Right from the start, the relationship between Chemistry and I was doomed to fail. During the first lesson, Mr Kapepsi asked us, “What is a bunsen burner?” I was confident when I put my hand up. I had heard my brothers say it many times; a bunsen burner is a burner that burns in a bunsenic form.
The first time I’d heard the definition,I thought it very strange but then again, basing on the stories I heard during the holidays, secondary school seemed to be one strange place. Upon hearing my answer, MrKapepsi held a piece of chalk between his thumb and his forefinger and aimed for my forehead. I ducked and the chalk hit Janice Kworeta, the girl who was seated behind me. Janice started crying inconsolably and Mr Kapepsi forced me to kneel down for the rest of the lesson.
During the next lesson, I wanted to ask a question and so I said, “Excuse me, Mr Kapepsi…” He was so outraged that he took me by the collar, dragged me out of the classroom and closed the door. I later learnt that Kapepsiwasn’t his real name; it was a nickname. For a reason we never found out, he had a tiny circular scar on his right cheek.
The scar had an uncanny resemblance to a tiny circular green sweet that was popularly known as ‘pepsi’, and hence the nickname. Mr Kapepsi had been at my school for a very long time, and thus the nickname had gone on for so long that after a while, neither teachers nor students knew his real name. He refused to introduce himself saying that it was a waste of his time to tell us his real name because he knew we would call him Kapepsi behind his back.
A series of unfortunate events followed those first two encounters, with each event leaving me a little bit resentful towards Mr Kapepsi. After a while, the resentment escalated into full-blown hatred. I hated Mr Kapepsi and everything he stood for…everything including Chemistry. I refused to pay attention in class, and attended lessons only to glare at him or read the notes of another subject.I refused to learn from him. Yes, I was a very foolish child. Foolishness begot ignorance and by the time we did our End of Term One examinations, I hadn’t even gone as far as learning the definition of a bunsen burner. I handed in my answer sheet five minutes late and for that reason, Mr Kapepsi deducted five marks. I scored four marks in the examination and thus, in total, my score was negative one.
Chemistry was what they called an essential subject. If a subject was ‘essential’, then you were forced to learn it all four years Ordinary Level. More than that, you were expected to score above average because if you didn’t, your grade automatically changed from one to two. I stayed up for twenty-four hours studying for the End of Year Chemistry examination with my feet were planted in a basin of cold water to keep me from falling asleep.
When I opened the question paper, I realised that it was only answer question number three that I could answer to my utmost satisfaction. So I spent most of time on it. Ten minutes to the end of the examination, Mr Kapepsi announced that question number three had an error and as such, it wouldn’t be considered for marking.