the twins, and also Faye. Jessica was the unlucky one. She had pulled Jessica out of school and told her, "There's no money to further your education." She didn't sugarcoat it or beat around the bush.

She had to prepare Jessica for the real world and how wicked it was. In Nigeria, she needed a man to help her. She could not be anything without a man. It hurt Jessica that she was pulled away from her secondary school, especially since it was a good academic year for her. She was on top of her class and could even get a scholarship for her undergraduate studies. Benita knew how smart her daughter was. But she was the oldest. She had to step into the shoes of responsibility. It was a tough world out there.

Every day, Benita would send Jessica to the marketplace to sell goods. She ignored her neighbors that said," It's the 21st century; girls should go to school, not the market". What was the problem with that? It was the way she was raised. And she turned out pretty alright. At least, that's what she thought. 14 Benita had a brother who went to school and became a doctor; unfortunately, he died three years ago.

She wanted her boys to be something, just like her late mother wanted for her brother. Jessica was so smart, even more than her brothers. She deserved to go to school and move towards fixing the nation's problem like she promised Joseph before his death. Benita had other plans for her. Like selling food, sweeping, being a housemaid, and being a wife. In May, Jessica started to work as a house helper in the home of the Balogun's. The woman of the house was madam Josephine whom she called "Madam Jo." She was a woman of class, but Jessica thought of her as a "lazy woman." She could do things on her own but wanted help in everything, especially in getting a remote. The woman had three children; seven-year-old Faridah, twelve-year-old Yosola, and 18-year-old, Boyega. Every time Yosola and Faridah came back from School, Jessica's heart hurt; It shattered whenever Boyega spoke about university courses and how tough it was. She would never reach that point in her life.

She wanted to be in school, wanted to deal with difficult assignments, and wanted to hear the school bell. One day, she made a grave mistake. Madam Josephine had sent her to the market. Instead of that, she went to school. She had spent so much time-solving Mathematics problems for her mates that she had forgotten her original destination. Leaving the school by 6 pm, she was robbed by some thugs by the street. If she had known this would happen, maybe she would have stuck to her errands. As fast as she ran after them, they had escaped with the ten thousand nairas for pepper, palm oil, meat, chicken, and all. In tears, she started to ask for money around the town.

Defeated, she walked back home with only two thousand and no goods from the market. 15 Jessica didn't escape the beating the woman had given her. She cried herself to sleep, not because the pain was excruciating but because her mother's look would be more painful to bear. She was returned to her home the next morning. As much as she tried to tell her mother," school is where I belong. Madam Jo keeps maltreating me. Her mother replied sternly". You must go back. But why?". Jessica cried out". My school said they could give us a discount.

"We barely have anything to eat at home, Jessica. This is what should be done". Benita said. "You are a woman, and your place is in the market or the kitchen, not in school!"'. She told her,". Get it into your head! And Jessica did. For the rest of the year, she worked with the Balogun family, cleaned toilets and rooms, and went to the market. She went on errands instructed by the 12-year-old-child also. Every time she made a mistake, they not only insulted her but beat her till she cried for help, which she never got. Housemaid brutality was not new to the family. Jessica had heard about the former maid they had; Nse ran away from the house because she couldn't stand it anymore. She chose her life over the money the job brought in. Jessica knew her fate in the house. It was pain and torture, then finally death. One day, she made the mistake of spilling a drink on the oldest's bed.

The teenage boy saw red. Jessica recognized that same look in his mother's eyes. He bent down to Jessica on the floor, struck his fist in her face repeatedly, kicked her by the belly, and banged her head against the wall and ignoring the crack sounds that were heard at every hit. Besides, his mother did it; why couldn't he? But he didn't think she would die from his brutality that day. By 9 pm, Benita had put the other kids to sleep and leaned by the door of the house.

She missed her little daughter, Jessica. She missed her smile and braiding her hair for school every Sunday. 16 ‘’What happened?’’. Her neighbor, Freda, asked. "I miss my baby." Benita cleaned her tears. "The way you've been treating her, I don't think you even loved her," Freda said. "What do you mean by that?". Benita snapped. "Just saying what I am seeing." The woman said," You took her out of school_." She is to take care of the home." Benita cut in and threw a frown towards the woman's way." That should be the right thing to do. Boys should go to school. They have a better chance of being somebody in the world. So, you want her to be in your place, depending on a man?". The woman asked".

Girls deserve to go to school; not everything is about a man, Benita. But we were raised to believe that". Benita justified". You and I. Even if I wanted to take her back to school, which money do I have?". Benita asked". I am poor. At least when she knows how to take care of a home, a man will come along, and then everything is solved. "Society places too much emphasis on this." Freda said," Girls are good for other things apart from cooking, sex, or cleaning. Let her be something, and trust me, with how smart that girl is, she would end up taking care of you and her siblings. Freda was right. Benita knew it deep in her heart, but the thing that needed to be done was Jessica getting ready to build a home, taking care of the kids and also the man. That was what girls were meant for. The school wasn't for them; Benita had that knowledge ever since she was a child. Jessica would be fine, working.

There was this horrible feeling in her. The last time it happened was when Joseph died. She felt sick and nervous. She began to cry once the feeling became overwhelming for her. ‘’Jessica’’. She cried out softly.

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