All hail the teacher of knowl­edge

Muzi Kuzwayo

CityPress - - Business - Busi­ness@ city­press. co. za Kuzwayo is the founder of Ig­ni­tive, an ad­ver­tis­ing agency

There are peo­ple in this coun­try who are more pow­er­ful than philoso­phers. They switch on the light that chases away the dark­ness of the mind. They are our teach­ers.

My first teacher was Mis­tress Matha­bela, who made me read news­pa­pers in class and kin­dled my love of them. If you en­joy read­ing this as much as I en­joy writ­ing it, it is thanks to a won­der­ful woman.

My first school be­came a vic­tim of forced re­movals, so I moved to Theo Twala Pri­mary in KwaThema. I was taught the im­por­tance of dead­lines by Mis­tress Nyembe. Be­ing the slow­est in the class, I took longer over my work than my class­mates.

Mis­tress Nyembe had to wait for me. One day she threat­ened to lock me in class if I didn’t fin­ish on time. As the other chil­dren left, I shook with fear. And she did ex­actly as she had promised. She got up, closed the door, locked it and walked away. But she was back a few min­utes later, to send me home.

Then there was Mis­tress Kali. When she heard me talk­ing about “po­tolics”, she called me aside and warned I’d be ar­rested for us­ing the word ‘pol­i­tics’.

How could I not men­tion Fa­ther Bene­dict, who raised a fist in church and sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika when it was banned? For the first time I en­joyed thesweet­nes­sofde­fyin­gau­thor­ity, eat­ing­for­bid­den fruit in­side the Lord’s house.

As for Mfokza, Prin­ci­pal Mo­fo­keng, on the bus we used to sing: “Iyo, re bana baMo­fo­keng. Iyo, Mo­fo­keng oa kg­ona.” (We are Mo­fo­keng’s chil­dren. Mo­fo­keng­hasim­menseabil­ity.) He­walkedaround­with a small sjam­bok in his hand, say­ing: “Bafana, ngi­zon’ bu­lala.” (Boys, I’m go­ing to kill you.) But he said it with af­fec­tion, always. Un­like most teach­ers, Mfokza never pun­ished an in­di­vid­ual; he pun­ished the whole class. KwaThema was a tough neigh­bour­hood with many gangs. Hail Mo­fo­keng. You beat the prison out of us.

My stan­dard 5 teacher, Mr Fusi, taught me pa­tience and for­give­ness. One day in class, Mab­hengu, Moses and I held a fart­ing con­test we called “chem­i­cal war­fare”. Moses fired first, a small, quiet one. No one com­plained, a few girls try­ing only to fan away the smell. I was next. The fan­ning in­creased. Fi­nally, it was MaB­hengu’s turn. It was quiet but pro­duced an in­dus­trial-scale smell. It stopped the les­son. I laughed so hard I was ac­cused of be­ing the per­pe­tra­tor. ButMab­hen­guwa­souted. TeacherFusi merely told him to re­frain from do­ing it again.

Mnr Kodisang was the teacher who had the un­en­vi­able task of teach­ing us Afrikaans. But he made us love the lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture. We lived Bo die Kranse and un­der­stood Die An­der Wen­paal. Beste Mnr Kodisang. Ek is baie dankbaar dat ek só ʼn goeie leer­meester soos jy gehad het.

We de­voured the Bam­batha Re­bel­lion through Thisha Nh­leko. He read us Nje Nem­pela by BW Vilakazi un­til we were ex­perts on African re­sis­tance.

Our bi­ol­ogy teacher, Mr Mthombeni, re­minded us that our rulers were dumb, and he ex­pected us to be bet­ter in ev­ery way.

Fi­nally, there was the late Mr TV Debese, or Cap, as we called him. He called ev­ery­one mazam­bane, or pota­toes, but in­spired each of us to do our best.

As a na­tion, we would be fool­ish if we failed to recog­nise the power of the teacher.

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