SHE QUICKLY WROTE UP another example on the whiteboard and turned to face the class.
“And what would be the answer to this sum?” She asked moving towards the rows of chairs, her eyes skimming from face to face. “If n = 4, b = 3 and y = 6. What then is n + b?”
She regarded several raised hands with speculative eyes as she glided in between the rows. They were the usual hands that are always up whenever a question was asked. Today she wanted someone else. She stopped beside Femi’s chair.
“Femi, do you want to try?” She asked gently, smiling encouragingly at the boy who was looking up at her with slightly nervous eyes.
Femi dipped his head in a nod and then pushed back his chair, rising to his feet. He studied the quantitative reasoning sum on the whiteboard with sombre concentration.
Elizabeth stepped back a little to give him room to be comfortable and waited patiently. Most of the kids have put down their hands, except for Nina and Nora, but then they were an over-enthusiastic pair.
Femi nodded his head again and swung his head around to face her. “The answer is seven, Miss Elizabeth.” He said with certainty.
Without waiting for her prompt, the entire class started to clap with enthusiasm. Even the twins put down their hands to join in the applause. Elizabeth smiled proudly along with the clapping kids.
“That is absolutely correct, Femi. Well done.” She slipped her hand round his plump shoulders and gave a light squeeze.
“Thank you, Miss Elizabeth.” Femi beamed proudly resuming his seat.
She nodded and stepped past him to return to her position in front of the classroom. “Now we have got about fifteen minutes before break time and I believe that you all can finish the last three sums on your textbooks before the bell goes off, who agrees with me?”
“Me.” They all cried in unison.
“Good. Then let’s get to work.”
Rustling sounds of flipping pages of books filled the air as they all quickly bent their heads, each working hard to win the first-to-finish-and-submit unwritten race.
Some twenty minutes later, Rukky and Femi were out on the playground, standing by the stainless steel slide unit as they watched other kids go up and down.
“You did very well today, Femi.” Rukky generously commended his friend. “You even got all the answers right in the class work.”
“Yes you did, Femi.” Nina said running over to join them.
They could both tell it was Nina because the mole on her temple was visible as her braids were packed up in a ponytail style.
“Your mummy must have started studying with you now, right?” Nora chimed in coming to stand beside her twin.
“That’s right.” Nina said before Femi could respond. “We always do so well because our mummy studies with us every evening.”
“Nina. Nora.” Nonye called to them from the Mini fun trail pack where she was standing.
“C’mon Nora, let’s go play.” Nina said already sprinting off.
Nora gave them a wave and went after her sister.
“It’s not my mummy that’s been studying with me.” Femi said in a low voice once they were alone again.
“Okay.” Rukky inclined his head. “Is it your daddy?”
Femi gave a small chuckle. “No. My daddy is very, very busy. He doesn’t come home till night and he’s always travelling.”
Rukky nodded his head again, looking at him with compassion. It must be sad if one doesn’t see their daddy almost all the time. “Is it your nanny, Aunty Joy?”
They all knew Femi’s nanny by name because he always talked about her. She was the one at home whenever he got back from school, the one who looked after him and even went to church with him. Femi always told them so.
“No, it’s not Aunty Joy.” Femi shook his head. “It’s Miss Elizabeth.”
“Miss Elizabeth?” Rukky stared at him, surprised.
“Yes, Miss Elizabeth.” Femi smiled. “She’s been teaching me at home since the Saturday before this last one.”
“She’d been teaching you at home?” Rukky was amazed.
“Yes. For two Saturdays now.” Femi flipped up two fingers. “My mummy called her after she gave me that letter to give to my parents.”
Rukky nodded. He knew about the letter because Femi had told him and even showed it to him that day as they’d walked together with Stella to the car park. But he hadn’t told him about the Saturday home classes.
“You didn’t tell me Miss Elizabeth was now teaching you at home.”
Femi flushed because his voice had sounded a little accusing. “I forgot. Besides I didn’t want people to laugh at me because no one else has Miss Elizabeth teaching them at home.”
