Taking part in the Horizon Mathematics Competition when I was in grade seven at Northmead Primary School was one of my greatest moments.

It was in term two of 2015. I was shorter compared to how tall I am now, medium in complexion with a diastema (a gap between the two front incisors).

I was always afraid of mathematics due to the bad experiences I had in the past. I would learn a topic, get all the questions correct but when it came to the test, I would fail.

Our school uniform included a green pair of trousers for the boys, a brown-green checked skirt for the girls. We all wore the same light green shirts with a brown-green checked collar. The school was painted white and green; white water paint in the upper and green oil paint on the lower part. It had blocks. Each had four classes. The blocks included female freedom fighter’s names during independence such as Mama Kankasa and Betty Kaunda, just to name a few.

Our mathematics teacher walked in. We stood up.

“Good morning learners,” he said, “how are you?”

“We are fine thank you and how are you?” we all replied in unison.

“I am fine. You can take your seats,” he responded.

We took our seats.

“The following should see me during break time,” he said, “SItebe, Zelelapi and Daniel.”

The bell rang and it was break time. We went to the designated classroom. We found two other learners from different classes. Moments later, our mathematics teacher came in with Mr Lupfya, a chubby senior mathematics teacher in his sixties.

“Do you guys remember the Horizon Mathematics Competition paper you wrote last term?” he asked us.

“Yes, sir,” we said.

“You were the highest among your peers,” he said. “Tomorrow you will go to the competition with Mrs. Shanshebo.”

“Okay, sir,” we said.

The day of the competition came. We went with Mrs. Shanshebo in her grey-blue car. She was tall, light in complexion with a mole on her left cheek. The tips of her hair were dyed gold. The day was cloudy and windy. I think it was between June and July. We arrived after a 25-minute drive. I was dragging my feet and my palms were sweating.

The school was built next to Kabulonga Boys Secondary School, a government-owned school. We went in and waited for a while before the competition commenced. The categories comprised of grades seven, nine, and 12. The winner from each category was going to be given a laptop, second place would get a tablet and third a bicycle.

The competition commenced and we were called into a classroom. We went there and they handed us the question papers individually. It was tougher than the previous one. There were two types of papers, A and B. The questions were the same but shuffled in each paper to prevent copying from each other. I finished on time and submitted my paper. We were asked to wait outside while the papers were being marked.

“Did you manage to answer the questions?” Mrs Shanshebo asked.

“Yes,” we said.

“How were the questions?” she asked.

“They were fair but tricky,” I said.

We were called back in for the announcement of the winners in each category. The principal walked on stage.

“Thank you to all those who participated in the Horizon Mathematics Competition,” he said. “We have selected one hundred pupils out of five hundred who took part from each category.”

They projected the names in groups of ten starting with the grade seven in descending order. Sitebe was number 74 and I was number 34. We received an Oxford Mathematical Set and a certificate. We did not finish to see who won the prize due to the fact that we were behind time. I stopped for a second and said to myself:

“Aha, I think mathematics is not as hard as I thought it was,” I said in my heart. “I just need dedication, effort and practice to get better.”

I felt a sense of achievement to represent my school in the competition despite not being optimistic about mathematics. That day made me realise that I can get better at mathematics if I put in the amount of time needed.