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Verbal Recoils



Verbal Recoils



Lookman Olaniyan


Copyright © 2017 Lookman Olaniyan

Shakespir Edition

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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events

or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and

used fictitiously.




Verbal Recoils

[] Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

About Author

Chapter 1

Thabo sat on a table in front of the class, thinking about his warped life. It was the first day of the new academic year and students were just returning from holidays. He watched as new third year students trooped into the class with excitement. He could not decide whether or not to greet them, as he had hoped to make friends with many of his new class mates. He would need them later this year during second semester. They could be the ones to take him out of his distress. Each time he made up his mind to make a gesture of greeting, he always thought of a reason not to do so. And most times, the reasons were flimsy; almost absurd.

“I will graduate with these ones this year, I hope. Those of last year were too stiff on their first day on campus”

“I don’t want to appear like a ‘classroom uncle’ to these new ones. They look so much younger,” he thought.

His distress was passing the end of year seminar paper. It was his third attempt at it. He would be repeating his final year in school for the third time, and he was seeing his new classmates for the first time.

Thabo attended a technikon in his locality. Some people would refer to it as a polytechnic. Lots of courses were on offer to students, and they ranged from engineering courses to financial management courses like Insurance, Accounting and so on. Students study for a session of two semesters in a class and move to the next one. At the end of three years, they are given an Advanced Diploma after which a graduation ceremony holds. The students may then proceed to a university for further studies, or may decide to seek employment. The system gave opportunities to many people from poor background to specialise in certain skills, and contribute to the economy of the country.

Being from a humble family background, Thabo knew that his parents could not afford the cost of attending a university. The tuition fees were very high and the costs of text books were too expensive. This made him consider attending the technikon in his town. It would not be too exorbitant since he could walk to school every day, he thought.

The day he approached his father and laid out his education plans, the father had been impressed with his thoughts. The father had secretly nursed the wish of having one of his children attend the popular school, but since none of them showed interest, coupled with the high cost of tuition fees, he kept the idea to himself. Now that Thabo had, on his own, decided to attend, he would be supported.

Thabo was determined to succeed with his education since he was the first to be educated in his family. His father was willing to support him till the end, despite the little resources at his disposal. This rare support from his parents encouraged him to be focused on his studies. He was aware of his not being a very brilliant person, but he would give it the best of his attention.

Before his admission to the technikon, he had tried unsuccessfully three times before. His determination paid off eventually. He got admitted to study Computer Science at the school in 1996. His joy knew no bounds. The evening that his admission letter arrived was a memorable one for him. When the Post Master handed him the letter that fateful evening, he shouted so loud that his mother rushed out of the house to see what the matter was. When she realised it was Thabo, she was eager to know why the usually quiet fellow could be so excited.

“Thabo, what is it that makes you shout so loud?”

“Mama, come and see,” he said, pointing to the letter in his hand.

“What must I see? Just a paper? Is it a letter from your brother?”

“Admission letter. Mama, this is admission letter from the technikon”

“Admission.uh?……. who was admitted… which hospital?”

“This is not hospital admission, mama.”

Thabo told her mum that he had been admitted to the nearby technikon to study. She collected the letter from her son and looked at it. Not being an educated person, she compared the logo at the top of the letter to the image she sees on the gate of the technikon whenever she was passing by the school on her way to the market. Her worries then changed to that of excitement. She looked at Thabo and a sense of pride overcame her. She was happy for him as songs of praises rent the air. She was thankful to the Lord for his favours. She began to dance around the house as she held on to the admission letter.

“People come and see, my son has been admitted to the big school eehhhhhh! I have put my enemies to shame….. The Lord has done it this time.” Thabo followed her as she moved around.

Her songs attracted the neighbours. They began to troop out, one after another, wondering why mother and son were so excited. Before long, ten people had gathered around Thabo admission’s letter. It was a day to celebrate for them too. For many years they had hoped that one day their kids would be admitted to the technikon. They used to watch students from distant towns and cities come and study for three years and return to their provinces or countries. They wished so much that the turn of their children would come to attend the school. Those in their town who sought admissions at the technikon had not been considered good enough. Now that Thabo had succeeded in gaining admission, it called for celebration. It was the first time such would happen. It was a significant day.

When Thabo’s father returned from work and was told about his son’s admission, he slaughtered a goat to celebrate it. None of his seven children had been admitted to the school before. Not even his extended family members had a child there. This Thabo’s feat would not go uncelebrated. It was a thing of immense pride to the town dwellers that your son attends the technikon. The neighbours would view you as being high-class and the prestige that came with it was worth it. Thabo’s father wanted a taste of that prestige, despite the high tuition fees which he would struggle to pay.

But that was five years ago, when Thabo was first admitted to the school. He was determined to make good use of the opportunity given to him by his father. He cut off all campus frivolities and social gatherings. He would be seen clutching to his books all the time. If he was not attending classes, he was at the school library. If not there, then he was locked in a tutorials session somewhere with some students. His entire campus life centred round his studies. He was that determined.

Even at home, he was given less domestic chores to do. He would be left in the room or outside the house reading his books. His father always smiled seeing him focus on his studies. The mother made sure his food was always made ready, even before he got hungry. He went out only a little. He only place he visited was his girlfriend’s place. Grace’s house was not far from his. He visited every weekend or twice a week.

He was however not a brilliant student. He just managed to pass his courses. He always passed with average grades. His grades were always fairly earned, though, as he normally put in lots of efforts. He passed through his first and second year until his third year. All his courses were passed on average grades. His efforts and determination paid off.

In the last semester of his final year, it was time to embark on a seminar. The seminar involved each student coming to the front of the class to make a presentation about a certain topic for about twenty minutes. The topic must have been allotted to a group of students by the seminar supervisor, usually a lecturer in their department. The students could be given the same topic. After the presentation, three member of the class, outside your group, would be selected to ask questions from the presenter. He was expected to answer the questions correctly and then present a paper on the topic presented. The lecturer would then allocate marks based on the performance of the student.


It was always such an interesting session as students had the chance to differentiate those who were really diligent public speakers from the pretenders. It also brought out certain qualities in the students. The audience would laugh at the presenter at the slightest opportunity. Sometimes, they whistled and heckled the presenter. If a student came across as being arrogant he or she would be booed. Those who were too shy were mocked. The lecturer did his best to moderate and ensure discipline, but student would always be who they are.

Thabo failed the seminar in his final year and he was not allowed to graduate along with his mates. It was a bitter experience for him. He researched on the topic given, attended practice sessions with his mates, and even practiced at home. However, Thabo’s problem was stage freight. He could not withstand standing in front of a crowd to talk. He was not a public speaker at all, as he had been timid from his early years.

The first attempt at making a presentation in front of his lecturer got him anxious. He blabbered for about a minute and, when his classmates raised their voice to complain that they could not hear him, he kept quiet. He could not bring himself to say anything anymore. The lecturer encouraged him to continue, but his tongue appeared tied. He just stood there and remained quiet. His classmates then started to murmur and whistle.

“Go away.”

“Go and sit down. You have failed hahahaha!”

The lecturer then asked him to go and sit down. He presented his paper, but failed. He was given 25% score and he needed 50% to pass. He was disappointed with himself. Although, many others were shouted down in similar manner, he felt unfairly treated.

His entire household had expected him to graduate that year. They had hoped that they would at least have a graduate in the house. When he told them that he was not graduating with other students, they were disappointed and let down. He tried to explain to them that it was just one seminar that made him fail. He pointed out that he was sure to graduate the following year since he was not going to attend lectures much. He just needed to learn to overcome his shyness and stage freight. His first seminar attempt was a mistake, he assumed.

