It did not seem normal that for all the three years Mr Tusiime had been our physics teacher, he had never missed a lesson and he had always arrived on time. What was wrong with him? Why wasn’t he like the rest of the teachers who were normal enough to suddenly have to attend to a sick child? Why couldn’t accidentally break a limb? Why couldn’t he catch a common cold?
Believe me, we had been kind enough to try and give him a normal life. On one April Fools’ Day, we had sent him a random note telling to go home since his child was sick and was urgently in need of medical care. We hadn’t realised that his children were in boarding school. During one dry season, a bunch of us were down with flu and we actively sneezed in his direction. The man stayed as healthy as a horse.
It was frustrating. What’s worse is that he was immune to all the antics we used to try and throw him off course. We arranged our seats facing the back of the class but he taught anyway. We slept on our desks and snored heavily but he taught anyway. He knew that pretending to snore takes a lot of hard work. He knew us well enough to know we were too lazy to commit to hard tasks for long.
Foolishness said to me, “You’re the voice of our class. We need you to ask Mr Tusiime to give us a break for once in our lives. Look at yourself. Look at us; we are tired of that man’s face-the face of a human sleeping pill.” I obliged. It was clear that Mr Tusiime would find a way to teach even if there was a thunderstorm during which aliens invaded the school and ate all the students and tied up his limbs and taped his mouth.
At the beginning of each lesson, Mr Tusiime always asked if we had any questions from the previous day. My classmates looked at me as if to say, “Here’s your chance to save us.” So I put up my hand and said, “We want a free lesson.” *silence* “You do?” “Yes!” in chorus. “Okay. Whoever feels tired is free to move out.” I stood up. I walked out. Nobody else did. Even foolishness abandoned me because I soon realised I had made a terrible mistake.
For the next seven lessons, I stood outside the classroom, looking pitiful, hoping that Mr Tusiime would let me in. He didn’t. We sat for a test at the end of the month and I scored. -5%. My total scored was supposed to have been 2% but he had subtracted 7% when I handed in my test paper five minutes late.
He asked me for my mother’s number, to discuss with the possibility of taking me to a school where I could get the “vacations and breaks you want.” All the features on body started their own kind of dance. My eyes batted, my lips trembled, and my limbs shook.
But I had been here before. And Mr Tusiime knew it. Each time the fear subsided, I would go back to my foolishness. So he said to me, “Go back and write down five names of women you know who shunned school but went ahead and achieved greatness.” It was a wake up call. It was the end of my foolishness.