ONE: the environment is the Secondary School premises in my village. The school has hardly existed for two year and so we were the second set of students. Part of the activities of the day apart from classes, lunch, siesta, games, etc included filing out into the field with our cutlasses, hoes and things to face the stubborn tree stumps rearing their heads all over the school compound. Amidst the digging and hoeing and cutting were hilarious jokes shared amongst us all. The jokes made nonsense of the tediousness of uprooting tree trumps and the sweating involved. It was all fun, even with our blistering palms; afterall we were all teenagers barely fresh from the pampering hands of our loving and lovely mothers. I remember that one of the jokes was that of a school mate who should now strike me as a dedicated truant. He, like all of us, had a fee to pay which he did not pay and so he was sent out of the class to go and collect the money. The irony of the whole thing was that the amount he had to pay was, say, 5 shillings and instead of paying the 5 shillings from the money on him, he preferred to leave classes for the day, pay 10 shillings or more from his pocket to travel three to four towns away to complain to his parents that he was chased out of school for non-payment of the fee of 5 shillings! What a scholar! We however jointly enjoyed the fruits he came back with from the town.

TWO: Okonkwo was one of us. He sneaked out of the school compound to town for god knows what, but unfortunately sneaked into the observant eyes of the school’s Hostel Master. Poor boy, he himself neither noticed the Hostel Master nor knew that the Hostel Master had seen him in town. It was “Prep” time,and there was roll call and checking to know how many “Okonkwos” have actually gone to town that day without Exeat. He was the only one.
His punishment when he came back was to cut, just one small tree stump the following day. The following day he set to, but was complaining bitterly that the punishment was too tedious, and that his hands were as a result covered with blisters and paining him seriously. Okonkwo was hardly a teenager anymore, having first saved money from his trading to secure himself a secondary School education. He was about the strongest of all of his class mates, but now he was complaining over an exercise he would have finished within the distance , and this simply because the execise was given to him as punishment.

What is the actual difference between the stump-uprooting exercise in ONE above and the one in TWO above. The latter even was supposed to be less stressful!


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