“Now listen for your name and come up and fetch your script,” Mrs Kholi said. “Xola Ngubezulu!”
“He’s absent Miss!” the class replied.
“He’s absent, Miss!”
Analo felt a lump in her throat. She froze and looked around the classroom, not sure if she had heard Mrs Kholi correctly.
“Analo Daseka!” Mrs Kholi repeated Analo’s name, looking directly at her this time.
The class laughed and clapped hands as Analo came to the front. “Congratulations! Analo got third place!” she heard one of the learners comment sarcastically.
“Keep quiet! You are making a noise,” Mrs Kholi said to the class. She looked at Analo. “Analo nyusa iikawusi, sisi. This is not acceptable,” she said as she handed Analo back her script.
Analo returned to her seat holding tears back. Lilitha tried to see her mark as her friend hurriedly put the script inside a plastic sleeve.
“What mark did you get?” Lilitha whispered.
“Bad enough to get third place after Xolani and Vuyani,” Analo replied. She was hurt. Coming next after Xolani and Vuyani was a blow to her. Those boys were gang members and rarely attended school. Everyone knew they would be expelled soon. Analo, on the other hand had never missed a single Natural Science class, yet she had done so badly.
“Xolile Rali!” Mrs Kholi went on. She called out everyone except Lilitha.
“Now class. The highest is–” Mrs Kholi said, picking up the script from her desk.
“NguLilitha Miss!” the class shouted, cutting Mrs Kholi off.
“–Lilitha Bobothwana!” Mrs Kholi continued. She walked over to Lilitha and put the script on her desk. “Congratulations, mntwan’am. Keep it up. Those who got less than 30 for the test must remain in class after school on Tuesday.”
Analo glanced at Lilitha’s test script. She had scored 60 out 75.
When Analo got home she felt like hiding herself away forever. She knew her mother would find out if she failed that term. She threw her schoolbag on the bed and lay down, covering her head with the pillow to shut out the light.
“How was school, mtwan’am?” Nomalizo asked from the doorway. Analo moved the pillow and squinted into the light.
“It was bad Mama. I failed my chemistry test,” she cried. She might as well tell her mother now and get it over with.
“That is bad. But you can’t give up. You can always improve if you work harder. Remember: you need to understand chemistry and physics to become a chemical engineer.” Then her tone softened. “We have faith in you my child. You will do well.”
“But Mama, I got 15 out of 75 for my test. How can I become an engineer with the marks I get? Maybe I should change and just do Life Sciences next year,” Analo said, sitting up. She was in Grade 9 and next year she needed to choose what she would do for Matric.
Nomalizo sat next to her. “That is not an option. My friend’s child attends an after-school Maths and Science programme at your school. Her mother says she is doing well. You must find out about it and attend those classes too.”
Analo could just imagine her mother and the friend comparing their children’s marks and it made her stressed and angry.
Tell us: Is Analo’s mother right to push her to do Natural Sciences for Matric? Why/Why not?