“I would practice for the whole year,” he said to himself. He hoped to learn about the topic and then go and make the presentation the following year. He erroneously thought that the same topic would be given to him the following year.

Thabo’s still of failed the seminar the following year. This second time, he had been careless. Since he had passed all other course, but the seminar, he chose not to attend classes throughout the first semester and for the major part of the second. He only visited the school at the beginning of each for registration. Not attending classes made him lose tempo of his academics. He also never wrote any test as it was not necessary to do so.

While absent from school, Thabo would practise on the topic and made research at home. He also read his previous year’s lecture notes to update himself. He would felt better each time he recalled the details of some subject matters that he read about. With this lazy preparation, he felt he was ready for the seminar.

Meanwhile in school, his group members were looking for the person that bore Thabo Johnson. There were eight people in his group for that year’s seminar. The group leader placed his name on the notice board for anyone who knew him. For six weeks after their seminar topic was handed to them, they did not see him. The group leader then reported to the seminar supervisor. She it was who informed them that Thabo was a returning student. He was likely to come to school when the seminar presentation period was close by.

Rightly so, Thabo appeared in school for the first time since registration about two weeks to seminar presentation. When he entered the class, his classmates were surprised to see him. Many of them looked at him strangely since he was not known. He later asked around to be introduced to his seminar group members. He then asked for a private meeting with the group leader.

Thabo was surprised to hear that the seminar topic had been changed for that year.

“Our new topic is ‘The Importance of Modern Computers to the Banking industry’,” his group leader had announced.

“Haaaa!!! I have been preparing with last year topic. Am doomed!”

“Am sorry, I don’t know about last year’s topic. I am doing my first seminar,” the group leader stated, looking at Thabo foolishly, wondering why he did try to find out before then.

“My brother, please don’t be angry. I am a returning student. Can you please provide me your study materials? All the materials I have are for last year topic. I don’t have the means to travel to distant school for research. This seminar has caused me so many delays already. Please assist.”

“It’s okay. I will help you with materials. But can you read them within two weeks?”

“I’ll try my best. I have to.”

His group leader handed over the materials to Thabo to make copies of. He spent the next two weeks reading at night and depriving himself of sleep. He slept little during the day too. His mother became worried about his constant reading and murmurings. When he was asked a question he would first repeat his seminar topic before answering.

“Thabo, when are you returning from school today?” his sister once asked.

“Importance in Banking Industry,” he answered

“What are you talking about?”

“Oh! Sorry, what did you say?”

The girl shook her head to report to her mum.

“Mama, why is Thabo talking to himself?”

“Your brother is studying so hard. He would soon graduate from the technikon. Try not to disturb him.” The mother would reassure.

Thabo would invite his younger sister to sit down and start to narrate stories to her. To him, he was practicing public speaking and learning how to overcome his stage fright.

He would repeat over and over again on the ideas he got from the seminar materials.

After the personal efforts, and two days to the seminar, he called on to his group leader that he was better prepared. There was a mock seminar planned for the day after, and Thabo promised to be there. The group leader acted like the supervisor and the group members came to make presentations.

Thabo was given the chance to present first. He came out, introduced himself, and delivered on the topic. The setting was relaxed and there was no questioning of the presenter as each of them concentrated on their turn to present. No matter how poorly or well each person performed, they were applauded and encouraged. Thabo did well to talk in front of his group members. He felt happy afterwards.

As each group member came out to present, their eloquence and points mentioned threw Thabo off balance. The difference was clear between the better prepared ones and he who just had two weeks to prepare. His confidence died off. He could not imagine that he would not perform well at the seminar again. His mood was dampened. But something gave him hope. At least he had overcome his stage freight. He could now talk to a group of people and look at the audience while doing so. He decided to take from the ideas of his group members and add to his.

The night before seminar day, Thabo wrote down what he would say, including ideas from his group members. He crammed the entire write-up as it was just half a page. He was going to read it out from his head, he decided. He practiced over and over again, resting only a little. It was going to be war, he thought.


The following day was the D-day. He got to school early enough to ward off anxieties. The class soon got ready and the seminar started. The supervisor this time was a different lecturer from that of the previous year. Each student was called out to present and it was an enlightening session as expected.

When it was the turn of Thabo he came out, cleared his throat, and looked at the class.

“Good afternoon class. I am Thabo Johnson, a member of ‘Group F’. I am here to seriously discuss the topic…….”

The lecturer interrupted:

“Did you attend class this year at all?”

“Yes sir, oh… sorry..uhh No Sir!”

“Oh you were from last year.”

“Yes sir.”

“Okay. Continue with your presentation.”

His mind went blank. “Okay,” he said.

He was not sure which statement he uttered last before the lecturer interrupted. He then leaned forward to the student on the row closest to him and whispered to her,

“What did I say last please?”

“You simply introduced yourself to us. You were about saying your topic”

“Okay, thank you.”

Since he crammed his speech, he was not sure which sentence followed that last one he spoke before the interruption. He would not sound fluent enough if he tried to continue from the middle of the speech, He decided to restart from the beginning. As he thought about this, he looked bothered and unsure.

“Sorry, class. Let me restart again.” Some students were already giggling and mumbling.

As if to sound more convincing, he raised his voice.

“Good afternoon class.” Some students echoed, “Good afternoon, Professor Johnson!”

“Please, please. Don’t be rude. I am trying to make a presentation here,” Thabo reminded the class.

“We know,” a group of people echoed, as if it was planned.

“We know you are not here to play soccer,” someone said.

“Then why are you calling me Professor Johnson when you know that the professor is beside me. Do you want her to fail me?” Gales of laughter was heard in the remote part of the class. The session was getting hilarious.

“Just make your presentation and forget about what your classmates’ say. You have been here before, so you should know better.”

Thabo cleared his throat again and looked more serious. He frowned and adjusted belt. He thought that the supervisor was right when she said that he should know better since he had been there before. A few jesters would not ruin his day, he thought. He began again:

I am Thabo; actually, Thabo Johnson. I am a member of ‘Group F’. I have presented before. Whether you like it or not, I will present again! ”

Chuckles and giggles could be heard across the class, but Thabo continued.

“My topic today, actually our group topic is the importance of Banking Industry to Modern Computers.”

The class burst out laughing, with several stamping their feet. Thabo looked around and saw that no one was listening anymore; he kept quiet. He then bent forward to ask the girl in front again.

“What did I say wrong?”

“You said the importance of Banking Industry to Modern Computers instead of the other way round”


Thabo then recalled that he had made a mistake, but it was too late. His topic was The Importance of Modern Computer to Banking Industry. His anxiety had made him forget his seminar topic. He looked downcast and beaten. The supervisor noticed his frustration and stopped him from presenting further.

“Two years in a row and you are still not ready to present,” he said shaking his head.

His paper was not even collected from him. He had a whole year to prepare and he was blabbing like that. The supervisor made it clear to him right away that he would come back again the following year.

Thabo eye turned red and he started to plead. But there was no chance for pleading. The supervisor’s decision was final. He walked away slowly and began to rue his lost chance. He had messed up again, he thought. This was just last year and the sadness of the day was fresh in his mind.

As he sat in front of this new class, the mockery of that day flashed through his mind. How many times will I make seminar presentations in this class? Why was seminar more important to them than my graduation? There must be something important in it that made them to keep asking me to come back over and over.

He became determined to pass it on this third try. He would practice public speaking for the whole year. He would also not try to cram any speech. It was not the ideal way to present, because whenever he got interrupted, he was always thrown off balance. Cramming was not the way to go, he decided. He would try to make a lot of friends in this new class so they would not make fun of him.

