Students milled about in front of the hall, some on the line, waiting to be called in, some flipping through books for last minute absorption of lessons – via osmosis by sight. There were the few running about to purchase or mooch off, as the case may be, a pencil or an eraser from a colleague, the hurried hustle for razor blade to sharpen blunt pencils, and of course, those ready and ‘armed’ to their teeth, exuding confidence as well as doling out answers to questions flying over and around them.
At the entrance stood Dr. Femi, the invigilator cum ‘fashion police’, calling in students according to their matric numbers from the list she held, with a ready pencil tapping against the same, fit to point out anyone who either came late or was dressed in inappropriate wear that was unsuitable for such a gloriously solemn occasion.
After the roll-call, everyone was seated in the hall with two booklets before them and the tension was almost palpable. It was time to get down to business. Business that separated the men from boys, readers from loafers, the prepared from those not prepared.
In no time, the invigilator gave instructions for the examination after confirming everyone had gotten his copy and gave the command to commence. Crisps and crackles of flipping question papers permeated the air immediately and suddenly, deathly silence went through the room at the last flip. The unbelievable had happened and time stopped as students were in shock.
A student actually laughed out loud, a sound that bespoke the hurt of being the brunt of a sick joke. Not that that was of any concern to the invigilator as she responded with a warning to throw him out if the action repeated itself. They were in an exam hall and they must behave accordingly as occupants, no matter how temporary.
Of course they were in an exam hall, nobody needed to be told, but they all sobered up and gathered their wits about them. It was time to make serious effort to call to memory information that would bail them out of the pickle they were in. So on went the attempts, the struggle, to draw out from previous conversations useful data or even from tidbits that might have broken through the haze of sleep into their ears while the lesson was being taught.
The hall was grave, the struggle was real, the students had been betrayed, the examination was a hoax, for the questions before them were the very ones they had the assurance could never be asked, ever. How unfortunate.
The course really was the least favourite of most, Biochemistry had always been fickle. Nobody was privy to the marking scheme, not even the lecturers, some of them. Except the Head of Department, of course.
The only weapon in the students’ arsenal was a life-saving rule; actually, two. It said: Go north if you have to, east, west, south, anywhere anything of even remote association to the topic is, in the corners of your mind and marry them on your booklet. The second said: Study past questions. They’re the source of your new questions.
Unfortunately, the second rule did not hold true in this instance, so wisdom demands the application of yet another rule, albeit unspoken: Never leave your sheet blank. Write something down. Anything.
And so pens flew, in furious scribbles across sheets. Meaningful, some meaningless, relevant or otherwise, but texts nonetheless, filled up the tomes. Requests for extra sheets was not quite forthcoming, no surprise there.
In no time, the hour had come to submit, after the instruction to dot i’s, cross t’s, and ensure matric number is written boldly across every sheet, blank or otherwise. Everyone filed out row after row, submitted their scripts, picked up their bags and left.
Friends regrouped outside to relay their experiences and some gave in to a few tears in the embraces of acquaintances. Others hasted to return home while some were happy enough to distribute smiles to those who needed them.
The hall was deserted little by little and students clutched to another mantra, this time a source of comfort: las las, we go dey alright.