Friday, October 23, 2015

2004 - 2005: Baby Lion Who?

I exited the secondary school I attended just like everybody else. Rammila Secondary had only three grades – eight to ten. I chose a school my older siblings went to approximately ten kilometers from my village to do Grade Eleven and Twelve. I remember my first day with my badly done haircut and that forty-five minutes long walk. Tjees I was extremely tired and anxious. For the first time in my life, I was in an unfamiliar territory with so many learners in one school. I can go as far as saying I was overwhelmed. We did not attend any lessons that first day, they handed out stationery and allocated classes. The only amazing thing that happened that day was the money mom gave me in the morning for lunch. I was not used to that at all.

Though it felt like I just left the kinder garden to the real school, part of me loved the experience. Friends were soon made something I never had to do before. Within a month, I was back to my old self – forward and dreaming big. That school had a reputation of defeating learners who came from my own village school. It was said that only one or two learners yearly from my village school progressed to the next grade and it was hardly on their first try. Before me, only two new learners from my school managed to progress so the jury was out there telling us to pick comfortable desks and chairs as they were to be our homes for the next two years. Others even had names of learners lined up if you dared vowed to change the status quo who were struggling to progress for over two years. Nonetheless, we dreamed anyway. To be honest, I was scared after that. I seriously believed that was my fate.

I do not want to lie, lessons were structured and managed properly from the very first day we started attending. Sometimes it was difficult to adjust but you actually had no choice. Towards the end of the year, someone I loved dearly and who loved me back more than I did was sick. It turned out the sickness started before that, but mom hid it from me, reasons known to her. On Saturday after a soccer game as I was on my way home, I bumped into my brother and he told me mom and dad were back from Jozi. Overjoyed I ran home only to find mom outside not with dad as it was always the case. I didn’t ask but proceeded to the house just to see dad, but their room was slightly closed. I put one and one together. It was a difficult time for me emotionally and physically. The first time I saw him was when I was watching my weekday dose of Passions. He seemed fragile and right there I started crying. Mom was angry and I could tell she wanted to discipline me but instead told me not to cry as he was going to be fine. That was not true, God took what was His at His own time a week or so later. I hated school thereafter, everything that reminded me of school pissed me off. I imagined passing matric and sitting at home doing absolutely nothing. For me, the world was ending.

The world was not ending, I picked myself up when reality kicked in. I had no choice but to. At this time, my other sister and I were starting to build a strong bond. She was there for me in good and bad times after that. Exams came and passed so did December holidays. I had decided not to fetch my report card before holidays instead visited my grandmother. I mean report cards never affected my holidays in any way but this one was different. I only fetched it the following year and was told out of the new learners from my village school who started with me in January at the school, I was the only one who made it. Indeed, I was happy.

In that year, I concentrated on passing Grade Twelve and building a romantic relationship I had started the previous year. Don’t ask me why but those were the only things that mattered to me at that time. I did manage to pass matric and kept the relationship going.

It is true when they say, good things come to those who work tirelessly while waiting.

2001 - 2003: No Longer the Baby Lion?

Secondary school birthed new challenges which I had to conquer. First, it was the senior pupils treating us like dirt then mean classmates who annoyed me. I hid my annoyance pretty well as one had to avoid showing signs of weakness. The weakest link was always the easy target so I was not interested in being that person everyone picked on.

Grade 8 was overcrowded with Yizo Yizo wannabes and YOTV fanatics. Yizo Yizo wannabes were mostly those who were finding themselves while the YOTV kids were often perceived smart as if they were not finding themselves too. Not that they were not but back then I (yeah, I was one too) hated being referred to as 'smart'. The future looked bright, it appeared not for everyone as some pupils dropped out in the middle of the year due to various reasons and it became very clear to me how it was going to be at a grown-ups school. I was 13 and knew very little of the world majority of my classmates lived in. I guess because most of my classmates were older than me and I would like to believe were already doing adult things. Not that I wasn’t but tjees they were already in and it showed. Anyway, those who didn’t drop out continued and progressed to the next grade. I was part of that pack. Teenage pregnancy was one of the reasons. It did not make that much sense to me at all. How do you do that to your future? Why?

I do not want to sound ungrateful, but our school was not the best-equipped school nor the best organized. We went with the flow and somehow managed. To paint a picture – imagine a school with just one block with four classes housing grade 8's to 10's plus a staff room/office? Clear enough? Wait, add lessons that aren’t really timely allocated nor calendared? Sounds shocking if you weren’t village schooled but that was my reality and hundreds of other learners. We simply focused on our school work rather than the ills.

Our Sepedi teacher in the middle of my Grade 9 year asked us to come up with a drama team. I never said no to such things so the group was formed and rehearsal times arranged in the same week. We were told that the group would be performing at the then I AM AN AFRICAN competition in two weeks, but we first had to perform to our school mates before the debut at the event. No scriptwriter, no director, and no costumes. Out of the blue, I was given a lead. I played a character named Ntjawedi (some people still call me that) and became the talk of the village before even the event debut. I must admit it felt so good. I AM AN AFRICAN competition was to encourage us to own our cultures. It was a good initiative. Unfortunately, we did not win but came second.

