Friday, October 23, 2015

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!
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