A few days ago one of my former 12th grade students saw me in the market and said “Hi Madame Liz. Do you recognize me?” Of course I recognized him, though I told him that I barely recognized him considering he ditched the last few months of class. He asked if he could come to my house to speak with me about something. This is a student who was doing OK in class until the second semester when we started skipping and eventually disappeared altogether. I’m the professor principal of his class, meaning I was in charge of reporting grades for all his classes. He flunked all of them.
Later that evening, as discussed, he came to my house. I asked him what had happened and he explained in great details the issues facing him and his family. Some time ago his father passed away, leaving him as the only male in the household, and thus expected to contribute an income for the family. This year his mother also became sick and the pressure to help the family become too much for him. He ended up leaving our village to help his cousin sell merchandise elsewhere. He wanted to continue going to school but didn’t think it was possible, which is how I think he ended up chez moi. I assured him that it was possible to go to school and work. He asked if I wouldn’t come to his house to speak with his mother, convince her of the importance of her son continuing school.
Again, the next day he came to my house and asked if I could come and see his mother. We walked across town, about 20 minutes away into la brousse. We entered his house and he introduced me to his mother, who already knew me, or at least knew my Guinean name. The three of us sat down in their living room and I explained to his mother, part in SuSu, par in French, that it was really important for her son to continue, though he would have to repeat 12th grade. His mother wholeheartedly agreed with me, but voiced her concern about their financial situation. I offered to pay his school fees, buy his notebooks and pens, and get him a new school uniform if he promised to come to school everyday. They both gratefully accepted.
Afterwards I asked my student what had prompted him to seek me out. He said that he remembered that one of the first days he skipped class I had run into him on the street after school and asked him why he skipped. Apparently he had been taken aback by the fact that I noticed he wasn’t in class and that I cared enough to ask him about it.