It was going to be his last attempt, his father warned. He had complained a lot of having to pay for his school fees every year. It was time to get a job and start providing for himself like his other brothers. He younger brother was already employed at a quarry in a neighbouring town. He was already planning of marrying soon.

At last he found someone he could greet, “Hello friend,” he said, enthusiastically.

The person looked around and smiled at him. “Hello mate, how’s life?”

“Life is rough, brother. I wish it was better.”

“It’s a happy day for us today. Don’t start the year on a negative thought,” Thabo was advised.

It would be a long year, Thabo thought.











Chapter 2

Thabo became determined not make the same mistakes he made last year. He would ensure that he attended school every day of both semesters. Whether or not he attended lectures did not matter. His main goal for the year was to pass his seminar papers. And that would be towards the end of the year during the second semester.

He would make sure he perfected the act of public speaking. He would try not to feel pressured while talking to people. If people much younger than him could make presentations so effortlessly, why was his case always awkward? He had this year to resolve it once and for all. He had the advantage over his new classmates, because, he had completed his other courses and passed them. They were yet to do that. He had more time to face his seminar, while they had to attend classes and sit for tests and exams. He would however join them in classes for familiarity with his classmates.

He left the table where he was seated on to go for registration. As he walked to the departmental office, he thought of how much his father has spent keeping him in school. The old man was sacrificing a lot keeping him there. He thought of how many other things he could have done with the tuition money that was spent on him. He made the resolve not to let the man down.

He collected the forms, filled them in a nearby place and waited on queue to return them. It was the third time he was submitting registration for the final year and the officials knew him well. When it was his turn to present his forms, the official remarked,

“It’s you, Thabo. How is it?”

“Very fine.”

“I hope this would be your final one. Please try harder and graduate this year.” The other people on the queue turned around to look at the person being addressed and Thabo became somewhat shy.

“Okay. It will be my year by God’s grace.” He said and left the registration office.

Although, the official was friendly, the fact that the officials at the department were already familiar with his face was a cause for concern. That he had been repeating the third year was now known across the department. It saddened him a bit. But he would rectify it this year, he promised himself.

After completing the registration, he went to the library. He combed the shelves for copies of seminar papers done by former students of his department.

“What was it that they wrote that made them excel?” he thought to himself.

After selecting about eight papers, he sat down to read. He went through the papers one after the other, comparing topics and making notes. He liked the style of a particular paper and then focused on that one. He studied for four hours after which he relaxed for a while.

He then returned to his class and sat down to assess his new classmates. He was alone, a bit distant from the other students. He noticed that some of them were almost of the same age as he was. But many of them were younger than him. That became a constant reminder for him about his previous mates.

“Education is not about age,” he thought. “People have different plans for their lives.”

As he sat there thinking, a guy walked into the class. Thabo instantly recognised the face. He tried to remember where there met, but could not. He then decided to talk to the person. It could be the first friend he would have in the new class.

“Hello friend,” Thabo said. The guy turned to look at where the greeting came from.

“Hi, Thabo Johnson,” he smiled wryly, recalling Thabo’s hilarious seminar presentation the previous year. He then made a straight face.

Thabo was taken aback that the guy knew his name. He was encouraged to talk further.

“Oh! You remember me.”

“I think I saw you last year in this class. Were you here?”

“Thabo, I am in your shoes now. I failed the seminar last year”

“Oh! Welcome,” Thabo felt relieved. At last he has a partner. Last year, he was the only one who failed the seminar. This time around, he would not be the only one looking old.

“What’s your name, my friend?”

“Am Sipho”

“Sipho, have you submitted your registration forms?”

“Not yet, I am having some problems filling it. Can you assist me?”

“No problems, let’s see.”

He brought out copies of his registration forms. Same as those Thabo submitted some moments before. Thabo looked at his forms and pointed out that he did not put the correct unit number for the seminar.

“Seminar is a six unit course, not four,” he pointed out.

“Oh! I see. No wonder they keep rejecting it from me. But they would have simply told me so.”

He corrected the unit number and dashed out of the class.

When he returned, he thanked Thabo.

“You are welcome,”

“Would you want a drink, Thabo?”

“Sure, it’s okay. The weather is getting hot.”

They went out of the class to Wafi Café. It was within the campus. Students thronged the place every now and then because of their modern gadgets. It was also one of the few places on campus that had a smoking section.

They walked into the Cafe and sat opposite each other. Sipho saw the need to get some insights from his companion, Thabo. They were now in the same shoes. He order some drinks and they began to sip.

“How did you manage to fail the seminar, Sipho? I know I cannot talk in public. That is my own problem.”

“Hahaha. It’s funny how it happened. I did not focus on the topic. I did not like the topic I was given, so I presented on something different. That’s what happened. I don’t have an issue with talking to a crowd. I can talk to one million people if I have to.”

“Tell me, how do you manage to talk in front of an audience without being shy?”

“It’s easy. Just focus on what you have to say and forget that you are in front of people.”

“Just like that?”

“I think you are naturally a quiet person. You are also very shy. You need to know what you want to talk about and overcome your shyness. And you need a lot of practice. Then you would develop confidence.”

“I think I’ll consider your ideas. I’ll have to practice more.”

“Do you have a babe on campus?”

“No. Not at all. I just told you that am a shy guy. How would I approach a lady on campus?”

“Ah. How do you survive without a babe? If you try to have one, maybe you can improve your public speaking. You are too dull, man.”

“It’s not like I cannot approach them. I cannot talk for long.”

“Get used to talking to the ladies. Then you will no longer be shy in front of the class.”

“Are you serious?”

“Sure. Try it. Talk to different ladies for three months. Feel free when talking to them. Don’t be too uptight. You will overcome your shyness, I promise you.”

“I’ll give it a try.”

At that moment, he realised that he had not developed the interest in wooing a lady. In his 27 years on earth, he only had one female friend, Grace. And this was because, they grew up together. She was not the chatty type too, just like Thabo, and she had been introduced to him by his older brother. When they were together, they only looked into each other’s eyes and smile. She always responded to Thabo’s questions in monosyllables. They understood each other very well, though. Their parents knew about the relationship and approved it.

“Now that Sipho has raised this issue of being familiar with ladies, he must be referring to the chatty ones. If Sipho, who looked stupid to him, could woo a woman easily, make presentations in class as he had said, why would I not be able to do same? If it was about gaining confidence by talking to ladies, I would give it a try,” Thabo thought about himself.

But He was used to the ladies in the townships only. He always distanced himself from the city ladies who came to study there at the technikon. He thought they were too flashy and expensive to be with. He did not have money to throw around. It would not be a bad idea to try though.

Thabo looked at his adviser, and concluded that he was not a very smart person too, like him. The difference was that Sipho was not a shy person. He expressed himself easily, even if most of his expressions were slangs and playful. They continued chatting and after a while, they left the Café and went their separate ways.

As Thabo walked home later in the evening, just as he turned off the main road that led to the school, he came across a female student returning from the market. He thought he had spotted her in the area before. He just did not summon the courage to approach her. Today, it would be different.

“Hello darling,” he began, smiling widely at the approaching lady.

“Hi, have we met before?”

“Yes, many times on this road. You were just too shy to talk to me!”

“Really? You must be special then. ”

“Yes, I am very special. I make seminars in class at the technikon,” said Thabo, not able to recognise the lady’s sarcasm.

“Can you excuse me; I have something better to do.”

“But talking to you is good too.”

The lady hissed sharply and took a turn away from Thabo. He was left shocked by her action. He stood there with mouth agape, wondering where he went wrong in the discussion. In his mind, he went through the details of their discussion.

Was it because I called her my darling? Or was it because I said I was special? Did I sound arrogant to her? But I did not mean to be arrogant. I certainly don’t look proud because my clothing is simple African wears. Maybe she is just the difficult type. I would try another lady.

