When I joined the girl-only school I currently work as a teacher, my students found me extremely strange. That’s because of my trousers that would flow above my ankles, and I was the only staffer with such a dress style. They would stare at me and I would clearly see their minds. Whenever they saw me pass by their classes or encounter me on the way, one would noticeably tap the other to signal the approach of Mr Stranger, hmm! In fact, they had some whispering codes with which they used to communicate which I was curious to know.

My lovely students didn’t know I cared not. They didn’t know I was already used to the backbiting. My colleagues – Muslims and non-Muslims alike – would even do worse. That’s a story for another time.

One day, I encountered some senior students on the way for a classroom adventure. Aside passing by me without an humble salutation, I heard one shout “teblik”. I was happy to know what they had always whispered into one another. “So, na teblīgh these girls dey call me. Ó ti dáa báun!” I soliloquized. I looked back immediately calling on them with the voice of an angered lion. “I want you in my office at so, so time,” I roared pointing at the culprit.

The girl could not run away even though I didn’t know her name – and neither did I know her class. Her albinism made her easily identifiable. But for that natural colour, I would never have been able to fish her out of the approximately 2k federal unity school students, if she had run away.

In my office, she pretended to be novice of her own mockery offence. In the end, she apologized for her action. So, I asked what teblik meant and why she called me as such. All she could say being a Christian was that she got it from her Muslim friend. I got her educated and set her free.

The next time I saw her was probably the following week when her class was to be invigilated by me. She greeted with guilt noticeable in her physiognomy. “Teblik’s wife, how are you?” I replied. Her countenance changed immediately. She apparently didn’t like how she was addressed. I needed not told that she was embittered – that such would be done before her colleagues. She must have feared that, that could be turned into a nickname by her colleagues.

The depth of ignorance of some people is indescribable. With confidence, they express nonsense. When they are corrected, they prove too know.

Wearing the trousers above the ankles in the name of sociability is okay. Doing same in the name of the religion is not. Whoever does it for the former is considered civilized, but whoever does it for the latter is regarded as a fanatic, extremist etc. And among these labellers are people who are well read, some up to PhD level.

Sanni Kay Yūsuf


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