BY Juliet Rogers,
The news soon spread around that morning with a strong determination in every heart to glue near a TV set to see the Sierra Leonean who was going to be displayed for the attention of the whole world to see; he has brought a great laurel to Sierra Leone and Black Africa to become the greatest scientist that was far ahead of Western scientists; he had made an invention of a space aircraft that does not use kerosene as fuel like all others; it survives on common air – oxygen – the higher it goes, the better capacity it takes to fly hundreds of miles away on its migration flight without any indication of hindrance. At its highest point, it had sufficient air that could provide the kinetic required to fly to whatever destination.
Early that morning, it was on the lips of every Sierra Leonean child going to school that at 8:00 pm that night, TV news will be revealing the latest greatest scientist to the world. At Faith International Elementary School (FIES), it was a big news, the school was decorated with ribbons of different colours. Flowers flew everywhere, for it was this school that has produced the “World Best Scientist.” Sandura Teddy Sammoh attended FIES. During his elementary school days, Sandura was nothing to write home about. He was the slowest learner, that is, if you didn’t want to say he was stupid at school of about 600 pupil population. He did three years in class one, four years in class two, and fours years in class three. He was only promoted because his teachers got tired of him, not that those promotions were based on merits – it was not at all. “I do not really know what is wrong with this boy,” Mrs. Santigie had said in one of their meetings that was held to decide who to promote to class six, for that was a public examination class, promotion was strictly based on a very good academic performance, besides all other things. And that was why the Continuous Assessment Record Committee (CARC) met, to discuss Sandura’s fate, whether he should be allowed to take four years in class five or to ask him out of the school.
It was not the policy of the school to ask one out because of being slow to learn; they only asked pupils out either by suspension or expulsion based on rudeness or other forms of misconduct; so, what they could do in that circumstance was every teacher’s challenge in the meeting.
Some of his friends who started with him called him derogatory names like “stupid goat,” “stupid chameleon” as he was also painfully slow at copying his notes. When reports of those verbal attacks reached the Headmaster of the school, he strictly advised that no one should call his companion stupid: “Expulsion awaits who did. There must be sanity in the school,” he strongly advised. Owing to this, they reverted to calling him “stop goat” or “stop chameleon” or “stop” which were actually derogatory, but Sandura did not mind them. However, he was left alone, and was always seen alone. All friends deserted. No one talk of success for him; “he will end his life in a carpentry workshop if he likes,” Ketura taunted. “If I were he, I’ll be thinking of going out there to engage in pushing ‘omolankay’ at least for the sake of survival, or he can become a professional driver,” Sheriff suggested. At least that is professional,” Ali added. The left him in that elementary school and proudly proceeded to High school. By the time they sat to the high school examination, Sandura was long forgotten and missing out of their memories. Even the nickname, “stop goat” could not be remembered anymore.
In that meeting of CARC in the CARC office that morning, the teachers had no alternative left with them, but to promote him to class six, the promotion they called “on trial.” They did it with hope that he will pass the NPSE. But could they demote him back to class five (5) should he fail the NPSE? Not really.
In class six, he did another four (4) years, and four attempts at the NPSE. During the fifth year, a miracle started happening in the academic life of Sandura. For the first time, throughout his elementary education, he had a pass through his effort at least, average though.
Before leaving FIES, Sandura has spent twenty years as a pupil in the elementary school. Most of those who sat with him in the same class at FIES became university graduates while he was still a schoolboy – some had become high school teachers; with master’s degrees. Some became lecturers in tertiary institutions and universities. Others were either lawyers or medical doctors; yet, few of them became accountants, working in financial institutions of various sorts.
During his sessions at his intermediate school, miracles continued to work for Sandura – he was always seen with his books, studying even when sent to the market; in toilets, in the company of his friends, he always carried his books – some of his newest friends called him ‘book worm.’ That was where his new secret lies – perservance, and in actual fact, it bred success for him. When he wrote the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), he got excellent passes in Mathematics, Basic Electronics, as well as Integrated Science. Not without suggesting, we knew he did the physical sciences.
That BECE result, good as it was, led Sandura into doing the sciences. He had learned from his past when he was always the least in his elementary education. The more he thought of that ugly past, the more he entered into his sobriety in his high school education. The difference between his elementary school teachers and those in the high school was that while the former disliked him because of his worst performance, the latter liked him owing to his excellent academic performance. In the screening test his school normally conducts to help forecast the nature of result they would get, Sandura got nine A’s. And that was repeated in the real West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) with much improvement.
His WASSCE result was spectacular, “fantabulous,” Mr. Steven, their Further Mathematics teacher proudly remarked. He got an A in each of these subjects: Mathematics, English Language, French, Economics, Geography, Physics, Engineering Science, Further Mathematics, and Chemistry. It was the best in West Africa. The Chinese Government Scholarship (CGS) to study in China came without an interview. At his final year, he worked on a theorem of force of gravity in an opposite direction. This brought him into his invention of a spacecraft that could operate without chemically mechanised fuel. The Chinese Government which regarded him as a scientist who operated against nature celebrated him in the Bastil Unity Theatre; the national TV Programme in Beijing planned to link him at 8 pm with his home country, Sierra Leone, to see their illustrious son, Sandura; once a worst pupil in his primary school, was set to be celebrated by the whole world as ‘World Best Scientist.’
They had already declared a national holiday with selected schools and a matching exercise. This would be led by Faith International Elementary School, the school whose product was celebrated the world over; the match past was to be concluded at the National Stadium where different academic programmes had been scheduled. Refreshment of different kinds was provided for school pupils throughout the day while awaiting the TV broadcast at 8 PM that night.
Sheriff, Ali, Ketura and others who successfully when through FIES went very early to secure a seat at the presidential pavilion. All eyes were glued on the giant screen as the National Anthem was sung, after which they would see flashes of portraits of Sandura on the screen several times in descending order. This was done for those who attended the same school with him, but could not recall him in his adult or present appearance to quickly call to memory his boyhood appearance at FIES. When everyone was set, the photos started rolling – first in his current engineering outfit, followed by pictures of his secondary school days; his primary school pictures were lastly displayed.
Ketura, Sheriff and Ali were all together, sitting in line. “Wait! Sheriff! Is that not the boy whom due to his awful academic performance made us called him names and as if we were the gods decided to write him off for any success at school?!” Ketura exclaimed. “Wonders shall never end, he is!” Sheriff remarked and exclaimed too. “Indeed,” Ali concluded. This was the man they felt could not make it in life. They were at a lost. They could not believe what they were seeing on the giant screen; it was like a dream.
Their dream became real when Sandura started giving his address and made few references to his former primary school, and he asked both past and current pupils of FIES to stand up for the world to see them. The sight of his primary school uniform brought tears, and his face streamed with tears as he remembered those days at school when he was regarded the ‘worst.’ All he could end up saying, with his head raised up very high as if he was communicating to God: “My journey my destination.”
Juliet Rogers is Societal Engineer, Life and Emotional Intelligence Coach.