The teaching and non-teaching staff of Eclipse Valley Academy, were summoned for an emergency meeting with the principal during the lunch break. The members of staff sat in twos in the assembly hall, discussing in low tones, as they waited for the principal to arrive for the meeting.

It was not long before the principal, Mrs. Julian Igbanke joined the staff in the hall. Every one among the staff knows that Mrs. Igbanke is a good story teller. She can keep her audience spellbound with her stories, especially when she wants to get them to agree with her on something. Mummy J, as she is popularly called, can make a story out of any, and everything.

But there was something about her story this afternoon. It lacked the usual enthusiasm and boisterous energy with which she told her stories to capture the attention of her listeners. There was a kind of sobriety in her tone and body language as she carefully picked her words before her subordinates.

Another thing her listeners quickly observed was that before she started telling the story she got herself seated, picked up a handkerchief from her bag, as if she was preparing to break an unpalatable news to them.

When she was sure that all eyes were on her and that she had got the attention of everyone, she slowly proceeded with her story thus:

“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I guess most of you know why I called for this meeting? But in case you do not know, I will tell you now. It is with heavy heart I want to confirm to you that the news that filtered in when we came to school this morning has been verified and found to be true.

There were rumours this morning that we lost one of our students yesterday evening. Well, I want to tell you that it is no longer rumour; it is now truth. It has been verified. I went to their house this morning and saw things for myself; and the truth is that Abigail, the assistant head girl, died yesterday at night. So, if you saw her yesterday evening, as I did, when we had a meeting with all the prefects, that was the last time you would see her alive”.

There were groaning, weeping, bitter cries, etc., among the staff. Both men and women broke down in tears. By the way, some were already crying even before the principal made the announcement. Abigail was such a nice girl that all who knew her could not hold back their tears.

But what really happened to Abigail?

The principal continued her story…

“From what I gathered when I went to their home this morning, Abigail committed suicide inside her room last night. The mum went to her room after their morning prayer to find out why she did not come out for the usual family prayers and found her stone dead!”

At this juncture the principal could not hold it further and had to make use of the handkerchief in her hands as she buried her face on the table. More weeping, sighing, sobbing… among the staff.

After what seemed like forever, the principal continued her story…

“Abigail dropped a letter for her mum on the floor, or she was probably holding it in her hands when death overpowered her. In the letter she appreciated her mum for all she did to take care of her and her younger brother since their father died five years ago. 

She acknowledged that her mum really worked hard to make sure that she and her brother were enrolled in the best school around, and that they lacked nothing, which could make them feel the absence of their dad”.

“Why then did she take her life?” Someone asked.

In answer to that question, the principal said…

“That is why I called everyone of you here. We all failed Abigail! (at this juncture she stood up). After appreciating her mum, Abigail went ahead to explain the reasons she decided to end it all. I may not go into all the detail but the summary is that the girl has been battling with low self-esteem and prejudice since the day she was made a prefect till yesterday when she could not bear it any longer.

I learnt that one of you here went and told Abigail’s mum that she was supposed to be the head girl but Nneoma was chosen instead because, she (Nneoma) smiles a lot while Abigail has a stony face.

And the mother believed that devilish self-sent messenger. I am going to deploy everything available to me to make sure I fish him or her out. Abigail’s mum never allowed a day to pass without taunting the poor girl about her failure to become the head girl. So each time she came to school and saw Nneoma she was filled with resentment, then she would go home to meet her mum who would jeeringly ask her, ‘how is that cheerful girl, Nneoma? I love her jare! If you like keep tightening your face!’

According to the nanny who talked with me, when Abigail got home yesterday, her mum asked the usual question about Nneoma and she simply said, ‘mum why don’t you ever tell me that you love me? Am I not a human being?’

And instead of the woman to retrace her steps she started calling the poor girl unprintable names and reminding her how she has been working like a jackal to give her the best possible, yet all she could do was to play the second fiddle.

She went to bed without eating. And as fate would have it, the nanny bought a bottle of Sniper two days ago, which she kept very close to the washing machine. Nobody knew when Abigail got up in the night and took the bottle and emptied the content into her mouth.

She ended the note she dropped for her mum with, ‘mum I love you and I have always told you so, even though I can’t really say whether you love me or not. You can transfer all your love to your cheerful Nneoma, but please do not abandon my little brother the way you abandoned me.’

As at that morning when we were there, she kept shouting, ‘Abigail, I love you! Abigail, look at me nah, I said I love you! I love you Abigail…’ I suppose that by now they might have taken her mother to a doctor because it seemed she had lost her senses

Mhnnn! What a loss! I couldn’t keep this to myself, and that is why I had to call all of you to relay it. I also want to use this to remind us that we are not here just to teach them arts or sciences; we are supposed to attend to the emotional needs of these children! How come none of us even noticed that that girl was hurting?

And the mother is now confessing her love to a dead body. Let me tell you, the words I LOVE YOU are golden to every growing person. May you not utter those golden words to a ghost as Abigail’s mother is doing right now!”

The principal ended her story thus and other things followed, which I would not bother my readers with.

I want to ask every parent or teacher reading this piece, do you know that those three words are golden to every child? Are you using them wisely now or are you waiting to use them for a ghost?

I pray that you will not tell your son or daughter that you love them when it is already too late.

We can talk about any issue you have with your child; no child is irredeemable if you know what to do and what to say.
Let’s talk about it NOW!

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