The Sunday Mail
So many moons ago, years immediately after the country attained independence from British colonial rule, I was among the “lucky” souls to be dispatched to boarding school.
Yes, lucky because it cost an arm and a leg to keep a child at either mission or Government schools that offered boarding facilities.
These schools were highly regarded for producing high and sound grades in public examinations like Grade 7, Zimbabwe Junior Certificate (ZJC), Ordinary and Advanced Level.
However, people got into boarding school because of many factors that were not limited to the pursuit for academic excellence.
These schools were revered for nurturing pupils with spiritual knowledge and practical skills to confront life and its many challenges.
Some people found their way at boarding school after being orphaned and without anyone to take care of them owing to the collapse of the extended family unit.
For others, they enrolled at church-run institutions because of disciplinary issues.
Naughty children were usually sent to boarding schools where there were strict disciplinarians in the form of boarding masters, matrons, teachers and headmasters.
Some pastors were roped in as part of a well-oiled system of keeping learners on the straight and narrow.
“Boarding schools have the answer to all these problems of juvenile delinquency. If he is into beer and cigarettes, just send him there and the headmasters will sort him out. Anodzoka aita straight saSelbourne mugwagwa wekuBuruwayo.
Headmaster weboarding school haanyengerere. Chake kuchaya bhutsu nekukakata nzeve,” you would hear people saying in the locations.
Those keen to improve their lower grades were also part of the children enrolling in boarding school.
This was also the case with those who would be having a second go at life after teen pregnancies.
“Akanyora bhuku rekuti ‘Ko imwe chanzi ichabvepi?’ ainyepa. Iriko kuboarding school,” some people would shout each time they saw someone struggling with their school trunk on their way to and from boarding school.
“That is that, sadza rekuboarding,” meaning you take whatever is thrown your way is among popular phrases about life at boarding school.
“Kusina amai hakuendwe (Never go where your mother is not close by)” is another statement which points to the hard life.
“Nanga chimwechete sadriver weambulance (be focused like an ambulance driver)”.
“Be as specific as an enzyme,” are some of the statements that were used by people in authority at these institutions.
And the statements were on point.
Life at boarding school was not all rosy. It was pain, pain and pain.
During our time, life at boarding school was all about studying, with very little room to play.
We often fought hard to outdo each other in various disciplines.
I remember at Nyazura Mission we would fight to have our essays displayed on the administration block.
Visitors and whoever cared to read would immediately get a clue of who among the pupils had an excellent command of the Queen’s language.
We could paint pictures through writing, and we all belonged to one family where an injury to one of us was and injury to all of us.
Because of our less privileged backgrounds, we largely survived on sharing the little we had from bathing soap to neckties.
There were some among us who exhibited good oratory skills.
They had to borrow blazers and neckties from the fortunate ones to suit the bill of perfect gentlemen at debate sessions, which formed part of the entertainment on selected nights.
We also used to share slippers.
There was a cardinal rule that no one could use the bathroom without slippers, and we used to share these without challenges.
Sadly, this show of love, which we called Organisation of African Unity (OAU), cannot be applied in this day and age of coronavirus.
With the current spike in the rate of infections, we still see people asking to use a friend’s mask to enter the shop or visit someone.
“Mukoma ndokumbirawo mask yenyu ndoda kutenga chingwa mushop umo? (May I use your mask to buy bread in that shop?” a certain young soul asked in Glen Norah last week.
I also noticed that some people were guzzling beer at illegal bottle stores without masks.
It is as if they only wear masks to avoid arrest. Gentle reader, the stage at which we are with coronavirus today bids on all of us to play the role of our brothers and sisters keepers in the strictest sense.
We have come to a period where those with means must donate masks to those without, but ensure they donate those that have never been used before. The rise in infection rates means we should all comply with the health measures that have been put in place so that we live to talk about this era in years to come.
We all need to stand together and confront this disease through sharing information necessary to preserve life.
We can all make a difference in our own small ways.
We must help each other understand that we have one life to live.