The Tutor, My Father, & Us
It was one of such evenings we wished the tutor wouldn’t show up for our evening classes. The clock ticked on the wall of the children’s parlor as we waited patiently for him to arrive. The time was quarter before 4 pm so he would be coming in 15mins. I was eleven years old and in the second term of my first year in junior secondary school; equivalent to seventh grade in the U.S.
As usual, we all settled around the dining table and went over the homework he had given to us the evening before. The dining table had eight dining chairs, and there were seven of us being tutored. My brother and I with whom I shared the same age and class in school, my three cousins and two young uncles that were three and six years older respectively. The younger of the two uncles had just moved to my dad’s house following his father’s death. His dad was grandma’s younger brother.
My father believed that a superior understanding of Math and English remained the foundation for excellence in any education, so he hired a tutor who focused only on both; Mondays through Fridays, from 4 pm to 6 pm. He was quite a disciplinarian but not anywhere near what my father was.
The tutor usually sat in the middle dining chair where he could clearly observe each one of us as he gave us work to do. We knew better to be settled and ready before he arrived, a requirement we never needed to be reminded of. We were the youngest on the table, my cousins and young uncles were about two to four classes ahead of us.
As he perused our assignments, there was much disappointment written all over his face, but he waited until he checked the very last person’s work. Then, his disappointment was quickly followed by confusion, anger, and frustration. Apparently, every single one of us didn’t do well in the same work he thought we already mastered a while back. He got louder, and my mother and grandma could hear him, but they didn’t know what to say. They stood in the center of the parlor waiting for him to handle the situation, after all, that was what he got paid to do.
The earliest my father ever returned from work was 6 pm, and most times just when the tutor headed out the gate. Unfortunately, it was one of those days when he’d chosen to return more than an hour early. He walked into the hallway just when the tutor was still chastising us for forgetting things we already learned. Instead of heading straight to his room like he usually did, he paused for a moment, turned towards us where the noise was coming from, listened for a few seconds while the teacher who took no notice of him continued. The more he continued to express his disappointments towards us, the longer my father listened and the more we knew trouble was getting worse.
My dad resumed towards his room instead of walking over to the dining table where we all sat quivering at what was about to happen next. The tutor had no idea what was about to flounce us, but we knew, and we were getting ready for it while he continued to talk to us. Of course, at this point, it wasn’t as obvious, but we weren’t paying much attention to him except my younger uncle who was still new to my father’s house. He had never been whipped before with my dad’s Koboko, which looks like a shorter version of an Australian Stockwhip, or at least it rips the skin just like it.
When my father came out of his room it was as expected; he had his usual white knicker on, no shirt of course. He stormed the hallway and walked straight into his living room. All of us except the newbie uncle and the tutor jumped off our seats waiting for the beating. The two seemed confused why, but it was too late. When he came out of his living room, he had his koboko in his left hand – the tougher hand, while he started off with one of my cousins who was already waiting right next to her chair. The tutor and my cousin jumped off their seats and stood behind the chairs perplexed at my father whipping the living evening out of everyone one of us, one kid to the next.
Now, we all had tricks to escaping my father whenever his whipping session ensues. When you get whipped about five to six times, you want to run away from him into an open space where he could not reach you while you allow him to be distracted by someone else. We all knew what to do, but my poor young uncle had no clue. He got whipped twice and crawled underneath the dining table – the biggest mistake you could ever make whenever my father had his koboko in his left hand. My dad leaned lower and underneath the table towards him and continued to lash him until he probably landed his usual number, twelve strokes. Meanwhile, he had forgotten about my brother and my other uncle because they sat closer to the sliding door which was much closer to the balcony. They had taken off to the balustrades along with the rest of us that already took a few lashes of the leather.
The tutor was now standing a few feet away from us, the dining table, and my dad altogether. With his arms dangling by his sides and mouth wide open, he stood next to my mom and grandma that couldn’t do much about what was going on but to watch. When my father finished with us, he stormed out of our parlor and back into his living room while slamming the door behind him. As some of us continued to cry while others that escaped my dad’s whip pretended to cry in pain, my grandma turned to the tutor and asked him, “Did you expect what just happened?” He turned to her with his mouth still wide open, unable to alter a single word. Grandma continued, “I guess next time you know what to do. That’s why we don’t report the kids to him half the time. That’s his way.”
Later at night, while recapping the thrashing episode from my dad in the boy’s bedroom, where we all shared beds, we made fun of the new guy, what his mistake was and what he needed to do next time such occasion presented itself. As far as he was concerned, it was still difficult for him to process why my father had to go that far. His father had never laid hands on him while he was alive, so he was pretty much in shock while the rest of us laughed off the incident as one of many. My brother and the other uncle thanked him for taking up just enough strokes for my dad to forget about them.
The following evening, we all scored a hundred percent on our homework of course. However, the tutor apologized to us. He didn’t think our dad could go that far on an issue he expected him to warn or advise us about. At the end of the academic year, I had the highest score in math in the entire school of thousands of students.