The First Day of School

by Simphiwe Mbonda

Photo credit: Gahag

It was the beginning of the year. Schools were opening. We were moving into the seventh year of democracy, 2001. I was six years old, excited, energetic and worried at the same time. This was a new journey. I had never been to school before, nor had I engaged with such a big crowd. I feared the responsibility of making new friends and getting to know them and their life experiences. The name of the school was Nazaar. It was in Seven Fountains, close to Grahamstown.

I travelled to school with my cousin because we attended the same school. I did not talk; I just thought about the day ahead. I remembered the words my dad used to say to my mother, “Lo mtwana ndifuna afunde angafani nam,” (I want this child to study, not to be like me). At that moment, tears came rolling out of my eyes, speeding towards my chin like running rainwater. It had been a few months since Dad passed away. I could feel the struggle, as I had no school shoes. I wore only the takkies my mom had bought me for Christmas the year before. Things had not been the same after my dad died. We did not have enough money to cover all the costs and expenses of the house.

Luyanda, my cousin, accompanied me to class. He was older than I was, and knew everything about the school. In Grade 1, I could sense or tell what was happening – unfortunately, not what everyone is used to hearing. Children are known to make noise and love playing but the atmosphere on that first day of school was shocking and unexpected. It was as if I was a pastor at a funeral, I was the only child not crying. Everyone was crying, “mama sukundishiya!” (Mama, don’t leave me).

For the first few hours after I arrived, I kept a serious expression on my face, pretending to be fine although I was scared. That led to an embarrassing experience. I was too afraid to ask my teacher to give me permission to go the toilet, so I just let it go. I couldn’t walk. My trousers were very wet because I had urinated on myself. However, I don’t regret what happened because I was still a child. Moreover, the words of Mrs Ntloko, my class teacher, helped me. She helped me gain confidence.


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