The next sets of ladies that he came across were his town ladies. He did not need to talk to those ones. They would respond to him in their local dialect and they would not even talk much. Those ones would not help him, he assumed.

He then walked towards the T-junction closer to his homestead. He found two ladies walking back home from school. They were not familiar to him, neither were they from his town. He made move to approach them.

“Hello ladies!”

“Hi, can we help you?” His heart began to beat fast. The ladies were looking directly at him with attention. Where they asking for help? Or they just wanted to help him. Maybe they knew about the seminar. It had to be about the seminar, he thought.

“No you cannot help me yet. Only in the second semester can you help me when the seminar is on”

“Which seminar are you talking about?” One of the ladies asked looking at her colleague, puzzled.

The other one then asked,

“Are we in the same class?”

“No. Not at all,” Thabo replied.

The ladies gave him the hate look and began to walk away.

Thabo was left confused. He realised his mistakes this time. He ought not to have mentioned seminar. He would have just simply introduced himself. Mentioning something that they were not familiar with drove them away.

That night, Thabo did no sleep well. He thought about his encounters with the ladies. The first one had walked away because he sounded arrogant to her. The other ones got pissed off because of his common mistake: mentioning what was irrelevant. If he could not maintain a simple discussion with one or two people, how would a whole class listen during a seminar? He realised that his problem was more than he had imagined. He was willing to face it head on.

He became aware that he needed to learn how to introduce himself properly to any lady he meets. Then when he makes mistakes, he must learn to sustain the discussion and correct his mistakes, and then continue talking. He also would not want to sound arrogant, it puts people off. And finally he would not talk about himself after the introduction. He had started learning how to address a crowd, he imagined.

He would need more effective ways of solving these problems. Tomorrow, he intends to wake up early and visit the library. He would have to learn how to introduce himself to people and sustain discussions.




Chapter 3

The following day Thabo woke up earlier than usual. His encounter with the ladies had left him lacking in confidence. He had to read up some important topics in the library. Even the early morning rain did not stop him from leaving the house very early. When he asked his sister to fetch him the umbrella, she was slow at it. Thabo grabbed his jacket, and dashed out in the rain saying, “It is only drizzling after all, the rain is not heavy.”

He got to the library before the librarians and had to wait some minutes until the place was opened for students. As soon as he got in, he moved around the shelves and selected a number of topics bordering on public speaking. He was not going to depend on theories alone this time, he decided. After reading a few books, he would go around the campus to test his new skills. If necessary, he would go to town. It was time to be serious.

Thabo read a number of topics from several books until he felt he was okay with introducing himself to people. He had learnt that his appearance and body language had a lot to do with how people perceive a presenter. He did not have to look expensive; he just had to be well dressed and neat. He must then radiate confidence and be at ease to talk. He must be polite in his approach and in use of words.

After reading for about five hours, he became hungry and walked out of the library. As he was walking down the stairs, he spotted three guys at the other end. He walked towards them, and greeted,

“Hello, gentlemen.”

“Hello, Mr”

“It has been raining all day; don’t you think it would be nice to catch some fun beside a good lady?”

“Certainly brother, I support you on that, ride on.” One of the guys replied. The others smiled, nodding their heads.

“On a day like this, even a man of God would remember the night of his wedding.”

“Very correct,” says the other.

He looked at the faces of the guys and observed that he had totally captured their attention. They even showed it with the look on their faces. Feeling satisfied that he was putting to practice the things he had learnt, he then put up a smile.

“Let me take a walk. I am sorry to have interrupted your sweet talk, guys.”

“Don’t worry about us. We were just chatting. Go make a move.” He waved to them and walked away. One of the guys was heard saying loudly, “Don’t be too harsh on the ladies, Mr.”

As Thabo walked away, he had been amazed at the confidence he showed chatting with those guys. He did not know them at all, yet they stopped their discussions and gave him attention. His efforts were paying off, he thought. It was time to try a group of ladies.

He thought again and decided not to approach any lady yet. He would first make sure that he understood why the guys at the library were attentive. He would then go home and visit his girlfriend. Moreover, the snubs he got from the ladies the day before were still fresh on his mind. His girlfriend would not treat him like that. Though she might not be the talking type, Grace would be forced to talk. Maybe her being quiet was because he did not do enough to make her open up. Ladies generally liked to chat a lot when around familiar people.

Thabo dashed to his girlfriend’s house. It was a bungalow house that had an entrance each to the kitchen, sitting room and bedroom from the outside. There was no gate around the compound. Anyone coming off the adjacent road to the house could see the person in the kitchen through the windows, if opened.


Thabo used to visit his girlfriend’s house twice a week when he first got admitted to the technikon. He was always happy to be around her and she liked the attention being given to her. He did not need to talk to her much. Merely being seated in the living room, or hanging around the compound was enough for her. She too, like her man, had little to say. She was always proud of Thabo and was happy to be the one chosen by a guy who attended the only technikon in the entire province. Her friends used to envy her a lot whenever she walked by them. She would have wished to continue her education there at the technikon like her boyfriend, but could not do so due to financial constraints.

Since Thabo started repeating his final year in school, he had stopped the frequent visits to his girlfriend’s house. Even though, she tried to encourage him about his studies. She did not mind if Thabo took a while to complete his programme. She would always stand by him.

When Thabo got close to the house, he sighted his girlfriend in the kitchen. She was cooking and was definitely not expecting him. Thabo sneaked behind her and tickled her around the waistline. She jumped up from the sink area where she stood.

“What is that?”

“It’s me, Thabo. Thabo Johnson, the only one who can play with you in the kitchen”. The lady laughed, but was surprised at Thabo’s seeming excitement. Before now, he used to walk quietly into their house.

“You have not been here for long, why so?”

“Special studies call for special preparation. I have a lot to catch up on, you know.”

“Ok,” she said and began to look on the floor.

“Grace, it’s been a long time that I have been here. I hope you are okay?”


“Do you think I am arrogant?”


“Am I harsh on you?”


“Do you like when I talk to you?”

“…When you look at me.” Thabo thought that, even Grace didn’t enjoy his talk more. That would have to change, he thought.

Grace then wanted to ask why Thabo tickled him. It was the first time he ever did so.

“You are very happy today”

“Am happy to see you. I have not seen my Gracious Grace for a long time. Every time I go to school, I think about you. I -”

“Some people saw you yesterday at the junction.”

“Yes. I pass through the junction every day when going to school.”

“I know. They saw you with some ladies. You were talking with them.”

“That’s true. I was asking about some school things. After I saw them and they did not know the answer to the questions I asked, I promised to come and see you today. I realised that I missed you. You have the answers to my questions. No lady I talk to can be like you, Grace. When I think of you, I am happy. You give me joy whenever am with you. Even if I travel to the big cities, I still will remember you in everything I do. You stand by me when things are going well. You are with me when I am not doing well. And whenever I come here, you leave whatever you are doing and come and attend to me. Grace, I love you too much….”

Grace could not believe her ears. As Thabo was talking, she was thinking. Is this Thabo? Thabo never spoke more than two sentences before now. Here he was talking for more than three minutes. He must be learning something new about women at the school. There was no time in the past when Thabo mentioned the word love. He just expressed it in his eyes. Now Thabo stated how much he missed Grace. How much he loved her. He also never for once tried to touch her. Today he touched her waist, even if not romantically. All these things were happening soon. Tears rolled down her eyes.

