a short story by
Cora was in her room crying. Her mother was in the living room also sobbing. The final results were out and she had failed her examinations for the third time. Miss Rhinella wasn’t going to blame the young girl. She felt that the she had done her best. Her neighbor, Miss Augustine’s daughter, Amelda, had passed all her examinations at first attempt. As a matter of fact, Amelda would soon graduate from teachers college and return to teaching at Nugent Hill All-Age School, where Cora was struggling to get through her First Jamaica Local Examinations. Her eldest son, Floyd, and her other daughter, Glynis, had to be sent to schools outside of Nugent Hill in order to get through their examinations. Miss Zephinella had known for a long time that something was wrong in Nugent Hill.
Her younger brother, Selly, was wandering about the place like he
had lost his mind. He claimed that Mister Baldie, Miss Augustine’s father, had congratulated him at the school-gate on the morning of the Common Entrance Examinations. Selly had ended up writing nonsense on his papers and he never got another chance as this was his final chance. Mister Baldie had passed on soon thereafter. Selly had dropped out of school and soon began loafing around the place. Miss Rhinella’s parents had taken him to many healers, but to no avail.
“What am I going to do now, mama? I know you can’t afford to send me to another school, but I just can’t pass any examinations in Nugent Hill,” Nora sobbed.
“I’ll have to ask your aunt, Mena, to help out again. It’s her, Floyd and Glynis stayed with, when they went to do their examinations. Now that they are both teachers and are helping her, she will not say no to you. Both of them behaved themselves when they stayed with her.”
Mena was three years older that Miss Rhinella and had gone to live in Latore Ridge seven miles from Nugent Hill. She lived about a mile from the All-Age school so the kids were able to walk to school.
“I’ve spoken to her already and she said anytime you’re ready, you must just pack up and come. I’m going to miss you, but I don’t want you to stay in this village and end up like Selly.”
“I want to go, mama, I don’t want to stay in Nugent Hill any longer,” the seventeen year old girl told her mother.
“You can go after the Christmas holidays. You don’t want to spend Christmas with mama and papa. You think Aunt Mena can treat you better at Christmas, than us?”
“No mama, I’ll wait until after Christmas then.”
Nora got through the First Jamaica Local at her first attempt at her new school. The next year she passed both the Second and Third Jamaica Local Examinations at her first attempt.
Meanwhile Amelda was back in Nugent Hill doing her internship. She had heard that Cora had gone to Latores Ridge to live and attend school nearby. Amelda told Miss Rhinella that she felt that Cora was brighter than her, but was always behind her in examinations. She felt that Cora had an examination block.
Miss Rhinella informed Amelda that Cora was now planning to go to teachers college. How splendid Amelda said. She hoped she would return to teach in Nugent Hill.
Nearing the middle of Amelda’s internship, Miss Rhinella was told of a big commotion up at the school.
She made her way up there. Rowena, Amelda’s sister and Miss Augustine’s last child, had been found with all the names of the children in her class written on a piece of paper and at the bottom of her shoes.
The class teacher, Mrs. Francine Maxwell, a Kingstonian, wanted to dismiss it as a prank, but by midday the majority of parents having children in the class had gathered. Some of them lived in close proximity and their children had run home to give them the news.
Miss Augustine agreed with Mrs. Maxwell that it was a prank Rowena was playing on the other children, but the parents were adamant that they wouldn’t be sending their children back to school until something was done about Rowena. Mrs. Maxwell told all the children to take off their shoes. She found no paper in any other shoe, but she realized that they may have taken out the papers during the break.
Amelda was severely embarrassed, but said that it was just a prank Rowena was playing.
A compromise was agreed upon whereby Rowena would allow her shoes to be searched each morning by Mrs. Maxwell and after each break.
Miss Rhinella left the school yard knowing that this was the trick Amelda had played on Cora. She told Cora of the events surrounding Rowena. She told her not to return to Nugent Hill to teach as she was certain Amelda and her mother would harm her.
At the end of her internship Amelda left Nugent Hill, taking Rowena with her. She was still angry at her mother for what she had done to Rowena. She knew that during the years she had been at Nugent Hill, Cora Martin’s name was always there on a piece of paper in her shoes. She had seen too many bright children failing examinations; her whole experience at several schools taught her that some children had a fear of examinations. She felt that her conscience was clear, her mother had done nothing to Cora Martin.
Cora took her mother’s advice and never returned to Nugent Hill to teach. She got through her teacher’s college examinations, although she didn’t get any honors and did a quite successful internship at a school in Kingston
She was now sharing in Amelda’s experience of seeing bright children fail examinations. She felt less resentful and afraid of Miss Augustine. She now knows that her mother’s suspicions about Miss Augustine had been unfounded. In time both Cora and Amelda would meet up at the same school and would sit down to share their experiences. The End.
Adapted from a collection of short stories: Waiting to Cross the Bridge.
Austin's blog: stredwick.blogspot,com