Mr. Wizzet was busy rearranging his room and changing desks here and there at Sparks Vocational Institute, Abu Dhabi. He quickly swapped the boards and turned on the projector. He brought out a fresh set of files and folders and dumped them on the front desk.
Abdul was still bent over his task.
“You must leave now Abdul. Tomorrow is another day. You come back and finish your work.”
Abdul pulled his stuff together, bungled them into his folder while Mr. Wizzet was at the door receiving his next class.
Mr. Wizzet made it a point of duty to stand at the door and shake every student’s hand. He made sure that he ignited an eye contact with all of them. He would end up spending about 20 seconds with each student to contact their spirit and welcome them into his room. By standing there at the door, he clearly demonstrated that you were coming into his domain. By standing there, he made you feel welcomed by personalizing a greeting and handshake. By standing there, he took charge of the fact that, he was in control and also a collaboration.
As the last one was coming in, Abdul, was waiting by the door to jet out. Mr. Wizzet called him to himself, gave him a good handshake saying “good job buddy. I like your determination however you don’t have to finish everything in one day”.
“Thanks Mr. Wizzet. But I need to finish everything. It is a goal that I have set for myself”.
The next time Mr. Wizzet had a lesson with Abdul’s class, he moved Abdul away from his mates. He sat him alone in a quiet corner. Here Abdul was able to concentrate and figure out what he had to do. Abdul was not the brightest of kids but he had an irrepressible determination. He would not leave his work unfinished. His mates didn’t seem to care much about work once the lesson time was over. They wanted to move on.
Abdul took special interest on the spreadsheet that signaled his performance. Yellow meant absence, red meant failed and no color coding meant you are on safe ground. If you had a green, it meant outstanding. Abdul’s eyes were on the green. He wanted to populate his cells with the green color. He loved seeing his cells being highlighted with green. He was always asking what he could do to improve his grades.
Another significant thing about Abdul was that he never missed a lesson. He was always present for every single lesson. His attendance was 100%. He walked with a swag and wore such a beautiful smile. He looked disorganized from the outside. However, he was organized to a fault. His shoes were always shiny. He had a comb in his pocket and he only combed his beards. Mr. Wizzet was once tempted to ask him why he couldn’t extend such benevolence to his hair.
He spoke in a calculated manner and counted his words when he spoke. You needed to understand him to realize that you have to be patient with him. He gave utter consideration to whatever he wanted to say first before spewing it out. Some of his comments were too weighty for some of his mates. His comments were on the high end of the spectrum, being able to connect whatever he learnt to real life situations.
One time they were studying about timelines and the character the class used for the case study was Hisun, a Chinese. At first glance Abdul thought it was an error. He blurted in a calculated note “Mr. Wizzet why are the books we study always with the foreign names and stuff. What about Hussain and places in the Middle East?”
“You are correct Abdul. This is the sort of conversation I want to encourage you guys to have with me. If you notice Abdul, at the end of each unit, I always set work that relates to you transferring your knowledge to that of your context.”
Preparations were in top gear for the upcoming Eid holiday. The fast was drawing to an end and the students were genuinely tired. All what they wanted to do was come in, have a chat and check out of the room. Only the likes of Abdul could sustain a deep conversation and work ethics.
Two days to the end of the fast, Mr. Wizzet decided to ease out with the boys. They would stream into his classroom, sit down and have informal chats. Anytime Mr. Wizzet wasn’t teaching he preferred to stay in his classroom and work than go to his office space in the faculty building. Most of his resources were in his teaching room and since he didn’t share his teaching room with another person, he was cool with that.
In between his sessions, he would shut his door so that intruders would be avoided. Mr. Wizzet had just finished teaching a class and was settling down to do some admin tasks when there was a knock on his door. He didn’t bother to open the door. The knock was persistent. Then it moved over to his window. He had no option than to open the door. Three of them came in without being invited.
“But folks I don’t have a lesson with you now” Mr. Wizzet said politely.
They pulled out chairs and sat down.
“Mr. Wizzet you can do what you have to do, we won’t bother you. We will sit here till we go” Kora said.
“No we won’t disturb you, Abdul chipped in”
“Mr. Wizzet just carry on with your work” Koura said.
In a swift sense of reaction, Mr. Wizzet decided to convert this to a moment.
“Let me get to know the boys on a personal level” he thought.
He stepped down from his desk on the platform and pulled a chair and sat next to them.
“So what are your plans for the upcoming Eid holiday?”
“I will be going to Dubai to spend time with my family” Koura responded. “I am looking forward to it so badly. My brother and sister will come to visit and we will see each other again” he concluded.
“I will head back to Ras al Khaimah” Kora joined in. “It’s going to be the same thing as in past Eid’s. I will be with my family and khalas!”
“I will be right here in the Centre” Abdul said. The rest of the boys laughed.
“Why?” Mr. Wizzet queried.
“Because I don’t have anywhere to go to.”
“What of your father?” Mr. Wizzet asked.
“His father is dead” Kora replied.
“Oh I am sorry to hear that. What of your mother?”
“My mother is in Yemen”.
“What about your siblings?”
“Well my sisters are married, so I don’t have anywhere to go to. I stay in the Camp all year round.”
They all laughed. Kora said “I have asked him to come with me to my house but he doesn’t want to come.”
Koura added “I have also suggested to him to come and spend some time with me but he doesn’t like the idea.”
Mr. Wizzet was apparently shocked and intrigued at what he heard.
“I have been here for seven months now” Abdul announced.
“How do you socialize and how do you spend your time?”
“Sometimes I get a pass and go to the mall on some weekends for a few hours. Sometimes I go to visit my mother at Yemen.”
“How do you get to the mall. You drive?”
“No I call a taxi and I get back with a taxi as well.”
“So how do you see your mum?” Mr. Wizzet asked.
“He doesn’t go there. Her mum goes to Egypt and he travels to Egypt to meet the mum” Kora said.
“You know there is war in Yemen and he can’t go there” Koura added as well.
“I spend my time studying in the night school for my diploma after my day time studies in the Centre” Abdul said.
“When I graduate from here, I hope to get a good job as an apprentice aeronautical engineer. I will rent an apartment and bring in my mother so that we can stay together as a family again.”
Mr. Wizzet’s heart was broken. Abdul spoke through all of these with ease, smile and charm. This is what has broken some people in life, this is what has damaged some people in life, yet for Abdul, this has been his fuel. This has been his drive, his motivator. To be united with his mother again. Nonstop studying. Paying the price now, so that he could be re-united with his mother.
Mr. Wizzet brought out his periscope and peered into the future. He saw Abdul sitting in an office bent over a plant drawing. He saw him driving back from work and his mama opening the door for him.
“Yes Mr. Wizzet.”
“Your future is very bright. You are going to be an epitome of success. Just keep it moving.”
“I know Mr. Wizzet. Thank you very much.”
They all stood up and pushed in their chairs and shook hands with Mr. Wizzet and walked away. They all wore that smile that knew no defeat.
Uwem Mbot Umana©2018