I am now the husband and father of three boys, but I still remember so vividly my first week at high school at Moshesh Senior Secondary School in the shadows of Drakensburg mountains in Matatiele not far from the better and a popular Catholic school Mariazell.
I did not apply for admission so I had to go 2 days before the school opened. I was with my Brother Zolile (popularly known as Malombo because of his soccer exploits)
I had high expectations for the school and the type of football they played was what attracted me the most, I was a soccer player myself growing up in SOWETO and later Matatiele only soccer was our form of real recreation.
Arriving on a hot Afternoon in an old bus Called lesedi which took way more time than it was suppose to, the school did not reflect what I had in mind. There was no vibe; the whole buildings were hidden in long bushes of grass, untidy and down right ugly. As we enter the main gate, there was a garage for a School car a huge engine that produces electricity for the school. And there was a long empty building that the caretaker later told us it was a dining hall.
Another eye sore was the old building opposite dining hall, it was a burnt down building, which we were told it was burnt, buy students who were on strike in the early 80’s. We were told that we would have to come tomorrow because no late applications were processed on that day.
There was no transport back but we were told about our distant relatives who lived in the area, I never knew them my whole life until I was desperate. Speaking to some old student who came to collect their results I got a sense that the school was going to be beautiful within no time. But today we were going to sleep in the dormitories if we were accepted. We came in ready with clothes a suitcase and almost everything that I might need in the first three months. Fortunately I was accepted, but not my brother. I made few friends, I remember my first friend who appeared to be a real friend was Stanley originally from Thokoza, but like me his father was originally from Matatiele. Stanley few weeks later died to what everyone believed was an initiation of “Metjhoba”(new student”. I was not there when he died therefore I cannot confirm or deny this. I wanted to believe that they killed my friend.
Dormitories resembled deserted pigsties with few halls with bunk beds. The boarding master who seemed to be a nice guy showed us around. There were three building and we had a choice of staying anywhere because we came first. We were put of by stories of rough guys who live in those dormitories. They all had names, some were so iffy I kind of wondered if they were official I don’t know who named them. I chose to live in New York. I was told normally new students live in New York, so I thought I could survive my first year easy there. Behind our building it another called Russia, commodores which was smaller could accommodate six people maximum and there was notorious SOWETO which Stanley did everything to convince me to go stay with him in. next to Soweto there was an SRC boarding house which used to be boarding master room.
By three in the afternoon I had my bed set ready for me to sleep on we exchanged our provisions steam bread chicken or sheep. I must say some of the food uneatable to say the least. The empty hall was beginning resemble a home.
Students were trickling in one by one drunk like adults and were told scary stories about the guys who will use the last bus. The bus come when it is become darker and students at that time are doing as they wish. I was afraid that day were going to be initiate us in what was called “ ho treater” all the old students were shouting at the loudest of their pitches “ Ha Nkaaaaaawu, ha Nkawu”.
This was a war cry to call new comers to join what was called a stitch, we followed each other and this kind of looked nice, but we were told sometimes it gets ugly.
All the scary stuff we were told about began to sound like urban legend, as I never experience it. Treatment was far and between and depended on who hates you the most. For some strange reason they did like guy from big cities because they thought we know it all. If you have gone to initian school you were better of as you socialise with big guys. I was lucky that I had gone initiation school hence the treatment began to sound like urban legend. And I did the Sesotho initiation, which was popular in the areas of kwaNkawu, Queens’s mercy Mpharane, Lehata Pontseng and all surrounding areas. It is still surprising me how we could easily adjust to such conditions especially in winter.