Rukky felt instantly contrite for accusing him. “But you know I will never laugh at you, Femi. We are friends.”
“I know, Rukky.” Femi smiled. “You are my best friend. That’s why I’m telling only you now.” He made sure to stress the ‘only’.
Rukky nodded understanding the code of secrecy. “I won’t tell anyone else, I promise.”
They linked their little fingers and smiled at each other.
“You want to play on the slide?” Femi asked. “Or should we go back and eat our lunch?”
Rukky eyed the steel slide and shook his head. “Let’s go eat our lunch, I’m hungry now.”
They walked hand-in-hand, Femi chatting away as they made their way back to their classroom. Rukky’s mind though was preoccupied as he pondered on the information he’d just received. He hadn’t known that one could have a home teacher and that Miss Elizabeth could teach kids in their homes.
He’d been making dissatisfied grunting sounds for the last ten minutes. And yet had refused all offers of help from him and Stella. But he was slowly beginning to drive him insane and he needed to do something.
Caleb tossed down the knife he’d been using to slice the plantain, wiped his hands on the napkin across his shoulder and strolled towards the dining table where they were seated doing their home works.
“Hey champ, how about you allow me see these sums that have you grunting like a pig in labour and we try to sort it out together?” He said in a jovial tone, leaning over his chair.
Stella chuckled. But Rukky just continued to frown at his notebook.
“I’m trying hard to understand them by myself.” Rukky replied defiantly.
“And it’s obviously proving stubborn which is why you might want to allow me see it.” Caleb drew out a chair and slid into it. “You know what they say, two heads are better than one.”
“I got two answers wrong in our Verbal Reasoning class work.” He moaned still refusing to pass over his notebook. “Everybody got it and only I failed it.”
Caleb sighed. He’d seen that and had been flummoxed. They’d been easy enough questions and something he should have known.
“I know. It’s okay to fail once in a while.” He said in a gentle, soothing voice. “It just reminds us that we have to keep working hard.”
“I don’t want to be failing.” Rukky wailed tossing his pen on his notebook and dropping his head over it. “I hate to fail.”
Caleb stared at him, then turned to give Stella a questioning look. She only lifted her shoulder in a bewildered shrug. Rukky wasn’t the tantrum-throwing kind of kid. He’d never been. Was something wrong?
“Everyone hates to fail, champ.” He laid his hand on his back and rubbed down gently. “But you know, once in a while we all do. And that’s because we are humans and not God. Only God can never fail. Abraham Lincoln failed so many times before he became the President of America.”
“I just can’t understand these sums.” Rukky mumbled tearfully against his book.
“Let’s study them together and I promise you, you will.” Caleb pushed him up. “It’s probably just a little thing you are overlooking.”
He slid the textbook over to his side and studied the red-pen ticked sums. They didn’t look so difficult. Matter of fact, they were quite easy to fathom.
“Okay, take for instance this first one, when you…”
“Daddy, you can’t be showing me the answers.” Rukky interrupted in a moaning tone. “I need to know it. I need to understand it myself.”
“I don’t want to show you the answer. I want to teach you so you can understand it and know it.” Caleb said sharply feeling more than a little exasperated. “Just listen and watch what I’m going to do here. Stella, pass me a sheet of paper there.” He instructed.
Stella picked a sheet of paper from the rime and passed it to him. “Rukky, you should just listen to daddy. I’m sure you will get it once you do.” She decided to lend her voice again.
Rukky managed a tearful nod and pushed up in his chair so he could see what his father was doing. Things were going better than he’d imagined.
For the next thirty-five minutes, Caleb went over different Quantitative Reasoning sums, using the different examples from the textbook. And each time he gave Rukky one to try on his own, he always got it wrong. Soon Stella became a part of the teaching-team and they all bent their heads over his textbook and notebook. Finally, he declared he’d gotten it and two sums were given to him to practice on his own.
Rukky bent over his book and took his time working diligently on the questions. When he passed his notebook back to his father some twenty minutes later, he’d yet again failed one.
“I failed again.” He wailed.
“But at least you got one right.” Stella consoled patting him on the back.
