‘Patie! Someone is at the gate. I heard a woman shout as I stood in front of a big black gate waiting for it to be opened. It was my first time visiting Uncle Dayo. My school was on an indefinite strike so I thought to steal the opportunity to visit as many of my distant relatives as I could.
‘Aunty you are welcome’, a not so fair complexioned teenage girl greeted me after she unlocked the padlock and pulled the gate open. Her face was void of expression.
‘Thank you’, I replied, wondering who she was. The last I knew, Uncle Dayo had only three kids and they were all boys in primary school.
As we stepped in, I was awed by the structure of the house. It was truly beautiful. The white painting suited it just well.
I met Uncle Dayo’s wife immediately we got into the house. She welcomed me very warmly and showed me to my room. ‘Please you’ll be sharing this room with Patie’, she pointed to the teenage girl who was now standing at the room door. I didn’t mind at all. The room was spacious, though a little bit untidy. I had scheduled three weeks to live with Uncle Dayo and his family and in the process, get acquainted with Ondo environs as much as I could.
Sadly, after only two weeks of my stay with Uncle Dayo and his family, the discovery I made about how he ran the family was terrible. This was a man who, as I observed, was very involved in church work and activities. The kids who were eight, five and three years old respectively, were very disorganized and rude. Patie was always made to do the house cleaning more than once every day because of this.
Not just that, she was always on one duty after the other. At some point, I had to step in and help as I couldn’t watch Uncle Dayo’s wife do nothing but give orders here and there. It was bad enough that Uncle Dayo was hardly at home to supervise the happenings of the house.
Worse was the fact that there seemed to be a mutual understanding between himself and his wife to drive home the point that Patience was not their biological child. She was brought to help them and so it must be. Her clothes were different from those of his kids. She went to a public school while the kids went to a very good private school. Whenever shopping was done, her name was exempted from the list.
Whenever we had our privacy, Patie spoke openly with me. She would lament about how unbearable it was to live with my Uncle. She would speak about her desire to go back to her home, even though her stay with my Uncle supported her family – a family that majored in farming at the village. At least among her people, she was loved and treated well. With them, she had joy unending.
Her story makes me remember a lot of others I’ve either read or heard about. It makes me almost puke because of the kinds of inhumane treatment the innocent ones receive. I mean seriously, why take in a house help, another human being, if you wouldn’t treat them nice?
And it is unfortunate we do not have enough civil right movement and activities to curb these sort of maltreatment.
Friday of my third week’s visit came and I was to go back home. I was really sad leaving the poor teenager t these wolves. Patie told me she would finally run out of the house immediately after the term was over. I kept her secret.
Through the three weeks visit, I was able to reflect deeper on certain things and I see that Patie’s story is true for many others not living with their family. They stay with another family for one reason or the other. There, they see people for who they truly are. They see through the facade they put up in public; pretending to love from afar but acting in contrast when it comes to the people living with them, especially those not of their own flesh and blood, or liking.
My brother once told me about a mother who gave up her child to a rich couple for adoption. She did this because she felt she was poor and didn’t have the means to care for the child.
This isn’t different from what Patie is going through, as her family also gains financially, from her stay with the rich Uncle and Aunty, who now make her life a living hell.
This is bullshit! I’d rather keep my child and do everything in my power to provide the basic needs. We will live together and overcome that poverty together.
It stings me that when people like Uncle Dayo go to church with the Patie, together, everyone lifts up holy hands and shout hallelujah. Hypocrites, they all are. Hypocrites.
Have you ever come across this kind of issue? What do you think can be done to curb it?