She became shy and her body began to tremble. She had yearned for the day Thabo would touch her in a special way, and hold her close. Now that he had touched her heart by expressing his lover for her, she felt inclined to want to move closer. Slowly, she raised her head to look at him. She blinked slightly and tilted her head. Thabo felt moved by the glow on her face. He stood up, paced a few steps unthinkingly towards her, grabbed her by the shoulders and wanted to talk. Grace raised her head to look at him, placed a finger on his lips, and then grabbed him around the loins, and rested her head on his chest.

Thabo heartbeat increased, and his heart began to pound. He soon held her face with both hands, and placed a kiss on her forehead. Not having been held in such manner before, Grace’s body temperature increased. She then stood on her toes to match his height; Thabo twisted his hands around her vibrating body, himself quivering, and locked lips with her. The smoothness of her lips had jolted Thabo as he struggled to keep standing while his legs wobbled in that cold afternoon. Sounds of burning food could be heard in the background.

“I need to attend to the food,” she uttered.

“Let the food be!” Thabo replied.

“Please stop. The food is burning.”

“Oh! Go and check the stove” Thabo said, breathing heavily as he disengaged from her.

He went to sit by a stool lying behind the kitchen door. Grace walked quickly towards stove and placed the pot out of the fire. She then walked briskly towards the window, looking outside.

It was the first time Thabo would kiss the lady and he enjoyed every bit of it. He felt like he’d conquered something deep within. Something he found difficult to do to his girlfriend for a long time. This lady never allowed me to touch her before now. But today, on account of his sweet words, he had been rewarded with a kiss. Without being persuaded, she had held Thabo by herself. She even made the first move for the kiss, just because he said the right things to her. He thought deeply, mere words made Grace to loosen up. His lecturers were right to fail him he thought. It was important to know how to say the right things. He imagined that if he had done better with his words while talking to Grace, he could have been luckier.

“I’ll see you soon,” he said, as he stood up to walk out of the house. She turned away from the window, rubbed her hand over her forehead and uttered,

“Okay Thabo. Thanks for coming around. I hope to see you very soon again.”

That evening at home, Thabo rolled several time on the bed as he struggled to sleep. He had achieved a lot in one day. His drive to do well got him up early from bed and to the library where he learnt the basics of talking to people. He’d tested his newly acquired skills by interrupted the discussion of three men and they were not cross with him. They even wished him well. His newly found confidence saw him visiting grace after he’s resisted seeing her after a long time. He had been confident speaking with her, tickling and interacting comfortably without boring her. He even achieved a kiss with her in the process. A Kiss! So tender words made a lady loosen her grip, he thought. Grace was always ever uptight and never let Thabo touch her. It was different today. He was learning some important things in his life, he thought, as sleep took him away.






Chapter 4

It was getting to the end of the semester and Thabo still ensures that he visited the library once a day, at least. He had since improved on his talking skills as well as interacting with people. Every day, he stopped someone on the way and raised an issue that captivated him. He would then go at length to discuss, if that person was willing to talk. Most times, he succeeded in being friends with them. Some would however shove him aside, claiming they were in a hurry.

Unlike the previous year when he did not appear in the class until towards the end of the second semester, this time many of the class mates knew him very well. They knew that he was one of those repeating the year. When there was a need to get an issue resolved, he was there to offer his classmates guidance. Even ladies from his class did ask him to explain some of the courses he had done.

His popularity in class grew as time wore on. On one occasion, he had been the one to announce the mid-semester examination. He had been impressive at the way he did the announcement. No one raised their hands to ask any question. That day did not go unnoticed by his friends in class. Sipho had cornered him after the announcement to congratulate him.

“Hey man, that was cool, you know,” he said immediately after he returned to his seat.

“Thanks Sipho.”

“I can see that you are more confident now”

“It’s necessary after so many attempts”

“Keep it up. Second semester is almost here.”

However, it was not every member of the class that liked Thabo’s growing acquaintance. One of them was Etim. Etim was a kind of guy who liked to be given attention. He wanted to be the first at anything, despite his average academic abilities. He was however good at speaking and asking questions in class.

After a lecture, Etim it was who would raise his hands and ask for clarifications. His questions were sometimes the simple ones with obvious answers. Any average and discerning student could easily follow through the issues he raised. It would appear that he asked questions to get noticed. What stood him out was the drama he normally added each time he stood up. Sometimes, he would clear his throat first, or make a defining gesture, or even adjust his always-present tie before asking his question. His loud voice too adds to the verve.

The lecturers however mostly liked his drama. To them, it showed that some class members understood the topics under discussion. It portrayed them in good light as they would be seen as being good at their courses and thorough with teaching.

Another habit of Etim was that he liked using high sounding words. Instead of using simple statements that would make him understood easily, he would opt for some extravagant words that would get his mates lost in thought. He always left his classmates in doubts as to his real intentions.

Etim attracted a huge fan base in class. He was popular amongst the female folks. His being attracted to them had nothing to do with being a rich guy or on account of good looks. In fact, his scanty moustache and bald head did not make him one of the better looking ones. He was also vertically challenged. He measured just about 5’3’’. This gave him a bit of a fiendish look.

What got him followership in class was his ability to make serious matters look simple. He had an uncanny ability to make people laugh when they were tensed up. He was also very hypothetical and imaginative. This quality brought out the best in him in class when, after a lecture, he would point out some areas of application of concepts besides those that the lecturer initially mentioned.

On a few occasions, he would be applauded for being resourceful. At other times, he would be scolded for being too pretentious. He was aptly nicknamed “Mr Too Know”. Whenever he was booed and jeered at, he was not bothered at all. In fact the louder the booing, the more determined he would be to make sure that he concluded what he started.

What attracted Thabo to Etim was his use of vocabulary. The first day Thabo noticed him was the day a lady stood on the aisle when Etim was carrying a carton. The carton was filled with books and was fairly large. He could not possibly go through the aisle while she stood there.

“Can I traverse through the thoroughfare which you currently impede?” Etim asked looking at the lady in question. She was forced to look around as if someone was trying to interpret for her. The people around started to giggle, since they knew how mischievous Etim could be. The lady moved close to Etim as if to assist him bring down the carton to the floor, but he turned away.

“Answer me please this carton is substantial and you are an agent of obstruction,” he stated further.

“Etim, what do you want?” she was forced to ask.

“I want to pass. Can’t you see?”

“Why did you not just say so?”

“I said so, but you were not assiduous enough to decipher.”

Docking slightly to allow him pass, she uttered, “Go away! Mr Too Know.”

Etim smiled as he moved past the lady.

This interaction was witnessed by Thabo. He was left feeling insecure by Etim’s use of words. He too did not understand what Etim was saying, just like the lady. He wondered if such use of words was necessary while delivering a seminar. He knew that it afforded the presenter some respect to be heard using grand words while making presentations. It however would make understanding the message difficult for the audience. He decided against using extravagant words while presenting. If it worked for Etim, good for him.

In fact, People like Etim reminded him of the past when he used to find it difficult talking in front of the crowd. Those days are gone forever, he imagined.

Etim was not the only unique character in his new class. There was a lady, Moremi, who was talkative. Moremi could talk for 3 hours non-stop. She was small in stature, pretty and intelligent. As chatty as she could be, whenever there was a lecture going on, she would be quiet. Her hyper activity only took over when there was no lecturer in the class.

A set of guys used to sit at the back of the class. Most of them cared less about the course. Thabo was friends with many of them. Whenever he came late to the class, he would mix with these back benchers. At those times when he gets to the class before the lecturer, he would sit at the middle of the class. Thabo was never found at the front. He felt that sitting at the front was for those who were too young. Attending classes for lectures, for Thabo, was a matter of revision. He was not going to sit for exams with others. His business in the class was just Seminar. He did not care how his classmates performed.

