Abuba and Joyful are two of the 50 new students in Primary 4, the first of the five primary school classes offered at Ibba Girls’ Boarding School.
Joyful’s name captures her nature, and Abuba shares her broad smile and innate sense of rhythm and fun. As another classmate bangs out a beat that sounds more complicated than just two hands against a skin drum, the class sings and moves as one; small, taut movements that are so infectious and so tightly synchronised that they are as impossible for me to replicate as they are for me to avoid trying to. Similar sounds reverberate around the school grounds as each year-group practises its moves; there is an element of friendly competition here.
This is the end of the school week. Lessons finished at lunch-time and the whole school then took part in the weekly debate. The motion that this house believes that education is better than business is not carried, under-pinning perhaps the need to build business, management and life skills into the co-curriculum – or the need for more education, to strengthen the proposers’ arguments.
Saturday is occupied by homework and laundry; clothes spread out on the grass dry quickly in this sunshine. But there is time for fun too, with girls – one in a Wayne Rooney T-shirt – and staff enjoying an impromptu game of volleyball.
Sunday Morning worship is announced with singing and dancing.
A breezy structure with a pitched zinc roof and half-height walls, the new multi-purpose hall affords pleasant views of the green surroundings and is the venue for the weekly service. The place is filled with music and movement, which seem as integral to the culture of Ibba Girls’ School as laughter and learning. It is not entirely clear until the visiting preacher begins reading from Luke’s Gospel some time later that the service has indeed started. Sunday lunch is rice and cowpeas, with goat stew and a leaf grown on the campus that tastes not unlike spinach and might be amaranth. After lunch, we wander through the campus, chatting to groups of students.
A group of students is practicing a play they have written, in which the girls portray various family members arguing about the merits of girls’ education. It is comic, and poignant. Other girls laugh as they play on one of the new seesaws, a log balanced and fixed in the fork of a tree and offering hours of fun.
It is cathartic to see girls who at home might be mothers or acting mothers by now, having the freedom to be children and play.