Talent and value and dignity

Wednesday 18 August, 2010:

Before class starts, I have a visit from Simeon and Eddie. I’m touched that these two rather disaffected souls would call in to just say hello and have a little sit.

And the morning slides quietly along.


At interval, Aperamo, Andre, and then the 9 Social girls appear.

“Miss,“ says Ana-Hela. “Your room’s very busy all the time – it’s never empty.”

“You’re quite right!” I say, and we laugh.


I have a meeting after interval, and Sara Malin is taking my class – much to Andre’s dismay.

“But I don’t like Ms Malin!” says Andre. “I don’t want her to come here.”

Right then Sara walks past our door, then veers towards her office… and stops, midway, with her back to us. We look on.

“I wonder if Ms Malin remembers she’s supposed to be coming here,” Karlene ventures.

Most of the class have arrived by now, and are laughing, waiting to see which way she steps.

“Warm… warm,” says Andre, as Sara takes a couple of paces backwards in the direction of our door. Then she leans sideways towards the next classroom, and, “Cold… colder,” he comments, making everyone giggle. She’s wearing a green poncho, and turns her head to twinkle beatifically at no-one in particular. Suddenly she changes direction again and swivels towards us; this time coasting right up to the door and saying, “Hello.”

“Oh, hello Ms Malin,” I say. “You’re with my class today?”

“Yes,” she nods, and they admit her inside, while I go off.


Upon my return at lunch, I open the door and am greeted by the following sight:

1) Serena, Karlene and Ana-Hela waiting for me at one of the front tables, looking rather nervous about my reaction to:

2) Aperamo and Levi, facing off with the girls at another front table

3) Leroi, Simeon, Noa and Teki – lounging at the back

4)And amidst all this – Inia, on his own at one of the middle tables – absorbed and concentrating, and drawing intently.


I gaze around at the 10 of them.

“Miss…” begins Serena.

“She said – Miss’ll be angry,” Aperamo tells me. “But I said – no, Miss knows us!”

Us –” says Simeon with emphasis, gesturing to his companions at the back table.

“I did tell them to go away,” Serena says. “But they just sat down!” She stares indignantly at the boys, making me grin.

“Well,” says Noa, regarding the scene with an air of happy resolution. The others just look at me, and I begin to laugh, saying “What’s the big attraction today, guys?”

“I dunno, Miss,” says Levi, with great cheer. “We just thought – we’ll come in and say hello to Miss…”

Inia looks up and nods, then bends his head and draws.


I give up on further questioning, and embark on a little circuit of the room, greeting them all in turn.

“It’s cool in here,” said Teki, stretching out his legs. “Miss – you should start an internet cafe.”

“Oh, good idea!” I say. “Should charge you guys, make some money.”

“How much would you charge, Miss?” says Simeon. “Would it be like one dollar per… big lunch?”

Everyone laughs, because ‘big lunch’ is such a primary school term.

“I mean, ah, break 2,” he quickly corrects himself.

“We’ve got project next…” says Teki then, with a sigh of relief.

“Can I stay?” asks Inia, all of a sudden looking up. “I don’t want to go to Literacy catch up.”

“Oh, no – go on Inia – and as soon as you’re done you can come back to ours,” I say.


I take him out, to get him on the way there, and Libya appears for project. He says, in passing, “We got court tomorrow, aye Inia -” and Inia nods.

“Court – what for?” I say.

“For um – naughty stuff we done in the weekend,” admits Inia.

“What kind of naughty stuff?”

“Naughty stuff with cars…” Libya says.

“Naughty stuff with stealing cars,” Inia adds, looking at me sidelong.

“Ohh geez – bloody idiots -” I mutter. “And what about Noa?”

“He wasn’t involved with all that. He was at home,” Inia tells me.

“Look how Noa’s sensible!” I chastise Inia, and Libya grins.

“True though,“ I say. “He’s very sensible and you aren’t sensible at all!”


Monday 23 August:

I ask Inia how it went at court last week.

“Oh, it was alright,” he tells me, blinking. “I just got curfew. From 7 to 7.”

“Oh – did you? And what about Libya?”

“He got the same – and we’re not allowed to associate.”

“You’re not allowed to associate?” I say in surprise. “But, that’s gonna be a bit hard at school, isn’t it?”

“I know,” said Inia.  “I don’t know how we can do that.” He blinks again, and with his eyes all screwed up says, “And I have to go back to court on the 3rd of September.“

“How come?” I ask.

“Cos that’s my mum’s court case, and I have to say what happened – you know – just tell the story.”

“What did happen?” I say.

“Well, when we got stopped in the car that night, the cops manhandled us, and then my mum manhandled the cops… and she got arrested too,” says Inia.

“What was your mum doing there?” I ask, interested in this.

“Oh – she wasn’t in the car. That was just me and Libya – but we were in my street, just up from my house. And my mum came out and saw the cops arresting us.


At school, Inia has just 2 credits to his name. Noa’s collected quite a few more than that: 27 or 28 now.

Oh man, I think sometimes it’s just a matter of time before Inia drifts out of school – and who’s to say it’s a bad thing; it’s not. But I’ll miss him; I’d miss him. I feel very privileged to have anything like trust from Inia. It matters a lot to me – all this stuff – and I don’t know if it matters to anyone else there; if Inia will be remembered as a person with so much talent and value and dignity, just the way he is; the exact way he already is.  And I sometimes… I really just wanna cry my eyes out.


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