SCHOOL MEMORIES: Better off without Umutesi

Her beauty was beyond compare, with flaming locks of auburn hair, with ivory skin and eyes of emerald green. Okay. The truth is that Audrey Umutesi’s hair was black, not auburn, and her eyes were brown instead of emerald green.

Her beauty was beyond compare, with flaming locks of auburn hair, with ivory skin and eyes of emerald green. Okay. The truth is that Audrey Umutesi’s hair was black, not auburn, and her eyes were brown instead of emerald green.

But still, her beauty was incomparable and women clutched their men whenever she walked by. That’s why it felt appropriate to describe her with lyrics from “Jolene,” a song sung by country artiste Dolly Parton about one woman begging another not to take her man.

When Audrey arrived at our school, for the first time in my life I really understood the meaning of the saying, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” Her physical appearance invoked unspoken rivalry from female teachers and suddenly, they started buying new clothes and perfumes…cheap perfumes that irritated our nostrils and caused us to sneeze helplessly.

But Audrey had one remarkable flaw; the girl was as dumb as a rock. Tried as teachers did, teaching her simple concepts was as difficult as it is to grasp a shadow. It was then decided that one of the students should tutor her and I became the unfortunate human on whom that responsibility was placed.

And so it began…the longest month of my life. I tried every method of teaching. I repeated phrases and formulas so much so that when it was silent, they echoed in my mind. I was convinced that I was going crazy. “Have you understood?” Oh how I dreaded asking this question! It was always received with a chuckle and a headshake. And yet it wasn’t her slowness that bothered me. Before tutoring Audrey was added to the list of my troubles, I used to think that being empty-headed was the worst catastrophe that could befall any human being. Audrey soon proved to me that a poor attitude is the worst of all calamities.

In case you’re wondering why I didn’t throw in the towel, it’s because Audrey was never short of pocket money. So to be honest, I only continued tutoring her because now when I said the Lord’s Prayer, I could skip the part that says, “Give us today, our daily bread.” I said goodbye to posho and beans, said hello to canteen junk, and in no time, my cheeks were soinflated that if you pressed them, it was likely that they would explode.

Audrey scored an average of 37  percent in the tests that followed a month of tutoring. I was blamed for her failure and she was given to my academic rival, Sarah Kemigisha. I was outraged, but only because the source of my daily bread had been taken away from me. Suddenly, Audrey started scoring highly on every test, beating me sometimes…the same Audrey I once asked to define prime numbers and she confidently replied, “Prime numbers are those that end with one.” I was compelled to carry out an investigation.

Unsurprisingly, I discovered that Audrey had resorted to cheating. I told my best friend Rita, who told her seatmate Anita, who told her sister Ms Bamanya, our Chemistry teacher. It wasn’t long before Audrey was caught in the act and given an indefinite suspension, which of course is just a polite term for “expulsion.” Order was restored. Teachers stopped wearing clothes that were two sizes too small and sneezing in class died down. We all agreed that we were better off without Audrey Umutesi.

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