In Class

13/03/2017; 8:10 pm

I both love and hate classes like this one.

It is early in the night. The sun, fierce and unfeeling only a couple of hours ago, is gone, and now the air is lighter, easier to breathe, without all that thick heat weighing it down. Most people are home, I assume. Probably getting supper ready, showering, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook because they have nothing better to do. Or because they have not procrastinated quite enough yet before getting started on that very important thing that they have to get done by tomorrow afternoon.

Me? I am in class.

I love evening classes because I don’t take it for granted that my school cares enough about our personal schedules to grant us the flexibility of this option. So considerate. I love them because it’s easier to be in class on a cool evening than on a muggy afternoon. Easier to arrive on time than if it were a morning class. Because sometimes when you’re going for a morning class, you arrive late because you live far and your parents insist with everything that is within them that you cannot move out of home, and you live in an area of Nairobi where everybody (except you) and their dog (you also don’t have a dog because your mother thinks they are dirty and loud and that keeping dogs inside the house ni tabia za wazungu) moves around in a car, and traffic is so bad that the driver pulls out that free newspaper he got on the road that morning and flips through it casually— the engine quiet, the bus still. And sometimes, you make the decision to alight and walk part of the way because you really cannot afford to be late to this class and walking seems faster anyway. And sometimes, you realize that this is your first poor decision of the day because you are anything but fit, but you give yourself hope by saying that at least you will get your cardio done for the day. You trudge on until you give up, wait for another matatu to get you to town, realize that due to the traffic, there is none forthcoming, and then continue trudging until the Lord remembers you. And sometimes, after all this, you will still get 15 minutes late and get locked out of class because your lecturer likes to assert classroom dominance every now and then for no reason in particular. And you get annoyed because damnit you paid school fees (well, your parents did) and she has no right to lock you out when she has no idea what you have been through to get to that class. How dare you, Dr.Newa! You said I was a star student!

See? Easier.

Plus, when you’re in an evening class, you find yourself with lecturers who do not behave as mentioned above because you have classmates who are the same age as the lecturer. Or older. You know, people who have come back to school for self-actualization, not because they have been forced to by their parents. They have kids older than you, they have businesses set up and offices where they are called ‘madame’ or ‘sir’ and they refer to you as ‘millenials’ or ‘young people nowadays’, with just a touch of spite because they think you are ridiculous with your torn jeans and uncombed hair and your obsession with self-expression. So the lecturers can’t act or talk as they wish , and they sure as hell don’t drown you in assignments. Because working students have jobs and families and actual lives to run, unlike the rest of us. All we know to do is to sleep in till noon, right?

But my God, this particular lecturer could use some Red Bull. Or whatever it is that would spike her energy levels. I don’t begrudge her her personality. I’m sure she is interesting to her family and friends, outside class. For all I know, she could be a riot a parties, killing it on the dance floor and doing bad karaoke. But jeez. She is one of those lecturers. The kind that make you sleepy just by entering the classroom. She has a slow, quiet, unexciting way about her. She drains your energy by her lack of energy. Doesn’t actually do much in class, she just is. She may as well be just another member of the class, what with the way people act as she lectures. There are lecturers who make you sit up straight when they walk in, either out of fear or respect. Then there are lecturers whose presence you barely notice, and whom you feel no specific way about. My lecturer is the chair lady of the second group.

It is a class of about 30 and as she goes on about Jean Piaget and his theories, at least 26 of us are on our phones. And not ati in the covert way you use when you have those kinds of lecturers who call you out for displeasing them: You in the blue shirt! Stop looking behind, it’s you! Do you want to go and use your phone outside? You know I can confiscate your phone until the end of the semester? I don’t tolerate nonsense in my class so if you don’t want to learn then get out and stop distracting the serious ones…

This lecturer is nothing of that kind. So guys have their phones on their desks, texting and browsing openly as though it is part of the course work and they will be graded on it. Some of these guys don’t even have a pen or a book. And the lecturer doesn’t seem to mind. She just goes on, bless her.

