Fezekile Futhwa 

Revolutionary Relay - Write What You Like


I entered high school in January of 1990 as young boy of 13. I was still really oblivious to what high school represented in my life. To me it was just school as for the past eight years. For I did not become conscious of who I am until standard nine.

School was rather an opaque experience, just something one had to do no matter what. I cannot remember knowing anyone who looked forward to school. Our education was divided into three broad classes depending on ones interests, I say interest because I believe this had nothing to do with ability. Your standard seven pass results pretty much determined which class you would belong to. Passing maths and science meant that you would end up studying what was called the sciences. A good command of accounting and economics lands you in the commercial stream, while the rest are put in what is called the general sciences.

Science students study maths and science and invariably receive the best teachers. Maths is also done on high grade. Commercial students study accounting, economics and business economics and must take maths on standard grade. Sometimes there is no maths teacher but everyone must remain contend with this situation. When there is a teacher, it is invariably a challenged maths teacher who cannot help students excel in the subject matter. As a result, most commercial students fail maths badly, this in sharp contrast to the rest of the subjects they take. Economics also tends to be a problem with finding good teachers. The majority of schools go without an accounting teacher, so passing the subject really becomes a miracle. General students generally do well as there seems to be an abundance of teachers for their subjects. Maybe with the exception of biology which sometimes does lack teachers.

The average class intake of students stands at around 105 students for all classes! We are 120 in our standard seven class, and obviously the class is too small to accommodate such a number of students. So we must all share the little space that exist and therefore sit three on the old desk that has both the table and the chair joined together. Most of these desks are broken and students must make plans to use them. Don't forget that for many students it will be for the first time they encounter accounting as a subject. These students therefore are most likely not to pass accounting at the end of the year. If they are not good in maths, they will most likely end up doing general sciences which no one really wants to study. For they study things like biblical studies, history, and home economics for girls.

During summer being in class is the worst experience one can have. You can imagine a class with 120 students but without any ventilation system or electricity. It becomes so hot that it is so stuffy and sleeping becomes a certainty. This situation is made worse by girls who fall pregnant but must continue classes until the last moments of their pregnancy. Winter is the opposite, extreme cold. A number of classrooms do not have doors so the cold comes and goes as it pleases. Couple this with the fact that Qwaqwa can be a very cold place, snowing by July. You get lashed at the gate for being late, which is really an arbitrary decision by whomever teacher happen to be at the gate.

The mood in the class is usually jolly as students go about trying to make the situation as best as they could. Very few students really take a genuine in interest in learning, we are just here because we have to be here. Our first bad experiences are right after the schools resume, soon after receiving writing pads and pens when these books must be covered as required by all schools. The unfairness of this rule is for kids who come from poor families whose parents cannot afford to buy the required materials. This is followed by the requirement for uniforms. How can I forget school fees? It is truly amazing how these rules generally are deterants to studying than anything else. Anyone who cannot comply with any of these rules cannot continue schooling, unless some understanding can be reached with the parents.

I was unlucky enough to have titjhere Mafojane as my Maths and Science teacher in standard seven! I am sure titjhere Mafojane was a good person, just that for me as a teacher he was hopelessly unqualified. My criteria being simply that a teacher should be able to engage his students in whatever it is they teach. How else can you explain the fact that out of 120 students, only about 20 studnets passed his subjects? All I remember about physical science, my first year of doing physical science, is bionite rod or something to that effect. He really pumped this bio something rod into my head without much meaning of what it is it represented. You must know you are dum when you get 7% pass mark for your final exam. I got roughly the same mark for maths! Ntate Mafojane left after I left standard seven, but pity we had to go through his class.

Standard eight is slightly better because one is now doing six instead of eight subjects. Our numbers in class have gone slightly down too, now at around eighty and the year will end with about thirty or fourty students. The teachers are generally okay except for the good old maths! We have moved away from titjhere Mafojane now to titjhere Sojence, one of the most drunk teachers I have come across in my life. He come to school drunk, drinks during school breaks and drinks after school! He loves making jokes in class and is therefore the favourite with students. 83% of us failed his class tests, semi final exam and the final exam. The average pass mark was 20% in class. He was sort of a running legend at school for the most brilliant of teachers, yet he failed to impart his brilliance to us. This legendary stems from the fact that he could teach maths without ever using a maths text book. And the students loved Veli, as he was commonly known, despite the fact that they failed Veli's subject badly. And Veli was popular for asking for transport money during class!

We got a really good maths teacher in standard nine, titjhere Modupi. He was a very young man in his early twenties, a fact that got him clashing with older boys in class. For the first time in high school I could fully understand and pass mathematics! All of a sudden I was the number one maths student in class. I have always maintained that democracy is a bad system and it victimises people unnecessarily, for it is based on popular opinion and not necessarily fact. The older boys ganged up and petitioned the school for the removal of the new teacher, and the school removed him. I remember our class being asked to explain the reasons why he should be removed, and there was never any regarding his capability but he still got removed. A few months from the final exam I receeded back into the bottom tranche of students not coping with maths after we got a new teacher. And I failed maths, again. Unless you call failing at 38% an improvement compared to 7%. In trying to cope with our dismal performance in only mathematics, we sort of ended up competing on who will be the best failing student by getting the highest fail mark!

1992 marked the year of self discovery for me and I became the best student on all subjects except maths, where I languished around the top five. Of course I was now passing maths under titjhere Mofokeng, but was never able to achieve more than 60%. First position was hotly contested between me and a gorgeous girl, Dikgapha Letshedi. In particular, there was no outright winner on Economics. She enjoyed mocking me about being the youngest in class. There was not much happening outside of school, except the political rumblings that got the country in the Codesa negotiations and the government on national unity. This our politicians like compromises, anything to appease the other side.

I completed my matric in 1993 with the same difficulty of passing maths. I knew for a fact that geometry was a no go area for me, so I had to pass algebra or I was dead. And I had every intention of passing maths. But I still failed maths anyway! I still did not know what I wanted to do with my life after matric. In the winter, I attended extra classes at Tshiya college of education and it is here that one tutor said I must look into computers as a possible career. As expected, I failed mathematics badly but did pass matric non the less.

Immediately following receiving my matric results, I wanted to go back to school to repeat matric. I was told I must be mad by two schools where I sook registration and obviously denied registration. They asked me what exactly is it that I wanted for I had passed matric. And I took the idea of repeating matric out of my mind.

It would unjust for me not to mention the following teachers for their great contribution to the person I am today:

Primary school

  • Mme Masejake
  • Ntate Nkgele
Middle school
  • Ntate Matabane
  • Ntate Makwa
High school
  • Ntate Lesotho (Economics)
  • Ntate Modupi (my excellent maths teacher who was democratically "redeployed")
  • Ntate Takalimane (my favourite Accounting teacher)