Some of his classmates however always approached him for guidance during assignments and tests. The not-too-smart ones were the ones who sought his assistance. When he could be of help, he did offer to assist. Where the questions were too tough for him, he would redirect he questioner elsewhere.

At the end of the semester, the school closed for holiday. Thabo spent time to study and review his past notes. His mother and father did not disturb him by sending him on frivolous errands. He had time to concentrate on his studies, full time.

Sometime, Thabo would go visit his girlfriend. They got to know each other better. The first time they kissed at her kitchen was an eye opener for him. He would imagine that Grace would allow him continue from there. He would visit her frequently and hope that she would be alone in the house. She was never found alone. That kitchen kiss experience was one-off.

The lady had a different opinion about Thabo’s now frequent visits. She was careful about getting pregnant at that point in her life. Although, her parents knew of their affair, they had warned her against falling pregnant for him. They always reminded her that they were not married. She took to her parent’s advice.

“Grace, it’s been more than eight years now since we started our affair.”

“Yes, you are right.”

“We have grown to understand each other very well.”

“You are bolder than before now. Those days, you could not sit at the living room talking with my father. I was surprised to hear you discussing politics with him the last time.”

“Hehehe. Things have changed. The school has improved me. My classmates respect me better than before now. I hope we can just begin the next semester so that I can conclude my studies. I want to start working. My younger brother has a family already. ”

“Don’t be too much in a hurry. Your time will come.”

“I am not in a hurry, but I have to settle down and start my family too.”

“Whenever you are ready, you will settle down.”

“Yesterday, my brother, his wife and children came to visit us. They were looking happy together. I was happy for him, but I cannot wait to have my family too. Do you think we can start to have our own kids soon?

We can -”

“Don’t even think about that please. You must finish school and get a job first. Then we can be together in your bedroom. You know that is how we planned it.”

“Yes I remember. I remember, but I have been sleeping alone at night and these days, it is raining too much.”

“It has always rained like that during this season every year. This year is not different.”

“I mean that I change my clothes frequently at night.”

“Oh that’s good.”

“My…. Trousers always shake when I sleep.”

“Yes, the clothes always move when people sleep. Or -”

“You don’t understand what I am talking about,” Thabo said, getting worked up.

“Will you come to our house tomorrow, or a day after, so that I can touch you?”

“But you can touch me here too. You did so once.”

“No, in a different way. I mean in the proper way. On the bed.”

“Thabo! Are you so much in a hurry now? You will finish school just in three months and we can be together as we wish. Let us wait. We have waited all these years. Let’s just be patient for just three more months.”

“Okay, Grace,” Thabo said quietly.

The fact that Thabo had a number of female friends in class did not help matters. He had seen how they mixed with their partners. He yearned for same. He’d hoped to get lucky with his girlfriend. She would however not fall for the pressure. Three months is just close by. He would wait.

For the rest of the holiday, he usually visited the primary school in his neighbourhood. The first time he visited, he saw some students learning from a man who looked like a casual tutor. The session looked dull to him and he felt that he could do better. He took permission from the man to take the kids arithmetic. He was given the chance. For one hour, Thabo taught the kids algebra. He was familiar with that topic. The kids were happy at the end of the lessons.


Since then, it became a regular teaching session for him. He did it to be able to build confidence. Thabo would return home feeling fulfilled. He was making good use of the holiday, he thought.
























Chapter 5

It is the beginning of the second semester. Students have hurriedly completed their courses registrations. The seriousness of the final semester is in full swing and students looked forward to their seminar, individual projects and final exams.

Thabo registered for his seminar as usual and looked forward to a different one this time around. He had never been more optimistic He promised himself never to miss a class this semester. He wants to be carried along in all class activities.

Mr Salman is the lecturer that would supervise the seminar for the class this year. He is an experienced lecturer who had been in the school for more than 8 years. He was familiar with the students in Thabo’s class as he had taken them some courses in the previous years. This time, however, he came to introduce himself as the one that would supervise the seminar. He highlighted the details of the course for the semester. He also emphasised excellence and articulateness.

The entire class kept quiet as Mr Salman spoke. They have heard rumours about the seminar and had looked forward to it. Many of them knew it was the course that prevented Thabo from graduating. They would not want to fall into the same situation. Thabo too listened with rapt attention as Mr Salman addressed the class for the first time. He did not want to miss any important information.

“Hello, class.”

“Hello, sir.”

“I am Frankie Salman. I’ll be supervising your seminar. I do expect the highest level of commitment from you students. At the end of the semester, I want you all to know how to make presentations to a large audience. You must be confident and ready to face any crowd and talk about technology. You must also be willing to answer any questions they raise about the topic under discussion. I’ll place you into groups, and each group will consist of five or more students. Each group shall submit four topics from which I’ll approve one of them. Do make sure your chosen topics are different and diverse. Once your topics are approved, you can begin to do research on them. Each student in the group will be called upon to make presentations for a period of 10 minutes. After which a paper would be presented. While presenting, you would not be allowed to read from the paper you would submit, so you must be very familiar with the chosen topic. Please research very widely about the topics that would be given to you, because after your presentation, three class members would be called to ask questions. You must answer the questions to the best of your ability. I’ll award you marks for your presentation skills, questions answered and the term paper. Try to make your presentation interesting and educative. We want to learn from you. Attendance would be taken during the presentation, so endeavour to be present even when your group members are not the ones presenting. I wish you best of luck. Do you have any questions? ”

“Yes please,” Etim raised his hand to ask.

“Sir, after a typical seminar exposition, and the time to ask questions becomes imminent, can a member of a group ask from his colleague? I mean can a member of group ‘A’ ask questions while another Group ‘A’ member is presenting?”

“Thanks for that question. You may not ask questions when another member of your group is presenting”

“Thank you, sir.” Etim sat down.

Mr Salman then pointed to Moremi, who was raising her hand after Etim’s was answered.

“Yes Moremi?”

“Can all group members submit the same paper, or the papers must be different?”

“You are each expected to do your individual research, even if you are members of same group. Under no condition must two people submit similar papers. It is automatic failure. Obviously that cannot be allowed.”

Some murmurings could be heard in the background.

Etim stood up again without being asked to. Mr Salman still recognised him to speak.

“Yes, Etim. What is it this time?”

“Sir, since this is going to be a scholarly exercise that would involve rubbing minds amongst aspiring intellectuals, would it not be nice if some dignitaries from with the academic community, and even from outside the shores of the campus are invited to partake in the sharing of knowledge?”

Before Etim finished talking, some students have started shouting “Mr Too Know”. Some were even whistling aloud. Those that understood Etim’s point were heard saying “No outsiders! No outsiders!” A few other ones were seen asking from others to explain to them the meaning of Etim’s questions. Yet there were those who wanted to know if Etim asked a question or he just advised the class. The lecturer had to calm everyone down.

“That is a good idea, Etim, but it would not be necessary to do that. Most of you are still greenhorns in matters of making presentations. You would be doing the seminar to learn and educate yourselves. Many of you would still make mistakes and would have to be corrected. I’ll see if the newer students could join you, so that they may learn and be confident when it’s their turn next year. But that would depend on whether there is enough space in the hall. Once again thanks for bringing that up.”


Mr Salman’s invitation of outsiders did not go down well with some students. They would not want to be seen to be made fun of in front of the class. They however could not do anything about it. It was the lecturer’s call.

“Any other questions?”

“No,” they chorused.

“Okay. I wish you luck. I’ll paste the groupings on the notice board soon. Start thinking of the topics you would like to present on. Good day.”

While the interaction lasted, Thabo’s heart was pounding. He had a question to ask, but could not summon the courage to do so. He’d wanted to ask if students from the previous year could continue with the topic they were given the previous year. He then thought better of it, and decided not to ask. The lecturer had stated that new topics would be given to each group.

