Reading about Mandy’s experiences in school brought back memories of my secondary school. I really loved my secondary school and I have mainly warm memories. All the same, there were some not so pleasant memories of this one teacher – Mrs. S whom everyone called “Mama”.
My first encounter with Mama was when at ten years old my parents dropped me off on the first day of form one. My school was a girls’ only school, and I was to start as a day student.
I had always wanted to be a boarding student- in fact I had recurring dreams about me in boarding school throughout my years in secondary school- but as their eldest child (eldest children are guinea-pigs!), my parents said either I waited and finished primary six before they would consider letting me go to boarding house, or if I so wanted to go to secondary school from primary five, then I had to be a day student.
Anyway, so our parents had to drop us off and we were herded off to a hall, where a woman called out names and sorted us into groups- different arms of form one. She called a girl’s name and the girl answered “ yes”. This woman barked “ I am not your mother’s age mate – you are to call me Mama and barked fear into our young hearts. There were legends about Mama, and it was generally acknowledged that the fear of Mama was the beginning of wisdom. I managed to steer clear of her for the first year, taking another direction whenever she passed.
Mama was my art teacher in form 2. Since I cannot draw to save my life (although I have been told that is a mental model I have to get rid of, that my art is like abstract art – another story for another day), Mama and I had a few confrontations. That is to say, she confronted me, and poor, timid and shy 11 year old that I was, I could never say anything to justify myself, all I did was mumble.My art work, painting, drawing etc was so bad that she taunted me regularly in front of my whole form, and sent me out of the class for daring to submit such homework. On one of these occasions, she sent F. out of the class as well, for not doing her homework. F. is a sickler, and she had been off school for a few weeks due to a crisis, so it was understandable that she had not done her homework. Mama said to her – “get out of my class, I won’t even bother to cane you, you will die soon anyway, and your family is only searching for someone to blame for your death.” In spite of the fact that she had humiliated me time and again, that was what made me start to hate this woman. I stood outside, an 11 year old and comforted F, also 11 at the time – “don’t worry, you won’t die, you will live and when you are an adult with a great education, I’ll help you hunt this she-devil down and we’ll remind her of all the hateful things she has said today”- or at least some childish version of that. The only good thing that came out of that episode was that F and I became really close friends. I am glad to say that she is well and alive and currently pursuing a Phd in the good ole USA.