“Sit down, shut up, and get ready for a spot test!” barked Mr Sanzanza as he turned to the chalk board.

“You can’t be serious, Sir.” A boy at the back of the class stared bug-eyed at the maths teacher. “I’m still recovering from the holidays, so I won’t remember anything.”

Beads of perspiration formed on Thobeka’s top lip.

Alex rubbed his hands in glee. “Bring it on, Sir.”

Thobeka studied Alex for a few seconds. I could sure use some … a lot … of help. “If you’re the maths fundi, you’re my new best friend, Alex.”

“No probs, Thobeka.” He winked at her.

A ruby red tinge crept onto her cheeks. She dropped her eyes and shrank into her desk – stay below the radar, Thobeka.

“I want to see what type of blockheads I’m stuck with this year. I’ll mark during interval and we’ll take it from there in the second period. I’ll do my best to ensure you pass my subject, but you have to put in the work to pass it well. Let’s get started.”

* * * * *

“So, Miss Ideo Locator, what’s your story?” Alex confronted Thobeka when they exited the classroom at break time.

“No story.” She shrugged, squinting into the blinding sun.

“Naah, everyone has a story. I bet you’re all kinds of clever.”

Before she could recover from his comment, someone bumped into her.

“Hey, Farm Fresh, watch out for this one – he likes the girls too much.”

Alex burst out laughing. “Wena, Victoria, uyadika uyaxoka maan.”

Victoria clicked her tongue at him. “So, wena Farm Fre–”

“Who’s your Farm Fresh?” Thobeka cast her eyes from the top of Victoria’s head to the tip of her toes, and up again.

“You’re not from eKapa and you’re definitely not from Jozi, so you must be rural mos.”

Thobeka inhaled a sharp breath. “I’m from eRhini – that’s very far from rural.”

Alex’s eyes swung between Thobeka and Victoria, laughter sputtering between his pursed lips.

“Ag, if you’re not from a big city, you’re rural – fresh from the farm. Oviaas!” retorted Victoria.

Thobeka gazed at Victoria, words waltzing on her tongue. “As obvious as you ending up last in line when they handed out brains?”

Alex bent over laughing. “Oh snap! That’s gotta hurt.”

“Hey, who do you think–”

“What’s your problem, Victoria? I’m new here and I’ve got no beef with anyone, but you want to cook a stew with me?” Thobeka turned and walked away, saying, “Put your pet on a leash, Alex.”

* * * * *

“Apart from Alex Dlamini, and Bianca Jacobs, the rest of you really want to make sure I earn my salary.” Mr Sanzanza waved a stack of papers at the class. “Be glad this test won’t count toward your final grade.” He passed the pages to a learner sitting at a desk in front of him. “Hand these back to their owners.”

“We’re going to work through each problem step-by-step, no shortcuts, no guessing. If you don’t understand something, raise your hand. There’s no such thing as a stupid question – only someone stupid enough to shut up at the wrong time. Let’s get started.”

When the siren signalled the end of the period, Mr Sanzanza stopped the learners at the door. “Homework pages 141 to 143, due tomorrow. No homework, no access to my class. Now get out of here. Everyone except Thobeka Zotwana.”

When the last learner exited the class, Mr Sanzanza beckoned to Thobeka. “Come closer.”

Thobeka yanked up her backpack and shuffled to Mr Sanzanza’s table.

“Thobeka Zotwana.” Mr Sanzanza peered at Thobeka over his spectacles. “What are you doing in my class?”

Thobeka blinked. “Excuse me, Sir?”

“Your performance in the test was dismal. How did you manage to pass this subject all these years?”

“By … uhm …working hard and …”

Mr Sanzanza stared at Thobeka with a deadpan expression. “You belong in the maths lit class.”

Thobeka’s heart hammered in her chest and she dropped her bag. “My mother will never allow that.”

Mr Sanzanza folded his hands on the desk and his eyes dug into hers. “Does your mother sit your exams for you?”

Thobeka bit her lower lip. “A classmate at my previous school used to help me a bit.”

“Okaaay. So perhaps you’re teachable. I’ll pair you with someone who’s got a good handle on maths. But don’t expect them to do all the work.” Mr Sanzanza handed her a slip of paper. “This is a late notice for your next class.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“One complaint from your tutor, one test failed, I’m transferring you to the lit class.”


Tell us what you think: What does the interaction with Victoria tell you about Thobeka’s character?