Throughout my 3 secondary school years, I held what I call leader positions from Class Prefect to SRC Secretary. I also produced good grades. In those years soccer, school and various television programmes defined me. Everyone close to me knew where I was at any time.

1988 - 2000: The Baby Lion

The name Tau Ya Masepeng is actually my clan name not really my official name - I was born Ngwako Letter Serepe in 1988. According to what my mother told me, I was never really a troublesome toddler but a little chubby always smiling. My toddler years aren’t really clear in my mind, but I mostly remember the relationship I had with my eldest sister. To me she was my mother. My sister at the time was dark, strong and loving. Those are qualities of what I call an African sister who fearlessly protects her siblings as if they were her own children. She had her daughter in 1992 and went to stay with her then husband. Luckily they lived two houses away from home so I always visited. Those were the good times.

I started school at the village in 1994 with a two-piece khaki uniform mom bought me minus shoes. Trust me, it did not bother me at all that I did not have shoes as I was not the only one. I was busy taking everything before me in. Besides, our teacher had asked us to re-arrange desks as she wanted a more intimate class setting. With the two Sub A classes, we took the first one with what I thought was a huge chalkboard. Making friends was not really necessary as my classmates were from the village. Some kids just wanted to sit at the back when the desks were ready but our teacher had other ideas – she thought it will be great if she paired us up herself, which she did. That year moved fast maybe because I enjoyed it. Who wouldn’t, our teacher was just amazing!

Weeks went by so did years. Grade after grade, I was doing well. By this time, I had developed my own ideas. I knew what I wanted and was not scared to voice it out which often got me into trouble. There was this teacher that never liked me, he will often beat me. At one point I bled and my mother decided to pay him a visit. As everyone knew that my mother didn’t take kind to anyone who messed with me, most teachers knew he was in trouble. She was just annoyed to say the least yet he continued beating me. I don’t blame him really, our tiff started when I started ignoring projects he led. One particular project was on a Friday, boys were required to either sweep the school yard or the general upkeep. That was just a project I simply didn’t like. In that period, a certain intermediate phase teacher who never taught me had started an after-school English school. Lord knew I had to be at that school. Her son was my senior, but I knew he had the information I wanted as he helped set up the school to some extent – I mean he recruited most learners. As I said, what I want, I chase after. There I was asking him what the requirements were as If I didn’t know. I felt he had the key to that school, as the head of the cool crowd, he was my way in before approaching my parents.

I don’t actually remember how I got to speak to the teacher, founder of the English school. But I do recall her coming to my home one afternoon to speak to my parents. Mom flat refused as she thought the school was expensive. Dad, on the other hand, well…let’s just say it was hard for him to say no to me. He knew how annoying I can be if I don’t get my way. I was crying when mom refused but as soon as dad agreed, you wouldn’t tell I cried few minutes before.

I didn’t spend too much time at the English school, three …four months I was out armed with a twang for days. Cecilia Ravele of YOTV then had nothing on me. Selae Thobakgale could have just left the studio if I dared made my way to Urban Brew Studios were most of the YOTV programming was taped. Choke English Medium Centre taught me the basics of English, it was the beginning.

While in Grade Seven I made an important life decision encouraged by the abuse I endured. My peers often teased me for hanging around with girls as I did most of the time. So I figured that since I couldn’t fight back physically and mom wouldn’t always be there to fight for me, initiation school was the best option. I heard other boys who went there that it was not that difficult. I was not the one to back down from a challenge especially one that was going to earn me respect. I planned the whole thing like a guy in love planning to propose. My plan was to wake up in the morning, chores then elope, which I did.

However, the night before, I discussed it with my brother and everyone in the house in a joke form. I didn’t tell them that I was planning to go, somehow my brother sensed I had already made a decision and tried by all means to change my mind as he didn’t want to spend his winter holidays looking after an initiate which was expected of him as my brother.

Well! it turned out he didn’t mind after all but left halfway through. My parents hired someone to look after me until I graduated. I am sure you are wondering if I eventually got the respect…yes I did. After the word got out that I was at the initiation school every boy my age followed suit. In their own words, they couldn’t be outdone by me. Even long after the dust had settled, they treated me fairly.

Just like that, I ended my primary school years like a real G!

Dear Readers

Let me start by thanking you for reading my blogs and for the support. Without you, I am nothing. I am sure you are wondering why I do not blog as much as I used to, well I am sorry. I’ve made decisions that have occupied all-of-me since the beginning of May this year. It is very important that I share my story from the day I was born so to make it easier for everyone to understand what fostered those decisions in the first place. Please read all the blog posts to follow, first one titled 1988-2000 and closing with 2014-2015.

Please feel free to ask me anything after reading them. I am on twitter @MasepengJnr or on facebook Tau Ya Masepeng.