“But I don’t want to fail any one.” Rukky turned puppy-dog eyes to his father. “I think I need extra help, daddy. I will fail my tests and exams if I don’t get extra help.”
Caleb stared at the tearful eyes helplessly. “You are not going to fail your exams. We are going to work hard together. Maybe you are just distracted right now.”
“No, I’m not distracted.” Rukky refuted. “I just need extra lessons.”
“Okay. Good. We will map out a special time everyday…”
“No.” Rukky interrupted quickly. “I need someone who knows what they are doing.”
They both stared at him.
“It’s like you said, daddy,” he continued quickly, “everyone needs to be doing what they are called to do. A child should be a child and not a parent. A student should be a student and not a teacher. A doctor should be a doctor and not a lawyer. You are a graphic artist and not a teacher. I need a teacher… like Miss Elizabeth.”
Stella went back to her chair, her eyes narrowed as she studied her brother closely. He was up to something. She could see it now. She just wasn’t sure what he was up to yet.
“Miss Elizabeth?” Caleb stared at him. “But she’s your class teacher already.”
“I know. But I need extra help and extra lessons. You know like home lessons.”
“Home lessons?” Caleb turned to Stella, she only shrugged and turned her eyes to her books.
Great, so he was in this alone.
“Rukky, you don’t need a home teacher. I maybe a graphic artist but I can teach you whatever you are not understanding now.”
“Daddy, I need special lessons. Many things are confusing me, it’s not just the Quantitative Reasoning or Verbal Reasoning. Other subjects are confusing me too.”
He jumped down from his chair and packed up his books. “Daddy, you always tell us to be the very best in everything we do, don’t you?”
Caleb managed a nod.
“That is why I want to continue being the best in my class. I’m ready to give up Saturday cartoon-time just to study more with Miss Elizabeth.”
“You are?” He frowned at the beseeching eyes, it was that serious? “But she might not be giving private lessons.”
Rukky hitched a breath and blinked his eyes until they watered. “Please just call her and ask her first, daddy. I really need help. All I just want is to keep being the best… for you.” He allowed his head to droop. “So you can continue being proud of me.”
Caleb gaped at him.
He picked his books from the table and looked up at him with watery puppy-dog eyes. “I don’t want to fail, daddy. And Miss Elizabeth is the best teacher ever.”
He made a low mournful sound, then turned towards the kitchen door, walking through it with a drooping dejected stance.
Caleb turned to Stella. “What’s with your brother?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s obviously scared of failing his exams.”
“But he was just doing fine until today.”
“But you always say that doing badly in school often begins in one day.” She reminded him.
He opened his mouth, then shut it again. What was it with these kids reminding him of things he’d said?
“So, why Miss Elizabeth? She’s teaching him in class and obviously he’s not understanding her.”
Stella sighed and started to pack up her books too. “She’s been teaching him for more than a month now and he’s been understanding her until today. I don’t know, daddy. You are the parent, daddy, you should know more. All I know is that he looks like he could do with some extra help with his lessons.”
She slipped her books down the table into her hands. “Let me go see what he’s doing and get him ready for his evening bathe.”
Caleb watched her walk away, feeling like he’d just been told exactly what to do.
What was it about this lady that Rukky was so taken with her? He wondered walking back to the granite slab. And why the heck was it that the very mention of her name sent him into a nervous defensive retreat?
He turned to see Stella standing by the connecting door watching him. “Yes?”
“One thing else I know is that you are the best daddy ever and you always make the best decisions for us.” She gave him a warm smile before slipping through the door.
Now why the heck did that compliment feel like blackmail instead?
He sighed and turned back to pick the knife he’d dropped earlier and a plantain from the bunch on the slab.
His son needed a home teacher. His daughter expected him to do whatever was in their best interest. And here he was worried because the said teacher with her lovely face and big, brown eyes had inexplicable emotions racing through him that sent him into a panic mode.
He sighed again, slicing the plantain; tomorrow he was calling Miss Elizabeth.
**And that is it for this week. Remember to like our facebook page and use all our share buttons. See y’all Monday… cheers**