Unchain the shackles of poverty

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THEY told me back in the day when I was a young boy that my dreams were a bridge too far. If I was born in the ghetto I was likely to die there was their resigned message.

It would have been easy for me to believe this, for they were countless examples of  such people in the locality, who never escaped the confines of poverty and were eventually crushed by the jaws of defeat.

Yet, somehow I found the idea that my life would never amount to anything, pretty upsetting.

So, in the sweltering heat of January, at the turn of the millennium, I boarded the school bus to Mount St Mary’s, a boarding school in the undulating hills of Wedza, oblivious of the fact that my life was about to change forever.

As Mbare bus terminus faded away into the distance, looking through the window in the bus,  I caught sight of  a bird  flying to an unknown distance.

Curiously,  I felt like I was that bird, liberated from the shackles of the only community that I had known since birth.

It’s not that I hated the place where I was raised.

Far from it.

I guess the issue was and still is that every human being is endowed within themselves, with a yearning for freedom and a desire for self expression.

Left to roam, that desire can fuel inventions and provide the creative energy needed to author bestsellers and revolutionize the future.

The future was what I hoped for and felt secure in. It is not surprising then that at school, when the chips were down, I would daydream and imagine a place far ahead, full of hope and fulfillment.

I did not know it then but that was the writer in me, demanding a place to find expression. Boarding school itself was the place that I grew up, from boy to man, so to speak.

Our boarding master, whom we nicknamed Rambo or Boards Kunaka, was a strict man.

He took no prisoners and would meet every act of indiscipline with the persuasive force of a stick behind one’s behind.

With him it was always the stick and  not carrot.

Looking back I realise that, that experience gave me the discipline that would prove crucial later on in life.

For, we used to wake up in the wee hours of the morning, bath quickly, dress up, scoop some peanut butter with our spoons and make sure we were in the Dining Hall on time.

You made sure always that your school trunk was always locked, because if you reported anything missing to Boards Kunaka, you, the victim, would be in the hot soup.

Whenever I ran out of goodies, usually towards the end of  the school term, I always depended on the generosity of good friends like Acie Lumumba, Fatso and others who usually came with their trunks loaded up.

I do believe I benefited immensely from going to school away from home.

My negotiating skills were sharpened there. Barter trade was going on all the time at boarding school, leveraging what you had for what you needed.

Away from home you learnt quickly to manage the few items you had, knowing fully well that if you ran out and your friends were also out then it will be a long school term.

These early years, I do realise now, provided a window into the future. They taught us survival skills that we would use, long after we had left Mount St Mary’s.

Back then, the boarding master who seemed to me like a military drill sergeant or a boot camp instructor, is now one that I am very grateful I came across.

I understand now what he was trying to do. I fully comprehend the enormity of his task, keeping us a bunch of young folks on the straight and narrow and hoping that years later we would look back and see that he was a good man after all.

My point is this. Things are not always what they seem to be. When you are young, you try as much as possible to avoid certain experiences.

Yet it is those experiences that ultimately shape your future and destiny. When you eventually look back, you will say like the Biblical Job, it is good that I was afflicted.

It’s good to fly away, alright, like the bird earlier in my story. But doing it too soon might be dangerous. Like they say timing is everything.

Unfortunately, I have run out of space and you know what that means,right. Well, it means I can’t tell you about my first crush at boarding school.

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