Take maths ineptitude and add smarts for a special kid

I confess I squeezed through my matric with bruised elbows (thanks to Joshua Raboroko, and to the horror they call mathematics).

I confess I squeezed through my matric with bruised elbows (thanks to Joshua Raboroko, and to the horror they call mathematics).

I was so doff in the subject I got to the point where I switched off completely. Back then, your aptitude for maths decided whether you were cate- gorised as intelligent or otherwise. It was the barometer that measured who was "clever" and who was not.

The paradox in my little world was that all three IQ tests I wrote in my life scored me A-plus, but then figures and theorems . they were a nightmare.

It was a cruel reality I could not opt out of because someone apparently told my parents and teachers I was an otherwise "intelligent" little boy.

There was a time when I thought mathematics was invented to punish black little boys and make them think they were stupid. Our vernacular teacher, JM Monametsi, told us its Sesotho name was motabolahloho, meaning head-buster, and it certainly exploded mine.

It was this bad: if they gave me a textbook to take into the exam room, I would still flunk the test. I would not know where to find the answers.

I am not alone in my stupidity, though. I had a friend who drove around with what later turned out to be a bogus driver's license. When he filled the insurance forms, he produced a licence issued in 1969, while insisting he was born in 1959.

His supervisor tried to show him the discrepancy: "Surely you can't have got the licence when you were 10 years old?"

My friend could not understand what his date of birth had to do with anything: "You are just trying to confuse me. This is a trap. What have I done to you? You just don't like me. You are talking about my licence, what has my date of birth got to do with it?"

Sadly, he lost his job, and when I met him years later, he was still adamant that the supervisor hated him and asked him "funny" questions "because I am not educated".

I had to support my friend, or lose him: "Ja. He's up to shit."

Quite a few people in my family and circles are teachers. A most unforgettable episode I heard from them was of a high school pupil who had to answer the question: Where did Jan van Riebeck land in 1652?

His/her answer was: Bethlehema ya Judia (Bethlehem). I have heard the line that no children have a learning problem - it is only teachers who have a teaching problem.

It is when high school pupils in Africa start saying lightning is caused by zombies, that I am thankful I was cast for a role outside the classroom.

Happily, you are not allowed to say such children are stupid anymore. Instead, they are "special" and have "special needs".

Believe me when I say I was once a special child.