The handful of students that seem to enjoy being in class and are just overwhelmed by their thirst for knowledge are here, carrying the rest of us sluggards on their academic shoulders. The academic giants we used to be told about.  In my primary school, we were told, there were two types of students: academic giants and sleeping giants. The ones who did well and the ones who had potential but refused to tap into it and blow us all away with their intellectual prowess. Because it mattered that we knew that we were all giants. Once in a while, a student would cross over from being one type of giant to being the better type of giant, and when this happened, our teachers would go insane telling us about how everyone can perform well, you just had to work hard…stuff like that. I had a classmate like that. His name was Joshua and from Class Four to Six, he was the teachers’ second-worst nightmare. The worst was a boy called Branscom, whom I am now convinced had a personality disorder. Story for another day. Joshua would flunk in class and then openly tell teachers to leave him alone, to stop wasting his time, to stop touching him because, ‘Ah, teacher we unanichafua’ (After this last one he would brush off imaginary dust from his uniform as though it was an expensive suit and look the teacher dead in the eye, as though daring him to defend himself and say that he was actually not dirty. The teacher never did. We found it hilarious). One time our class teacher was staying late, marking our books or something. Joshua picked up a bunch of stones as though he was David going after Goliath, and threw them consecutively and rapidly onto the mabati roofing. It sounded like the roof was being blown off and the poor man abandoned the books and fled for a distance before realizing that he was the only one, and that the roof was still intact, and that there was a bunch of twelve-year olds dying with laughter a little ways behind him. That teacher didn’t last a year.  Anyway, after that year, Joshua suddenly ‘turned over a new leaf’ and was suddenly coming in second in class and everybody was being used as an example: If Joshua can do it, then you can also do it. Joshua, if by some miracle you happen to read this, what are you doing these days? Are you still an academic giant or did the truth of mediocrity hit you like it did the rest of us?

A good teacher is a determined person.

~Gilbert Highet~

I used to think that being a teacher was a calling. It seemed to me that the only way one would go through what teachers go through was by the good Lord’s grace. Then in high school I began to think that people became teachers when all their other dreams have been shot down and there is nowhere else to go. Do you hear teenagers saying that when they grow up they want to be teachers? Some years back perhaps. And maybe one or two people do say that. But in my experience, teaching is never anybody’s first choice. There has to be something really powerful driving you for you take the amount of crap that teachers take on a daily basis. Whether that is desperation or ambition, I don’t know. Maybe we will get a clearer picture when the nobility of the teaching profession has been restored and teachers are once again as respected as they used to be when our parents were growing up.

But really, teachers no longer take crap just from their students. It’s from the students’ parents these days as well. I mean, when I was in primary school, or even high school, I knew for a fact that if there were to be a disagreement between me and a teacher, my mother would always take the teacher’s side.  There was no question about it.Teachers, as far as she was concerned, were always right. And then these days I hear stories of how people’s parents are going to school to yell at the principal because their child was suspended for beating up another kid.Incredible. What a time to be alive. And yet teachers will still keep at it, dealing with students who disrespect them for sport. I mean, we had a teacher in high school who was called Puff Adder by pretty much the entire student population, and at some point nobody even remembered why. And our principal was called Catfish ati because one time she put on a weave that made her look like a catfish. How even? If that isn’t sport then what is?

Time doesn’t move when you’re in a dull class. Now see. I have written 1700 words for three hours and yet only half an hour has passed. Sigh.

5 thoughts on “In Class

  1. Hehe, damn!!!! School life. Sadly I miss school life. This is a great article I love how you have highlighted the struggle of an ordinary student
    Alafu Joshua ?????
    That day he fought sijui Mr who… I can’t remember.

  2. Laughed all the way.

    Who was Puff Adder though?
    High school was 5 years ago.

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