I wasn’t exactly sure which house was Pearl’s. I asked at the spaza shop and they directed me to the last at the end of a line of tin shacks.
Pearl was sitting on an overturned brick in front of the shack, washing clothes. Her hair was cut nearly bald. She didn’t see me at first. “Pearl?” I said.
She looked up and suddenly her face was alight. She smiled. “Oh Kagiso! It’s so nice to see you!”
She found a chair in the house and brought it outside. I could see she already had a small bump to show a baby was growing inside of her. She saw me look at it. She rubbed her stomach. “She’s all I have to keep me company nowadays.”
She asked me about school and seemed desperate for small details.
“Listen Pearl, I came for more than a visit. I know about you and Mr Phaladi.”
At first she tried to protest but then gave in. “Yeah, well, he’s a jerk. He claims it’s not his baby. But I was a virgin before him. I’ve not slept with anyone else. He threatened my gogo and she’s scared. She thinks he could make things difficult for us.”
“In what way?”
“I don’t know. My gogo says he’s educated, she’s not. He said he could tell the council and we’d lose our plot.”
“He’s lying. He knows what will happen if you tell someone. He’ll lose his job.”
Pearl shook her head. “I can’t do that. Who will believe me? They’ll believe him. He’s a teacher. I’m just a stupid girl.”
“He tried it with me.”
“Yes. And he’s moved on to someone else already. We can stop him. Me and you.”
Pearl thought about it. “We’re still only two students, against a teacher.”
“But you have the baby. They can do tests if they don’t believe us. We need to stop him before he does this again! He’s not supposed to do that to kids. He’s a teacher.”
We sat in the headmistress’ cool office, Pearl and I, side by side. “We’ll be fine,” I said, not really at all sure of that.
Mrs Moleele, the headmistress, went to collect Mr Phaladi from class. The door opened and we both jumped. Mr Phaladi looked at us. Pearl looked away, but I didn’t. I refused to be afraid.
Mrs Moleele explained to Mr Phaladi what we’d told her before he arrived. “These are very serious offences. If they’re true Mr Phaladi, you’ll be fired.”
“They’re lying these girls! Both of them are known liars.”
Mrs Moleele looked shocked. “Really? I know Kagiso to be one of our best students in the school. Upstanding and hard working. I’m surprised to hear you say that.”
She took out the exam I’d given her, the exam he marked as failed. “I went through this exam. I had it re-marked by Mr Miller. He was quite surprised you gave her a failing mark when in fact he marked it as 91%. What can you say about that, Mr Phaladi?”
“I made a mistake.” He’d suddenly lost all of his noise. He seemed to shrink into the chair.
“From what I’ve heard, and the investigations I’ve done, it looks like you’ve made quite a few mistakes.” She handed him a letter. “This is your suspension letter. We’ll be doing a paternity test on the baby when it’s born, to confirm my suspicions that these girls are telling the truth. Once I have confirmation you will be fired. Also, I have contacted a social worker to assist Pearl in collecting maintenance for her baby from you.”
Mr Phaladi took his letter and left the office. “I want to thank both of you for bringing this case to my office. Obviously we don’t want teachers like this on our staff,” Mrs Moleele said to us.
Outside, Pearl turned to me. “Thanks Kagiso. I told you, you’re a good girl; a brave girl too.”
I headed toward home. “Hey wait up!”
I looked behind and there was Fiona. “So? How did it go?”
“It looks like he’ll be fired.”
“Good. You did good,” Fiona said.
I pulled out my exam with the failed mark crossed out and a big 91%. I showed it to her.
“And you aced the exam! Matric is going to be a breeze. You’re on your way,” Fiona said.
I nodded. I knew it now. I knew it now for sure. I was definitely on my way and no-one was going to stop me.
Tell us what you think: Will Kagiso be successful in her life? Why or why not?