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'Still Berna'

Mawuli Zogbenu 1212.jpeg Mawuli Zogbenu is the author

Fri, 24 Mar 2023 Source: Mawuli Zogbenu

You enter washroom in Naija and all the doors to the ‘Gents’ are engaged while those of the ‘Ladies’ are open and free. You expect a Naija guy to wait for the guys to come out of the Gents before you use the place? Hmmm! Then you are not really in ‘trouble’ with your bowels! Every problem is called a problem because it has a solution. No bi so? Hahahahaha! Mathematics is a problem that can be solved!

When I entered secondary school in the early 90’s, I was a complete nino looking very sheepish! The first tutor I met was B’kassa. A young sharp-brain tutor, he looked at me with an unwelcome smile as if to tell me to go back to Kisseman. Motown was not meant for a poor soul like me. I later got to know he was the one going to teach me Elective Maths.

Me? Elective what? Ajeeei! Here I was in the midst of very very wealthy and super intelligent classmates from Christ the King, Morning Star, University Primary, Achimota Primary, etc. Their grammar? Eish! ‘Asuri-suri kontonmire’ whereas some of us were like: ‘you say hort?’

I told myself even if I would be a casket maker at all, I needed secondary education first. I couldn’t blame my father bcos he didn’t understand the essence of formal education or understand what obtaining an aggregate 6 in BECE meant; all he understood was San 7!

When you finish, go and learn carpentery or become a ‘Still Berna’! Matter close! If you have ever asked your mason to give you estimates for building materials you need to build your house, you would understand how most of them write the estimates for ‘steel bender’ - ‘Still Berna’! simple and straight to the point!

Later after varsity (now called ‘Uni’ by this generation), I got a part-time job as a Mathematics pupil teacher and I was to teach this rich man’s children after my national service. Ei! I worked for only two non-productive months and got fired.

The man’s first child, Joseph failed kportorrrr and the second one was almost strangulated by the school’s headmaster for not knowing anything! I taught her all the robb*sh and she lost interest in attending my class. Their house was near mine.

Having attended KNUST, the biggest mistake this man made was to assume that everyone who attended Tek was a ‘sharp-brain’ in Mathematics. Chai! The ego of a university graduate did not allow me to say NO; besides I needed a job to survive.

All I said was: ‘No Problem’! I wanted to prove to the man that yes, indeed I go Tek so Maths no be problem at all. He didn’t know that ‘Tek dey Tek inside’. I didn’t want the man to know that I was empty-headed in maths!

Nervously I accepted the job with no appointment letter. In fact, did I even apply for it? I was to teach JHS 2 boy Maths to prepare for BECE.

I often would take the text book and ask him if he knew about ‘Akki Ola’ and the topic for that day would be on Akkiola saaaa till classes ended. Nothing new! In fact it was not easy to pass Maths if you failed to use Akki Ola as your study guide. May the Maths Professor’s soul rest in peace!

In teaching this boy, I would pick a mathematical question to solve and it appeared my only specialty was in the topic ‘Transformation’. Simple quadratic equations, even common ‘Factorization’ and ‘Simplification’ were my biggest headache and unfortunately for me that was where my services were needed the most bcos the boy didn’t really have a problem with ‘Transformation’ but still, my lesson notes were always about ‘Transformation’. Even when we were treating a separate topic, I would still find a way to squeeze ‘Transformation’ into it.

As for the Pi R square, I made this boy sleep throughout the classes and believe me, that was good for me bcos I was convinced that if things didn’t go well in the exam, which was obviously going to be the case, I could blame it on the boy not being serious.

Anytime I set a question on the board, this boy would say: “Sir, please the question is wrong”. On almost all occasions, I admitted that the question was indeed wrong without knowing what exactly was wrong even after he’s drawn my attention to it! Kalalalaaaaa! Hei!

In correcting the question, I often got it wrong again and I would be sweating. That would immediately retire this boy into sleeping mode. I would be there talking to myself and praying for the lights to go off so I could close and go home and rest.

On one such occasion, this boy’s father, my employer came to stand to observe how his son was being ‘sharpened’ to ‘blow’ Maths so he could continue to do Physics at the university. The boy’s father would often go like:

‘Joe, I hope you are picking up very fast. You are so lucky to have this man as your Maths tutor. I have heard so much about Mr Mawuli and how he used to top the Petroleum Engineering Class at Tek with first class’. Me? Hmmm! I don’t know where he got that false information about me from. (Ei! Me? Do Engineering? Kai!

With what IQ in Maths? Yes, there were those who knew the answer to all maths-related questions even before the lecturer finished setting them. ‘R raised to the power kuin times V multiplied by K divided by Z and they already know X! They were born with Maths.

Greetings o, Prof. Lord Mensa of the University of Ghana Business School. This guy was a wizard in Mathematics in our Tek days! Herh! People dey o. Some of us di333…like me, borla!

For me, one of the questions I hated in Maths were questions that go like: ‘If it takes 8 people to weed a football park in 2 days, how many days would it take 20 people to weed the same park? Weytin concern me with football park, Mr Dadson and Sons?

When the boy’s dad seemed to praise me with my ‘expertise’ in Maths, I dished out this unnecessary smile to what seemed like an attestation to an otherwise untrue compliment that obviously set me up for more trouble. I was sweating and the man even said in jest how he didn’t like Maths himself and how he envies people like Mr Mawuli, the Maths ‘Professor’ from Tek.

It was not the kind of joke that could tickle me to laugh. Kai! All I remember saying while sweating profusely was ‘oh as for Maths, the problem is usually with the students’ o but you see…’. You see what? oh! The boy’s mother brought me a bottle of chilled coke. I gulped down half of it and it was more like a boiling oil, very hot! I wanted to faint but like some ‘terminal illnesses’, they would just make you suffer without dying early!

Fortunately, and unfortunately for me, the lights went off at that point. I thanked God in my heart but that joy was to last only a few minutes. This ‘devil’ of a father brought a rechargeable lamp in order that I would continue with the day’s lessons with his son.

‘The battle is not over yet, Mr Dadson?’, I said in my head. That was when I immediately developed childhood BP. I am sure the boy knew I was going through ‘internal bleeding’.

In fact, I don’t know how I survived that night. The thought of going back to work again the following day kept me awake. I gave myself vim but still…or should I resign or feign sickness and disappear?

My student switched off long since and was only physically present in my class just to satisfy all righteousness as far as his stern Dad was concerned!

He went to write the BECE and as to whether he passed or not, the only thing I saw next was that Mr Dadson came to my house with the police looking for me. They left a message that when I got home, I should come home for dinner. Di’ what? ‘Trojan horse’ dinner? It was obvious I had caused trouble!

That was when I relocated immediately from my area to Alaji, continued from there to Malam and finally to Tuba! That reminds me, Dr Rafique Daudi has started fasting o; God willing in a month’s time, there will be Sallah! Hurray!

I messed the future of the boy up. He is a big boy now, not doing badly though. I am sure he would have been better off with a good Maths Teacher. His Math started on a bad footing from me. His dreams of becoming a Physicist were shattered; I caused it, regrettably.

Since then, I have learnt to tell people: ‘I can’t do it’ if I know it is not something I am capable of. After all, since the days of Adam and Eve, no 2 persons have the same fingerprint. Everyone is uniquely gifted. If you don’t know, you don’t know oo, my brother.

Me to find X? For where? Leave that for those with such IQ’s. Me too my IQ is this ‘Useless Column’ and remember ‘Don’t Read’! Hahaaaaaa!

Columnist: Mawuli Zogbenu