At school I dreamed of being a scientist but my Maths was weak.

In Grade 8 the teacher called my mother in and showed her my report. He slid it across the desk in front of her as the whole class watched. There in large letters was the word FAILED. And all because of my Maths.

In Grade 9 when I came home with subject forms Mama questioned me. “Are you sure you want to do pure Maths? Why don’t you choose Maths Lit?”

“I can’t do science subjects with Maths Lit and I want to be a scientist,” I said, looking down.

“Just promise me you will work hard. I don’t want to be called to school again because you are struggling with Maths.” She pulled me close and gave me a hug.

I did work hard, like I promised, but I still struggled with Maths. Then in Matric things changed when I had a new Physics teacher.

I remember the day he asked a question in class and no one could give the correct answer. I had an answer in my mind. I wanted to raise my hand but I was shy and frightened I would get it wrong.

“What do you think? What’s the correct answer?” the teacher looked at me like he knew what I was thinking.

I felt uncomfortable, but I had to answer. Everyone had their eyes fixed on me. It was correct and everyone in the classroom clapped. I was delighted.

“Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are all here to learn,” my teacher said.

Slowly I developed the confidence to ask him what I didn’t understand and he took the time to help me understand.

Then came my first big test. I desperately needed to prove myself to my mother, to my teacher, and to myself.

I sat up late studying and drinking strong coffee to stay awake.

“And your time starts now!” my teacher said as he finished handing out the test papers. I searched for my calculator. It wasn’t in my bag. I saw the rip in the pocket. It had fallen out on the way to school.

The learners had started writing.

I was close to tears when my teacher walked over. “Why aren’t you writing?” he asked.

“I can’t find my calculator, sir.” I couldn’t even look at him.

He walked to his desk and came back with a calculator.

“Use this one,” he said kindly.

I got the highest mark for that test. I felt jubilant. I couldn’t wait to go home and show my mother.

When I went to give my teacher his calculator back he said,

“No take it! It’s yours, you have earned it. You just need to believe in yourself more.”

I still use that calculator today.

Every time I take it out I can hear his words and they encourage me to work harder and to believe in myself.