I wrote this poem following a lesson where I heard the title barked out repeatedly and, in my opinion unjustly, to a pupil. Its effect was merely to embarrass the girl and cause her to take no further part in the lesson.
You say I’m not a proper student -
Not a proper student, you say,
Though I rise with the cockerel at first light of day
Trekking for an hour my hot, dusty way
To arrive here on time – just like you.
I’m not a proper student, you say -
But wear my uniform with pride
From the hardest work never hide
Knowing that within me, I’ve always tried
And always clapping you when you ask me to!
So, I’m not a proper student
Though I copy from the chalkboard all day long,
Risk a beating if I get things wrong;
But it’s so hot in here – the sun, so strong
It steals your thoughts from you.
Not a proper student
Yet absence, I have none
And the homework you set me is always done -
Though outside I could have been having more fun.
Does my commitment mean nothing to you?
Not a proper student
Cause I don’t answer questions?
Perhaps I’m afraid of your wicked stick
That meets every fault with a whack -
Safer to say nothing to you.
Not a proper student?
With these windows of distraction
Flies and goats and pupils whose class is out of action –
Their teacher not in today. What should be my reaction?
Continue with my studies. Could you?
So, to be a proper student
Must I squat on furniture, splintered and broken,
Show some interest but gain only a token
Of recognition, be in no way outspoken
Nor question what’s false and what’s true?
And if I seem to be not a proper student
Perhaps my tiredness is catching up with me
From minding my sisters late into the night,
From doing the chores from first break of light,
From straining to see with imperfect sight,
Unsure if my future is cloudy or bright,
If dreams that I hold could come true.
And if I’m not a proper student,
Then why would I care
That my progress is slow even when you are there,
That my books fall apart from sheer wear and tear?
I want to think for myself but opportunities are rare;
I want more of your time but you have none to spare;
So frustrated I could tear out my hair –
I want to shout out, but I simply don’t dare.
So, like you, I do what I can with what I’ve got
And, just like you, I’m still there!