In the beginning, we were living on the calm farms of our lovely countryside. Mostly, we were children of farmers and fishermen and it was in those years that our township was embracing education with enthusiasm and the civilization of the west was seeping soundly into our township. Because our parents were the children of fishermen and farmers who were birthed by farmers and fishermen, our parents had parents who couldn’t make sense of schooling or made meaning of schooling, fancied schooling but didn't find a means to ensure that our parents schooled.

Now in our time, when many of our parents' parents were already grey-haired or demised, our parents became new breeds of parents who made sense of schooling, fancied schooling and found means to ensure that their children attended schools. Thus, when the first elementary school was founded in our township, we became the first set of children who attended school. When the town workers were done with constructing our three large bamboo classrooms, it was time for us to start our school year. My parents didn't seek my opinion or that of my siblings. It was three days from the yam festival and my parents simply instructed myself and my siblings to go to school first the next morning before coming to do our farm work after school. And so we became schoolchildren.

I was nine at the time and was excited because I thought I was going to have plenty of time to play with my friends who lived in distant farmsteads. Close to my thoughts, from age six upwards to say about twelve, we were all in a large bamboo classroom. My fourteen-year-old brother Adesanya learnt in a different bamboo classroom for older children of his age group. In the centre of our large bamboo classroom stood a white-skinned woman who spoke our native Yoruba language and called herself Mrs. Steward to us. White-skinned Mrs. Steward was not from our small township but she spoke funny stories to us in our native Yoruba language in an intriguing way that pulled us to come to school every day. Whenever our school time was over at about midday, my younger siblings would be waiting to return to our farm work with me and our older brother Adesanya.

Following weeks of attending our first and newly founded elementary school, many children in my bamboo classroom would no longer attend school. Tobi was the first and although he was pretty smart and his parents wished him to attend school, he grew bored of learning and listening to the white woman talk. Much that he forced himself away from our bamboo classroom and fished all day.

Next, it was Sisi. Sisi's parents left her for the city when she was a toddler and she lived with her grandma ever since. When Sisi's grandma grew so ill that she could no longer walk, there was no one to take of her. So Sisi stopped coming to our bamboo classroom to take care of her grandma. Then Shola. Shola's family had a large farmland with plenty of work and when the farm work grew too great for his family, his parents could no longer lease him or his brothers to schooling. While these things happened, my siblings and I became children with the bigger privileges. Rather than return from school to work on our family farm, my parents slowly relieved us of our farm duties to create time for us to study well.

Through time, we the bamboo classroom children aged six to twelve became smart pupils of Mrs. Steward. Every school day, we sang happily, recited the alphabet, and learned to hold and sway pencils in a way that made pencils scribble something with meaning on paper. Something with meaning like the alphabet. Within my bamboo classroom, I found children I didn't know lived in our small township. Because I lived in our township all my life and visited most farmsteads, I was surprised to see unknown children. In my inquisitiveness, whenever Mrs. Steward was not standing in the centre of our class, I would question the unfamiliar children to know where they came from in our township.

Gradually, I made new friends and invited the unfamiliar children to play games in our free moments. Of the different new friends I made, Folake was the most intelligent. She was fine, funny, and she learnt faster than we all did.

# # #

Much later, in our sixth year of attending school, the civilization of the west was pouring greatly into our small township. At this time, Mrs. Steward was no longer our class teacher but we remained in our large bamboo classroom. We had learnt about mechanized farming and the necessity of mechanization in large scale agriculture. As always Folake was asking an intelligent question about the disadvantages of a tractor. She had read a big book about farm machineries in our makeshift library. In response, our new class teacher Mr. Dodoma explained the concept of farm machineries and responded to Folake's question.

When our school time ended, we were excited teenagers waiting eagerly for tractors along our farm paths. Starting from a tractor's ignition to other things I've now forgotten, Folake explained how she could drive a tractor. We laughed loudly, not because she didn't explain convincingly but because we knew her teenage arms were too tiny to muster the strength to make a tractor move.

The years in which the civilization of the West poured greatly into our small township were the best years of our lives. In those years, our parents fulfilled their schooling dreams in us, and we became schoolchildren. In those years, we learnt to read and paint and write and talk. In those years, we learnt about the troubles on a black man's soil and realized the problems of environmental degradation, greed and corruption. In those years, we learnt about the black man's religion and the price we paid for the influx of Western civilization into our small township. In those years, we learnt that our sisters and mothers and our mother's mothers and sisters had suffered long from inequality, childhood marriages, genital mutilation and many such vices. Sadly, Folake died from one such vice and we all were draped with cassocks of grief.

When Folake died, I cried. Folake was fine, funny, and she learnt faster than we all did. When Folake died, the entire township was thrown in mourning. But strangely, the lilies started growing by the riverbanks and you could easily tell it wasn't the time or place for lilies to grow. The egrets started lingering on the pasture and when the cattle were gone, the egrets lingered longer and strangely feasted on insects they were never known to feast on.

When Folake died, it was as if by dying, Folake had bloomed follicles of a strange but new beauty in nature. Everything felt amiss, nature reacted in unprecedented ways. But maybe it was nature's way of consoling us and telling us that if we can simply look closely, we'll find the bliss of Folake in every bloom around us.