It was the second semester of my first year, having made my way through the first semester and passing all my first semester modules. My roommate and friend Ntokozo and I walked to Professor .M. Banda’s office after our Chem102 class to collect our first Chem102 test scripts.
Professor M. Banda was a Congolese lecturer, and the most popular lecturer in Bsc Chemistry. He lectured first year and fourth year Inorganic Chemistry students. What made him famous—other than his good-intimidating looks, well-tailored suits, or the fact that he was one of the youngest lecturers on campus—was his teaching methods and marking techniques.
In his class, you were either confused at the things he said, amused at his accent, or just sleepy. Nonetheless, he still set very challenging class tests, and it seemed like he couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about our complaints: “Sir, that test last night?” those brave students would say in class. And he would respond in his central African accent, “Whatahabout it?”
“It was difficult, and the time allocated was too short.”
Professor Banda would let out a corny laugh, “No, no, no, no… that test was a give-away. It was a walk in the park!”
We would all shout, “No way sir! He-eh, no way!” shaking our heads and the black male students at the elevated back seats saying, “Uya ghula lo’mfana, this boy is sick.”
I had studied for that test like any university student. I’d even calculated my score. Of course I passed, I said to myself. I eyed Ntokozo. I couldn’t quite read her demeanor, but I knew she was as curious as I was.
“Are you nervous?” she asked
“No.” I replied
“Of course you are not. Bokang Gumba never worries about failing. You excel at everything you touch.”
“Oh come on. You are pretty and intelligent. Who wouldn’t want to trade their life with yours?”
I sighed not sure if I agreed with her or not. Then she added, “Have you ever failed at anything? Even when you don’t study hard, you ace them.” I did not reply
Prof Banda’s office stood dauntingly in front of us. We knocked and immediately went inside. We found him sitting on his chair appearing somewhat busy on the office computer, his navy blue suit placed on the back of the chair. We noticed that our class scripts were nicely placed on the floor and separated by last names. He told us to go ahead and search through them to look for our scripts.
As I bent down before him, I realized he was staring at my buttocks. I looked at him, and he didn’t even attempt to feign his interest in my behind, rather, he smiled at me. I was flabbergasted and thought what arrogant pervert he was. I became so uncomfortable that I knelt on the floor the other way to look for my paper.
Ntokozo found her script before I could locate mine. I gathered she was unhappy with her mark. She moved closer to Prof Banda as she looked through her script.
“Sir, I don’t understand. I studied hard for this test. And I thought I did well. I really thought I was going to get at least 70%,” She said
“How much did you get then?” Banda asked
“31%” She gawked at him,
“Well. That’s the mark you deserved.” He responded apathetically. Just then I found my script below the bulk of scripts on top of it. I nearly got a heart attack when I saw the 18% staring at me.
I stood there petrified. I couldn’t believe it. I quickly went through the script thinking he must have made an error. Perhaps he meant to write 81%. There is no way I got such a score. To my surprise, 18% was the correct score. I found out just how much Prof Banda knew how to decorate a script with his red pen. His words screamed all over the pages of the script. Next to my answers, he wrote in capital letters:
“IRRELEVANT!” “PENDING!” “WHAT IS THIS?” “WHERE DID YOU GET THIS?” “WHO TAUGHT YOU THIS?” “WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY?” “NONSENSE!” “REFER TO YOUR LECTURE NOTES!” “EXTREMELY IRRELEVANT!”
On a 15-point question, he gave me 1 point and wrote next to my long answer:
“1 mark: FOR LYING TO ME!”
Feeling quite sad, I folded the script, put it in my hand bag, and marched out of the office without saying anything.
I waited for Ntokozo to come outside as she was still debating her mark with Banda. I knew she was farting against thunder. I had no energy for such. The 18% was too mortifying to even to look at it. Even if I toyi toyi in his office about how I was cheated, the man wouldn’t change the score.
Ntokozo finally came out of the office minutes later, fuming and mumbling insults.
“Did he rectify the score?”
She shoved her script on my face, and it read: “31% – 1% = 30%: FOR WASTING MY TIME!”
The second semester was really “showing me flames.” I was failing almost all my tests, tutorials and assignments. I didn’t realize how lazy I was that semester until it was time for exams. I felt like throwing the towel.
Three weeks before exams, I went to Professor Banda’s office,
“May I come in?” I said standing at his office door. He gestured me inside.
Earlier that day, he had handed me last semester’s test script in class. He had starred strangely into my eyes and brushed my hand without any one noticing. So I decided to go to his office later that day with a measure of confidence and willpower.
I had gotten 48% on that test and thought I could charm my way into getting an additional 2% so that I could, at least, pass the test.
I entered his office and closed the door behind me. He looked at me attentively, ogling at my tall body as I sat down on the chair across him with his huge desk dividing us.
He was wearing an impressively well-fitting black shirt in which the ends were folded about three times on his arm.
“What can I do for you Gumba?” he said.
I suddenly lost my confidence and stammered holding my script, “Sir, I … I have… You gave me…I think you robbed me.” To my surprise, he swiftly said: “Let me see.” I handed him the paper.
He paged through it about three times as if searching for something he could correct. He helplessly sighed, “Gumba, you should really try studying harder. You have been performing very badly.” He paged through it again and again and grabbed his red pen beside him.
I peeked at him stealthily as he wrote something on the last page of the script, but I couldn’t see what exactly.
I sat there anxious and imagining: “48%- 8%= 40%: FOR FAILING MY MODULE!”
Banda looked at whatever he wrote on the paper twice as if regretting his decision. He then handed me the script. My eyes popped staring at the: “48% + 30% = 78%”
I sat there stumped. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Banda then moved further on his chair observing me and rubbing his chin.
After a moment of silence he then uttered, “Why do you look surprised? You want to tell me you came all the way to my office for me to change your mark, knowing well I have feelings for you. And when I do change your mark you act surprised?”
He added, “You are a very charming and beautiful lady, and I have never in my career given any student marks they do not deserve. You can ask any student that came before you. You must be very special.” He said all this while tentatively searching through my face with his small eyes. I was silent as the grave. I didn’t know whether to be glad or to be shameful. Taking advantage of my looks to get marks?
He reached for his computer keyboard and went to the class list. He changed my test mark from 48% to 78%. He then said: “You can now go Gumba.”
I slowly stood up, “Thank you Sir.” I mumbled.
“No, call me Max.” He said with a crooked smile.
I ambled out of his office. Before doing that, I looked back saw that he was still staring at me. I smiled at him. He winked at me. And I went for the door.
When I stepped outside, I went through the script. On the last page of the script I found his phone numbers and next to them he wrote in small letters:
“Just between the two of us, and please do call me.”
Post image by Courtney Rhodes via Flickr
About the Author:
Keletso Mopai is a 23 year old new writer from South Africa and a student pursuing her honors degree in BSc Geology. She is fascinated by African literature written by African writers. Her favorite authors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Niq Mhlongo and Tsitsi Dangarembga.