5 cents too much

Most of my early primary days were filled with tears, I loved going to school, but I dreaded waking up. I did not want to be the first one to wake up yet again I didn’t want to be the last one to do so. So I cried most of the morning, my mother on several occasions had to walk me to school, when everyone else is gone, I would be crying until I get close to the main gate of the secondary school nearby. By this time, a flood of secondary kids would be going into the school and I would say to myself, wuu angifuni ukubonwa amaPhondle ngikhala, cabanga nje sengibonwa amaphondle, hayi angeke ngikhale. So I would hold myself until I get to the taxi rank that was my marking point. And from there onwards it would be either I have forgotten about crying because there was not tangible reason to cry from the first place or I would continue to cry, especially if my mother was still by my side. This is something I did intentionally as a child, I have no idea what hole this filled but somehow I know I just had to do it.

My school preparations were great; I enjoyed feeling my mother’s big hands putting vaseline on my body whilst I stood next to a hot dover stove. For most of my early years, I wore good shirts and good shoes. But in 1992, things were not the same. It was in 1992 that I learned how to cut a cud box to fill my shoe with the holes in it and go to school. This year I learned to stand test of winter walking to school with shoes with holes in them. In the year 1992 I could not wait for winter to end so that I could be free from the burden of wearing shoes that were hurting me and with holes in them. So when spring came, I gladly went to school barefooted. Being free from the pains and sores of tight shoes was a real freedom.

It was the year 1992 that my class teacher in grade 2c asked us to bring 5cents to class; this was going to be used to make wax polish for the class, a common practise in school. However this particular year and time we did not have 5 cents to take to school. So the morning of going to school, I refused to go to school without the 5 cents. How on earth can I show up with no money when other kids have? I have very few moments in my life where I have caused my mom pain and this day is one of them. She asked my brother Dumisani to take me to school and to explain to the school teacher that we don’t have 5 cents.

My ever so graceful brother obliged, he went straight to the principal and told the principal that I refused to come to school because I did not have the required 5cents to bring with me.

That day would see my teacher in tears, refunding all the kids their contributions, screaming and shouting about and saying she meant well, there was no reason for me to tell the principal. In principle my teacher was right, but somehow I just could not accept that we didn’t have 5 cents at home and I did not want to come to terms with it. Needless to say the teacher was upset and the whole teachers club knew about it. On the next morning parade, the principal announced that the school would no longer require kids to contribute to the polish for the school as it places a financial burden to parents and children. The school from now on see to it that the cleaning materials are provided for by the school.

As I stood there in that parade that morning, I didn’t know whether to be sad or be proud of that moment. I felt it had hurt my mother to be in that position, the look on her face really affected me and silently I prayed to try never make her feel like that again. Secondly my teacher was not happy about the events that led to this decision. She would on the days to follow, not allow me to take her bag to her house again, and not allow me to come clean her room as per norm after school. Basically this incident broke our relationship.

1992 opened my eyes to lack, I had never come across this and for the first time I was linking two incidents, my shoes have cud box which I must refill weekly or daily when it rains plus I had no 5 cents to take with me to school. I at the time could not describe it as being poor or poverty but I knew something was not the way things are supposed to be.

To my surprise, the small voice was there throughout this time. And I was told that it is okay, and so in 1992, an activist in me was born, I was 9 years old!

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