‘Bring out your assignments and place them in front of you,’ the teacher said.
‘I left my book at home, Madam,’ said Alieu.
He’d hoped she wouldn’t notice. ‘Mrs Joof is such a bore,’ he thought. She always keeps putting pressure on us and doesn’t care if we’re in the mood or not. Can’t she even notice when one is not interested? They are all like that. The headmaster just ignored him now after repeated warnings and, good riddance! Who cares? The other teachers and even the bigger and older students had the same attitude towards him. They had no idea how difficult it was to wake up next to four other boys who had not even bathed the previous night.
‘Alieu, why didn’t you do your assignment?’ she asked in a harsh tone.
‘I did it, Madam, I just left my book at home,’ Alieu repeated and went to the corner where all pupils who had not done their assignments were punished. That was wise because he’d be told to go there anyway, so why wait?
Alieu Njie had had a stormy life thus far. His father, a conscientious businessman from Kaur had died when he was only three. So he had only the vaguest of memories of his father and knew only a mother who was haggard and lean from too much struggle to cater for her two daughters and a son. When Modou Njie, Alieu’s father was alive, they lived in Manjai Kunda where Modou had a vibrant business. They lived in a two bedroom apartment and life was good. Unfortunately, Modou fell ill and after a prolonged battle succumbed to the disease.
As was the custom in most African families, his brother, Ebou was told to inherit the wife, Alieu’s mother. Ebou was the black sheep of the family and was something of a wild cat. He had sired three sons outside wedlock and all from different mothers. He had started as a stubborn boy who paid no heed to the advice of his parents. He kept drifting to the bad side slowly and soon landed himself into the evil habit of being an alcoholic. He inherited his late brother’s wife and moved to the Kombos to be in close proximity to his new wife, a wife imposed on him.
In the beginning it was a little easy as his brother had left behind a good house, a handsome savings account and so lazy Ebou Njie just moved in and started enjoying the fruits of his brother’s labour. As was his wont though, he kept squandering the money in his less-than-desirable lifestyle of alcohol. In a short time he had outdone himself by wasting the entire savings on the bottle. He resorted to violence. When he came home in the evenings, completely wasted, nobody even dared cough. He constantly beat his wife to unconsciousness and the children watched helplessly. The three women he had impregnated outside wedlock got fed up with catering for the sons of a man who couldn’t even remember their names. They brought him his ‘stock’ and dumped them with him. So was it that Alieu Njie had new unwanted brothers to share his hearth and home with.
Alieu Njie thought of the hunger that haunts him after sharing a plate of mbahal enough for one person with his seven brothers and sisters. His stepfather, a lousy drunk couldn’t afford anything so only his cleaning-lady-mother brought home a cheque to pay the bills and put food on the table.
Worst of all was the patronizing look and patting of the local Imam. What does he know? He only talks about the merciful God. ‘Who are you telling? I know all about God, you never see him when you need him,’ Aieu Njie thought to himself.
a) What is the attitude of Alieu Njie towards his teacher?
b) i) Was Alieu Njie a good student?
ii) Quote a sentence to support your answer.
c) … ‘stock’..
i) Why is the word stock in paragraph five put in inverted commas?
ii) What does it mean?
d) Ebou was the black sheep…
i) What is the literary device employed in the extract above?
ii) What does it mean?
e) How many biological brothers does Alieu Njie have?
f) … that haunts him..
i) What is the grammatical name for the extract above?
ii) What is its function?
g) Find a word or phrase which can replace the following as used in the passage.
i) notice ii) vaguest iii) prolonged iv) helplessly v) wedlock vi) squandering