This is Carol’s story:
“My name is Carol and I am 16 years old. I am in JSS3 and I am getting ready for my Junior WAEC examinations. I am very scared because I had to repeat this class, my best friend has told me not to worry but anytime I see some mathematics questions I start to shiver…
My fear for mathematics didn’t start today, I never liked it – in fact I can say I hated it. I didn’t just understand how the numbers moved around and why they had to be divided or multiplied or whatever. I was great with English, I loved to read and write but math? No way. My parents realized I needed help early on, I had participated in the lessons with the math teacher after school, got all the special help math books and even got my dad to break some of it down for me; but I still wasn’t getting it, I couldn’t get those fractions into my skull.
I was 10 years old and it was time for the common entrance examinations, my mom really wanted me to go to Queens College as that was the school she finished from but I didn’t really care, I just wanted to pass because I heard that they pasted the results on the school board and everyone would know if you failed. My parents decided to get me a home lesson teacher, he came recommended by a math teacher in my school and promised the best possible results in the common entrance exams. I didn’t mind the lesson teacher because apart from preparing for the exams, he could also help with my day to day math assignments.
Uncle Fred would come in at 4pm every Tuesday and Thursday and we would work till 6pm. He never missed a day and was always on time, it was actually really annoying. I would come back from school at 3 and there he was an hour late already looking for the next difficult math question to solve. I have to admit my math got considerably better, he had a way of answering the questions with such ease, he told me that my failing math was just a thing of fear and if I made math my best friend I would enjoy it. He taught me tricks that helped me solve the questions in seconds and I wondered why the math teachers at school always made everything so difficult.
I became very comfortable around him and my parents would even make him stay for dinner sometimes, he had become a part of the family. I was doing well in math, my parents were happy, we were confident about the common entrance exams – all was well with the world.
The day of the exam came and I had never felt so confident, I walked into the exam hall feeling like a star, I was prepared for anything. Uncle Fred had told me I would kill it and kill it I did. At the end of It all, I felt I even did better in my math exam than my beloved subject
English but it was okay, I was just glad it was over. The results were released a few weeks later, we were already on holiday and so everyone had to go to school to check their results. When I got to school, I saw a few of my classmates were already there, I was nervous to check the board; what if I failed after all the lessons? Uncle Fred would be very disappointed. All of my nervous thoughts disappeared when I saw my name at the top of the board, I had the second highest scores in math and English. I was elated! And I couldn’t wait to tell Uncle Fred the good news.
He had stopped coming for lessons since I wrote the exams but I made sure my parents called him to tell him. He said he had bought me a special gift and I was his best student yet. He said I had made him extremely proud. My parents were excited as well and promised to buy me anything I wanted. I was on top of the world.
The following weekend my parents had to leave town for a conference, they attended conferences occasionally and would leave me in the care of Aunty Patience – our nanny/househelp. I didn’t like it when they left but I had gotten used to it; meanwhile I was going to start Secondary School in a few months so I was technically an adult. I was watching my favorite show on TV when the doorbell rang, before I could finish wondering who it was, Uncle Fred walked into the room with a bag. The best teacher in the world came in singing my praises. He was a regular at our house so of course Aunty Patience didn’t think twice about letting him in; she had even already asked him if he was going to partake in the egusi soup she had just prepared.
He gave me my gift and told me he was extremely proud of me, I ran to get the questions from the exam and showed him how I used his special formula to answer them. He said he knew I was extremely brilliant and I can even grow up to become a math professor. We were sitting on the couch next to each other when he put his arm around my shoulders and smiled- he had never smiled at me that way before so I thought he was just extremely happy, or proud.
He called Aunty Patience and gave her some money to buy juice for him, fanta for me and pepsi for herself. He asked her to go to the lady on the next street whose drinks were always cold and told her to keep the change. Aunty Patience’s two favorite things were pepsi and money so he didn’t have to ask her twice. I guess in Aunty Patience’s mind, Uncle Fred was already a part of the family so she didn’t consider it harmful to leave me with him.
As soon as she left his hands moved from my shoulders to my back and it seemed like he wasn’t listening to my exam talk anymore. He asked if I knew I was beautiful and not only was I his best student, I was also the most beautiful. His hands were moving all over my body at this point. I knew something was wrong and I prayed for Aunty Patience to come back, this wasn’t the Uncle Fred I knew.
His hands went lower and he raised my dress up, I moved away from him and asked what he was doing! He looked hurt and asked “don’t you trust me? I thought I was your favorite Uncle?” “Remember I helped you pass your common entrance exams? I thought you liked me?”
His voice had changed as he began to move closer to me, where was Aunty Patience? I called for her hoping she was close by but we both knew that she had probably stopped to gist on the way. I was so scared, Uncle Fred looked like a monster and I knew he was about to hurt me.
He hurt me… very badly… and told me not to bother telling anyone because they wouldn’t believe me. He said my parents trusted him and Aunty Patience thought the world of him, who else could I tell? He said it was his gift to me now that I was a big girl and I would soon start enjoying it.
Aunty Patience eventually came back and Uncle Fred ate the garri and egusi soup like nothing happened. But something happened and I can’t stop thinking about it.
I didn’t tell my parents because I felt they wouldn’t believe me but I have failed Mathematics every term from the point I entered Secondary School till now. I just can’t process it; I don’t think I ever will. Every time I need to do a calculation, I remember Uncle Fred and I just can’t. I really hope I can get through this so I don’t mess up my future.”
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*Real name of survivor changed for confidentiality