Thabo tried to gauge Mr Salman. He sounded like a perfectionist – like a thorough man who would like students’ submission to be on point. Mr Salman did not smile at all throughout his speech. The man did not come across like a jovial fellow at all, quite unlike the lady from the previous year. Their approach to the seminar was however the same. Thabo concluded that he was not too different from the previous seminar supervisors in outlook. He was ready to do whatever the lecturer wanted for him to pass. It was the course he’d spend the entire year preparing for.

After Mr Salman left, the students we seen gathered in groups. Many of them narrated their idea of a seminar. Others expressed displeasures about talking in front of people. They all had different opinion about the seminar. Most of them were anxious about it. Some approached Thabo to ask a few questions. Thabo offered them what he knew about it without sounding too confident or experienced. He did not want to sound arrogant about it. If he knew so much, he would not be repeating it.


They did not like the look on his face while talking about the seminar. Thabo recalled the two seminar presentations he had in the past and the horror of how he was mocked. He swept the negative thoughts off his mind. Those were old times. His class mates this time knew him better and he had since improved in his public speaking skills. He would not let the seminar come in his way of graduating this year. It would not prevent him from touching his girlfriend ‘properly’.

There were about 46 students in the class. Mr Salman formed 9 groups and placed 5 students in each of them. The last group had 6 students. He welcomed their topics as the semester got underway. Thabo was placed in group ‘C’. He had hoped that Sipho would be in the same group but, no, his friend was placed in group ‘E’. Moremi was in Group ‘B’ while Etim was in group ‘F’. Thabo considered himself lucky not to have been in Etim’s group. He would not want to go through the stress of discussing with him in group meetings. On the other hand he wished Etim would be in his group so that Etim would not have the chance of asking him question during presentation. He would require a dictionary to interpret Etim’s questions. Only a handful of students would be able to handle questions raised by him.

The first time Thabo’s group met, they appointed their group leader. Abbey was chosen. Abbey was a cool headed fellow who was both permissive and enterprising. He took his academics seriously and liked following procedures while doing things. These qualities were what made the group members vote for him as the group leader. He advised his group members to be professional in how they approached the seminar. They should be prepared to study hard and conduct researches.

While Abbey asked for topical ideas from his group members, Thabo suggested too. They were the same topics that he worked on the two previous occasions. His topics were considered and presented along with two others from the group. The topic that was however approved for the group was not any of the ones Thabo suggested. They were given the topic: “The Impact of the Millennium Bug on the modern day life.”

The Year 2000 bug, also known as the Y2K problem, or the Millennium Bug was a problem that caused computers or software to misinterpret the first two digits of the year 2000 as 19, due to the coding of dates using only the last two digits of the year. Issues that could come up include incorrect display of dates, malfunction of electronic devices like computers, lifts and escalators; inaccurate ordering of automated dated records or real-time events and much more. It would affect the dating systems of everything that depended on chips.

It was a big problem around the world that computers would misbehave. It was widely believed that at 12:00 PM of December 31, 1999, instead of showing Jan 1, 2000, computer would display Jan 1, 1900. There were fears than banks would lose millions of Dollars, machines would shut down and companies would make losses.

The impact of that bug in the society was what Thabo and his colleagues were told to research on. It was seen to be an interesting topic because it was relevant to the society. They set out to do research and did a lot of work on it. They spent lots of hours in the library, borrowed relevant books, reviewed magazines, browsed the internet and did group meetings. They even went out of the way to offices outside campus to ask questions from office workers. Thabo played an active role in all the efforts of the group. At the end of it all, they gathered to rub minds, exchange ideas and wrote down their findings. Each person wrote out their opinions the way they understood it. The other groups too did their bit to prepare their papers and make presentations.

On the morning of the seminar, when she saw how her son was dressed, Thabo’s mum heart gladdened.

Even before Thabo called on to her, his mum showed up:

“What is happening today, my son?”

“It is an important day at school today. You remember that programme we used to do that gave me problems last year, we have it again today. I want to do it very well and graduate this year. Mama, I wish to make it a thing of the past.”

“Do not fear. You will pass it in the name of the God that I serve. You will do well.”

“Amen,” he said and took a walk to school.

The amount of effort he put in for the seminar went through his mind. It had been a long year since his last attempt at the seminar. A lot has happened between that time and now. He had been able to overcome shyness. He’d attended social events and thought primary school kids. He hoped that it would all come together this day. His future depended on how he performed. “No cramming this time, no jitters,” he thought. “All I needed was confidence.”

The seminar began on a Tuesday morning. There was so much excitement in the air as group members were seen strategizing and exchanging ideas. They all appeared in formal wears as news went around the class the day before that they were to put on formal attires.

It turns out that many students did not like presenting in front of the class. Only few of them felt that they would enjoy it. Etim and Moremi were seen pacing up and down the class as if it was their birthday.

Mr Salman walked into the class and everyone went silent. He wore a black suit, white shirt with a matching red tie. Following him closely were two department staff members that would help facilitate the session. He welcomed everyone to the seminar session and repeated the rules.

“Welcome class. I hope you have prepared well for today. I can see that a lot of you are uptight, please relax your mind. I am not here to make things difficult for you, I just want to hear from you and the class would like to learn about the research you have done. So, be at ease. I will call your name one after the other according to your group. You will then come out and stand in front of the class, introduce yourself, mention your topic and discuss your points. If you do not round up before 10 minutes, I’ll stop you. I will then point to three students that would ask you questions. I may also ask questions from the presenter. Let us get started.”

He called from group ‘A’ members and they came out serially to present. Some were shy as expected and others showed composure. The questions asked were simple and straight to the point. The supervisor asked that the audience must step up the quality of questions. He reminded us that it was during the question section that students learnt more.

When it got to the turn of Group ‘B’, Thabo’s anxiety grew as his heart began to beat faster. He wondered why his old fears were returning. He had worked so hard for this day. He toiled and strove to ensure a smooth delivery, why would he suddenly be troubled. He decided that he too must ask some questions to calm down his nerves. He needed to be confident before his time to present.

Then it was the turn of Moremi to present, she walked out confidently,

“I am Moremi Rhodes. The topic of my discussion this afternoon is the Relevance of Artificial Intelligence, AI, in the new Millennium. Before I delve into the details of AI and its multiple area of application, I would want to…….”

She raved on while Thabo watched with admiration. He liked the manner the lady started her presentation. After she concluded, three people raised their hands to ask question and Thabo was the third of them. The first two people asked her relating to the issues of AI that she just presented. She brilliantly gave answers to their concerns. Many students nodded in approval of Moremi’s approach to the seminar. Even the lecturer was impressed.

When it was the turn of Thabo to ask his question, He stood up from his seat, walked out mechanically to the front of the class, twisted his face, and then asked Moremi to step aside as he uttered,

“I am Thabo. Thabo Johnson. I am here to present on the Topic Millennium Bug in the….”

“Get out of there!” Some irritated students shouted at Thabo.

“Go and sit down,” the lecturer advised at him. “It’s not your turn to present. Why would you want to overtake another student?”


Even the class members were surprised. Some were giggling, wondering what had overwhelmed the otherwise quiet Thabo. He reluctantly returned to his seat, maintaining a sulking look. He appraised himself and thought that he had fumbled by trying to overtake Moremi. He did not like how people laughed at him. He decided to stay calm until his turn to present. But he did not.

Students of Group ‘B’ continued to present until it got to the turn of Thabo’s group. Abbey was the first to go. He articulately and calmly explained his points. Thabo raised his hand to ask him question. The lecturer recognised him, against his earlier instructions. The lecturer wanted to appear easy on Thabo. He had shouted on him the previous time he came out to talk. He gave him another opportunity to ask.

