Monday, June 6, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Memories of My First Day of School
This week, hearing stories of and seeing pictures of first school day for many kids reminded me of my first day in primary school in 1976 and prompted me to share that memorable experience.
It was in Zomba, Malawi. In our house, we lived with some of my mother’s younger siblings and some of my older cousins who were going to school at the time. I was in kindergarten at Zomba Community Center. One thing I never liked was that every night I was always forced to sleep earlier than everyone else. I was told that the reason my uncles and aunties went to bed later than me was that they had to study and had homework to do.
Then came the day of my first day of primary school at Zomba Government LEA School, aka “Ku Gava”; now called Bwaila Primary School. A week earlier, I had gone with my mother to the school to meet the headmaster. On my first day, my aunt Janet (RIP) and our home helper who helped raise me from birth called Safunika were the ones who dropped me off at the school. We got to the headmaster’s office with my aunt to process the rest of the registration. Well, to me going with them to school meant that my aunt or Safunika was going to be there all day when I was in the classroom. My aunt had to go so I asked the helper to come into class and sit next to me. I wondered why she refused. I changed my mind when I realized that the rest of the students in the class had no guardians sitting next to them. I then talked Safunika into standing at the door where I could see her. Well she did for a while. After sometime, I realized she had disappeared from the door. I got scared and stormed out of the class to look for her. I looked around and she was nowhere to be seen. Just before I started crying, she appeared from down the covered walkway. She had gone to the ladies’ room. I pleaded with her not to leave me alone again.
She took me back to the classroom. I expected the teacher, (I think it was Mrs Chimaliro), to discipline me but she had some really troublesome (fighting) kids to deal with. In the middle of dealing with all the screaming kids, she was so calm and understanding. I wonder how she maaged it. I went back to my spot. This time I asked Safunika to stand outside one of the windows where I could see her. She complied. However, while we were going for recess, aka “Gofo” (from “Go For Break”), I realized that Safunika had disappeared from the window. Apparently she had stepped out to go to the snacks market at the school, where students bought potatoes (Gunya Sasenda) , cassava and more. But as far as I was concerned, she had abandoned me again. I stormed out of the class again against the calls of the teacher. I looked for her everywhere; screamed at the top of my voice, “Safunikaaaa!! Safunikaaaa!!”. I am sure the other (especially older) students must have been wondering, “who is this kid looking for his Safunika here at school?”
I had had enough. I concluded that Safunika had abandoned me and had gone back home. I remembered the route that we took walking to the school. So I just had followed the reverse directions. I walked through Masongola Secondary School campus; through my uncle’s Safari Bar, and then made it to Mable (Mebulo) Lines location where we lived.
Apparently Safunika went back to her window spot thinking I was still in the class. The class moved from the classroom to under a tree to finish the day (at 11am). This is a tree where we would do our “goodbye teacher we shall meet tomorrow, if possible” after singing our daily parting prayer which went as follows:-
Tiyamike dziko labwino,
Tiyamike chakudya chija
Tiyamuke mbalame zoyimba
Tiyamike Mulungu pa zinthu zonse
While singing this prayer, we would be walking away from the tree with one eye open to see where we were going. By the time we said “goodbye teacher ….”, many of us were very far all the way near Masongola Secondary School bridge, near St Mary’s Secondary School fence or near the soccer ground for those coming from Mpondabwino area.
Well I digressed there.
When all the kids dispersed, to Safunika’s dismay, I was nowhere to be seen. She panicked and there was a major unsuccessful search. She dashed home where she was told that “Fukula wabwela kale kale wapitanso kosewela” (Fukula has already arrived and is out playing”).
That was the end of the morning episode. My aunt shouted at me a little. She gave me a whole lecture about safety, being bitten by dogs, cars on the road, abduction etc etc. When reported to my mum, it was a major disciplining time.
Then came the second episode in the evening. It was around the time when the helper usually took me to start preparing for bed. I totally refused. My mum, Safunika and my aunties and uncles had to chase me around the living room and I was eventually cornered. I was taken to my bed kicking and screaming.
WHY the struggle?
As far as I was concerned; now that I was in primary school, I did not have to go to bed earlier than all because I had studying too.
I was supposed to start school in 1977 at 6 years old but I agitated to graduate from kindergarten in 1976 at age of 5. My motivation was that I would go to bed late like my uncles and aunties since I would have studying and homework to do. Well I guess not on the first day of primary school when the teachers had not even handed out slate boards to write on. Even with that, to study what?
The rest is history.