Were you born and raised in Calabar between the mid 70s and early 90s? If yes, you may know what I am writing about. Way back then, there used to be four classes of children (veryyyyyy broadly speaking) namely:
The Marian (covering areas from Effio-ete roundabout through Ndidem Isang Iso Rd & State Housing) Children.
These areas are Calabar’s answer to Lagos’ Victoria Island & Ikoyi, and Abuja’s Maitama & Asokoro. Families who lived in these areas consisted mostly of old prominent Calabar (Efik) families who had served in government at one time or another and a sprinkling of noveau riche who fell in love with the ambience of Calabar and decided to raise their family there. It was no wonder that the children who were born and raised in these areas were spotless, clean, Aje Butters, who had freshly baked bread from High Quality Bakery every morning. Most were either chauffeur-driven to school or had mummy religiously take them to school before 7.30am and of course be waiting to pick them up before the closing bell sounded.
They attended Aunty Margaret Nur/ Pry School and attended after-school lesson classes from Pry 1 5. From Aunty Margaret, they proceeded to one federal government college or the other. From school into air-conditioned cars that transported them to homes behind high walls. If and when there was any interaction with other children, Etim or Okon (who happened to be Daddy or Mummys chauffeur) drove them to other homes behind high walls where they played with children from similar families.
Of course most of these children grew into young adults living on the Island (in Lagos), Maitama (in Abuja), in the UK or the US.
The Highway ( covering areas from Parliamentary road to Federal Housing Estate, Army Barracks and 8 miles) Children
Consisting mostly of children from Obudu, Ogoja, Ikom and Ugep, a vast majority of these children’s parents were civil servants in the state civil service while the rest were children whose parents worked/ lived in the army/ police and Navy barracks or owned stalls in the nearby Ikot Ishie market.
Children who lived in these areas moved in many different cliques, depending on where your parent(s) worked. The children of senior civil servants moved together, children of junior civil servants moved together and those who lived in the different barracks moved together.
In their little world, the senior civil servants children (thought they) were the top of the pack. They were very similar to the Marian children and many had friends in that circle. Like the Marian children, they had bread and tea for breakfast even though there was no guarantee it was going to be High Quality bread. They also had Ogi and Akanmu and Yam and Stew. They also lived in big houses behind tall fences but unfortunately, most roads in these areas were not tarred and there was something about living on an untarred road that deprived these children from attaining the full Aje butter status of their Marian counterparts.
There was no singular school that defined children from these areas. You could find them in Estate Nur/ Pry, Navy Nur/ Pry, Charles Walker, Madonna Montessori, Calabar Preparatory and a few in Aunty Margaret. More than 50% of them attended Sunday service in St. Patricks and attended catechism classes for their first Holy Communion and confirmation. Because there were no social strata in church and the schools most of them attended, the different cliques of children ended up blending really well. Many of them knew how to sing Fe ge di kim nkanya, even though they did not know what it meant. Its no wonder that most children who grew up in these areas speak passable efik language whether they are of Obudu, Ikom or of Ibo decent.
The Quarters children
You could spot a quarters child a mile away. They were the well dressed ones who looked like the Marian children but with loads more confidence. Their parents were professors, doctors and lecturers in University of Calabar and yes, they lived in the UNICAL staff quarters. Being around so many young adults who were their parents’ students helped them have a healthy self image and loads of confidence.
Many children heard about them but very few saw them. Even though they lived in houses without fences, the big gate that surrounded the university kept people away. They had their own special community, attending UNICAL staff school and Chapel of Redemption or St. Paul’s. They grew up a very close knit community but then, that is no wonder as most of them could walk into each others homes unannounced and be sure of a welcome.
These children realised very early what they wanted from life. Even though many continued to a federal government college for their secondary school education, most left after junior secondary to the UK or US (where they were born) for the rest of their education. The few who completed their secondary school education in Nigeria were whisked abroad for their tertiary education.
The quarters children are a special breed. Quite a number dated and married each other and a vast majority have stayed strong friends, attending each others weddings and hooking up in different parts of America for staff quarters’ children reunions.
The South (Covering Mayne Avenue, Uwanse, Goldie, Target, Edibe Edibe and other parts of Calabar South) Kids
These were children who had the most fun filled childhood experiences and also, some of the toughest experiences. Most attended one primary school or the other (note in Calabar, nursery schools were the schools that insisted their pupils wore fresh clean uniforms with white socks everyday of the week, while primary schools were the ones that could not care less if their pupils wore sandals, bathroom slippers or nothing at all) and the lucky (privileged) few amongst them attended Charles Walker, Madonna Montessori or Calabar preparatory. Most of them proceeded to a state secondary school that almost always went on strike. They formed fast and strong friendships that almost always ended in a very serious quarrel. Many of these children grew up knowing rice/ stew as a Christmas delicacy and garri was a staple diet for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
They threw (and still throw) strong punches and the girls like the boys were no weaklings. Children from these areas have my respect at any time for the singular reason that many have transcended indigent backgrounds to become successful. The determined ones amongst them attended POLYCAL when they could not gain admission/ afford to attend the University. They are a number of them in politics (as politicians and politicians wives), a few in oil companies and a few in business. Also, thanks to the road construction works embarked on by the previous government, this area has become one of the best areas to live in Calabar.