"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...” - A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
I find the above opening lines for the famous book by Charles Dickens very fitting for this post on one of the many and unforgettable experiences I had during my time in a girls boarding school. Maybe my spoof version would be:
“It was the best of times, it was the horror of times, it was the age of teenage wisdom, it was the dawn of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of unending incredulity, it was the season of Light (Lights Out!), it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hopelessness, it was the harmattan of despair, we had everything behind us (in our homes), we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Headie, we were all going direct the other way…”- A Tale of Two Bodies on One Bed.
Herein starts my story (true mind you!)
I was not too thrilled at the prospect of going to the Secondary School my Dad had chosen for me to attend when most of my classmates had all gained admission to Achimota Secondary School and I had to look forward to hundreds of kilometres of a tiresome journey to Mfantsiman Girls. I got the sparsest of provisions as I was told most could be eaten by the seniors so better not entice them with too much delicacies in your wooden chop-box. My trunk was packed, my chop-box semi-full and my students mattress, with my name blazing on its surface, was dutifully rolled up for the trip.
My first night at the school wasn’t as bad as I had thought. I actually found the seniors to be funny in what they termed ‘homoing’(a mild form of hazing) of first year students. I was soon bored and ready to turn in for the night. I entered my dorm to find another mattress on top of my mattress atop the metallic bunker bed. Bed-sharing thats what it turned out to be. I was to share my tiny students mattress with another student. What is known as ‘Perching’. I know you know the size and length of students mattress; could be about 36”x70” or could be less, but I didn’t get how I was to share that tiny space with another student and a total stranger at that! I prayed she was tiny. I was so wrong! My bed-mate was thrice my size and weight! What a squeeze it was. Mind you, we didn’t sleep head to head but rather head to leg. So where my leg lay was where her head would be and vice versa. What if she had smelly feet or I had foot rot? Well someone wouldn’t be happy would they? lol!
So there I was squeezed in this uncomfortable position and thinking of my queen-sized bed back home. The night passed by without me falling off my bed into the buckets of water below me.
The wake-up bell clanged at dawn behind our windows and as the noise trailed through the other dormitories, I woke with a strong ammoniac smell on me! I knew my bladder hadn’t failed me (not since I was a baby) so I jumped off the bed to find my mattress and my bed-mates mattress thoroughly soaked with urine. Whatever happens to one mattress happens to the other. I was upset and I had to wake up my bed-wetting mate to take out the mattresses to dry out. Water was a major issue in that school and there was no way, a whole mattress was going to get soaked and washed in a bucket of water. What water would you use to bath later, hmm?
No amount of airing got out the smell of the urine. I don’t know what experiences my bedmate had had the night before or if she even brought this from home. After 3 days, i got fed up and reported to the dorm prefect to change my sleeping partner. I didn’t enjoy single bed freedom for long before a new mate was brought in. That ended my ammoniac nightmare.
I now think back and wonder why the school took in so many students during a new school term knowing full well that there weren't enough beds to cater for the accommodation needs of the girls. Greed and poor facility management by school authorities.
Perching was or is still (if its still ongoing) a way through which lesbianism in girls secondary schools festers and grows having all kinds of emotional and mental stress on the young women who come to school thinking they are coming to get an education. Well they do get some form of education just the sexual kind. I was blessed to not have experienced a bedmate coming on to me in the middle of the night mistaking me for their CapeCoast school boyfriend. God knows what went on in other beds when the house prefect would shout 'Lights Out G6!'
Perching was so commonplace that some saw it as a normalcy to sleep in a senior’s ‘tent’ ( a single bed which was shielded with bedsheets hanging from drying lines to create a no-see through tent) when asked to by a senior. It was more of a privilege when one got that invitation. This tent served as a hideout for lesbians and wanna-be lesbians to insert each other with all kinds of objects for sexual gratification. Some also just slept without any hidden intentions, mind you.
Perching also exposed students to falls from the bunk bed and I heard of a few which though sounded funny was actually serious when some had cuts and bruises the next day. Sadly, I had a few bedmates who were Olympic runners in their sleep. Their legs would toss and jump around, sometimes locating my face as they run a 100m race in their dreams. My bed-sheet was the only protection from this hazard.
Diseases and illnesses found it easier to cross from one body to the other during perching, a good example being head lice and other skin infections which spread on certain occasions. I remember when an insect called ‘Botwe’ found its way into our mattresses and how many had nasty facial or arm sores due to some form of acid ejected by the insect. Why wouldn’t the blooming sore-causing insect have a field day with two people on a bed?
I only hope schools have abolished this form of accommodation for students whether boys or girls as it makes no sense why poor facility management and growing greed of school authorities should cause physical, mental and emotional harm to wards entrusted in their care.
But would single beds or double beds prevent many of the social vices going on in the schools?
Herein ends my true story. Do you have a similar story to share on Perching whilst in secondary school? Or know of friends who experienced this unfortunate bed sharing period? Share below! :)