This time Thabo did not go to the front of the class. From his seat, he stood up and asked,

“Will the Millennium Bug affect the companies in the remote parts of the world?” The lecturer felt that it was not a bad question to ask. He did not even remember if Thabo was a member of Abbey’s group. He signalled to Abbey to answer.

“Yes, Thabo. The Millennium Bug is a universal problem. Anywhere computers are used will be affected. Whether in Africa here or Europe or even in the Artic, no one is spared.”

The lecturer was satisfied with the answer. Thabo was ecstatic. His question brought about a brilliant answer from his colleague. An idea suddenly came up in his mind. Since the lecturer was no longer interested in preventing a group member from asking his fellow group member, he would try to encourage his group members to be the ones that would raise their hands during his time to present. He picked up his pen and wrote down the questions he wished to be asked.

He changed seat three times to explain to his group members his plan. He whispered to them how the questions would be asked. Some of them bought into his plan and wanted to do same thing. Some of the back benchers took the cue and did same. Soon, the plot became obvious. When the next presenter was not asked challenging questions, Mr Salman suspected foul play. He announced,

“I’ll be the one to point at those to ask questions. Remember, your group members must not ask you questions. From now on, when you want to ask a question, tell us your name and the group where you belong. It must not match with the group of the presenter. Thank you.”

Then it was the turn of Thabo. He recalled that he had asked a question that the lecturer liked. He was confident that he would perform well. He walked out to the front of the class and began,

“I am Thabo. Thabo Johnson. I am here to present on the Impact of the Millennium Bug on the modern day life. Before I continue, let me first mention the scenarios of our modern day application of computers. Computers are found in our offices, banks, schools, government and even in manufacturing environments. Use of computers has replaced many of the manual operations that once dominated our industries. The queues in the banks have disappeared, students check results online, business information are handled electronically and we are witnessing many new areas of applications of technology. Needless I say that it is a computer age now. The Millennium Bug is however a problem that……..”

Thabo raved to the admiration of the lecturer and the entire class. He continued talking until the lecturer stopped him. He was given a thunderous applause and Thabo could not help but smile appreciatively. Many wondered if it was the same Thabo they knew. His case was different, his classmates thought. They had seen how he visited the library to read every day. They observed his efforts throughout the year. They wanted him to pass the seminar and graduate with others. It was emotional for him and the other students to see how well he did.


After the noise died down, a look of satisfaction appeared on Thabo’s face. He paced up and down the front of the class as tears of joy rolled down his eyes. He rubbed it off with his handkerchief and fought back more tears.

Etim watched as Thabo was treated like a superstar. He was green with envy. In his mind, he admitted that Thabo did well, but did not expect such a thunderous applause for a guy who had repeated the final year three times. He thought for a while and decided to ask him a question. He raised his hands along with the others. Three people were selected and Etim was the third of them. The other two were however not from Thabo’s group.

Two questions were thrown at Thabo and lucky enough for him, he was able to answer them well. Even Moremi was impressed by his composure. Sipho gave him a thumps-up from his seat. He had been amazed at how Thabo had transformed from a shy fellow to an experienced public speaker. That was until Etim stood up to ask his own question.

As Etim stood up, Thabo’s smile turned sour. He did not anticipate that Etim would be selected to be one of those to question him while he was presenting. Etim had been fairly quiet for the day judging by his on noisy standards. Why now that he was in the shine that he suddenly saw the need to ask? Was he going to be the devil sent to spoil his day? He looked at the other group members that he had prearranged with and their hands were up. The lecturer pointed to two other people and his group members were amongst them.

“Yes Etim,” the lecturer pointed,

“Mr Thabo. Your Millennium Bug topic is interesting, but I have a practical question for you.” The look on Thabo’s face could not be described. He was not even willing to listen to whatever Etim had to say. He did not like the guy and could not pretend to do so. But Etim continued as the class waited for his hypothetical question. Some of them were already giggling.

“Let’s assume you are in the escalator or a Lift of a building -” Thabo interrupted,

“How can you be in a Lift? We are not in a physics class. It is only in physics class that you talk about lifts.” Thabo said and made attempts to run towards the door exit.

The entire class burst out laughing. The lecturer then called them to attention.

“Thabo, listen to the questions. It is a practical one. You have given us a beautiful presentation. Don’t run away from questions.”

Thabo was happy to hear from the lecturer. Saying that his presentation was beautiful was a sign of approval. He became calm to listen to what Etim had to say.

Recovering from his initial shock, Etim became even more dramatic,

“Mr Thabo Johnson,” Etim continued with a wry smile. Thabo gave him the hate look at the modification of his name,

“Let’s assume you are in a lift with five other people on the 31st of December, 1999. The time was 12:59 PM going to the 1st day of January Year 2000. The device mechanism operating the lift is not Year 2000 compliant and the lift would be affected by the Millennium Bug. The other people did not know what to do. You are the technology aficionado they depend on. What are you going to do to guarantee the safety of every one there?” Etim concluded.

Obviously, it was not the best of question Thabo expected. Etim’s question had hit him like thunder. What was he going to say to answer this sort of question? Surprisingly, he understood Etim’s question very clearly, but he did not expect any questions other than those that he prepared for. It was obvious that this guy wanted to spoil his day for him. This day that he toiled so hard to make good. Things had gone so well, all the class mates looked at him with respect until now that Etim opened his mouth.


He thought about the countless times he visited the library; the number of people he stopped on the way to test his talking skills; the visit to the nearby primary school to teach them arithmetic; the wonderful kiss he got from his girlfriend when he spoke sweet words to her. He recalled the promise Grace gave to him to go home with him once he passed the seminar. He remembered the sleepless nights he had been through to make sure he got this day right; the amount of money his father spent to make sure he graduated; the pains of having to wait for two full years to prepare for this day. Now this hopeless Etim would spoil his day because of his boring escalator question.

He recalled the question again and thought about the details. He could not imagine himself in an escalator at that time of day. It has not happened before for someone to be in a company building at 12:00 midnight. The companies would have closed since 4:00PM, he imagined. He thought there could not be an answer to the question. Etim just wanted to shame him. He would damn Etim to it. Foolish questions demanded foolish answers. He summoned the courage to go vulgar.

He pointed his left index finger at him as he replied,

“You Etim. You were in an escalator at 12:00AM on the 31st of January, 1999,

You will die there!!! Wa kusibe ni! Niyofela khona! Shege! ”

The End

About the Author

Lookman Laneon lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He loves to write about true life experiences and how they affect him and people around. In his spare time, he enjoys working on the computer and exploring the latest tools technology has to offer. He also enjoys music, movies and playing chess.



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Verbal Recoils

A calm and shy Thabo got an uncommon opportunity to study at the local technikon. He grabbed the opportunity and looked forward to a bright future. He was encouraged by his fiancé, family and neighbours to go all the way. He soon realized that the journey is not an easy one as he was not a very brilliant student. Will his determination see him through school? At his final year in school, he must partake in a seminar that would need him to do away with his timid ways and address an audience. After failing the seminar on two previous occasions and consequently repeating the final year two times already, he soon found out that his marriage and future depended on how quickly he passes the seminar and graduate from school. He shelved aside his timidity, worked harder met more people and buckled up with his studies. His change of attitude gave him more confidence as the third attempt drew close. New obstacles emerged, threatening his chances. Will Thabo be able to pass the seminar and graduate after this third time?

  • Author: Lookman Laneon
  • Published: 2017-01-31 17:35:31
  • Words: 14367
Verbal Recoils Verbal Recoils