It was September 2014 and all students were preparing for the exams. The school I attended had strict and unbreakable rules. Sometimes we had to go to school, while other learners in the same grade, from other schools, were chilling at home. It didn’t bother us and we couldn’t protest or do anything about it.
Other learners went to school just to be marked present on the register, but they didn’t attend classes. Those learners would hang-out in the school bathrooms, which was the only spot that they could use to bunk classes. Our teachers expected only good marks from us; that’s why they pushed us so hard. I was doing Gade 11 at Phumanyova High School that year when two of my class mates decided to bunk class, because they were tired of the teachers’ nagging.
The numbers between boys and girls were balanced. They were from different locations which meant that there was no way that they could end up in the same spot after their successful break-out. While they bunked class, the rest of us attended. It was quite clear that some other students were missing as their chairs and tables in class weren’t filled. It wasn’t a random number of students that were missing, it seemed like it was 15 or more.
So the girl and boy were successful with their plan. How foolish were they? They took the main road to go home while still wearing their school uniforms. You could see the relief and happiness on their faces as they spoke and laughed. One would think that those two were in love with each other. But their victory didn’t last very long.
Our school had a principal, Mr N.Z Ncala, and two vice principals: Mrs Khumalo, who was strict and lawful and Mr B.V Nzunza, who was a kind man with many characteristics. Sometimes it was difficult to understand him. All the learners of Phumanyova feared him the most; they feared him more than they did the school principal.
With him it was the right way or no way. He didn’t permit any nonsense – not that others did.
Even though he was the most feared teacher at school, the same learners loved him the most, it’s weird isn’t it? If a learner was in trouble, they didn’t want him handling their case. He had a different tone for every mood he was in, making it easy for us to judge his actions by his tone. Unfortunately for the two love birds, he was the one who caught them running away from school.
All school staff members had cars, and the learners knew which one belonged to whom. When the two runaways saw Mr Mshazi 1970’s Mercedes behind them, they knew it was over. They ran but the girl was slow because she was tired. Then the boy turned back to see how close the car was to the girl then he ran back.
He wanted to make sure that he got to her before Mr Mshazi so that he could pin the entire plan on himself. But Mshazi was too smart and predictable. When his car reached the two learners he told them to go back to school and that he would meet with them there. They were somehow amazed that he didn’t yell or shout at them, but they knew that he would get them when the time was right. There was no way that they could get away with it.
Six days later, Mshazi came to our class. The two lovers had thought it was over, but clearly it wasn’t.
“No sin goes to mud with no suffering to the committer,” he greeted us as he walked in.
The girl who he was looking for was sitting in the desk in front of me. Their eyes met, all of a sudden his face expression changed; anger was written all over it. The look he gave her was as if to remind her of what she had done. Then there was a sudden knock on the door. “Come in,” he said as he was in charge at the time.
In came the boy who the girl had run away from school with. As the boy entered the class room he told Mr Mshazi that the principal asked to see him urgently.
“Sharp sonny,” he replied to the boy’s request and turned to look at the girl once more. “I’ll be back,” he said as he rushed off.
Behind me sat two girls who were pretty and attractive. One of them was S’busile Masuku. She was such a quite person who enjoyed listening to the American rapper, Tyger’s music most of the time. She was also very smart. It was her second year; she arrived the year before and that year she was our class rep. She had this amazing gift of being able to read other people’s emotions. She whispered to me that someone’s was in trouble and that that person was going to cry in the next few minutes. I told her to get over it, that it was her imagination talking. Then she told me that someone was going to get hurt.
Six minutes later, Mr Mshazi came back and ordered the girl and boy to stand up.
“Mr and Mrs Khushu I demand you stand up! The stage is yours, please explain your actions of last week Friday,” he said. No one stood up, he repeated himself again and added, “I don’t want to grab you from you chairs, but I might if you are testing me. And I’ll do that with such pleasure, so stand up and show the class the ‘khushu’ movement man!”
The girl could not ignore him, she then stood up. The boy was left with no choice but to stand up as well.
“Clap your hands class,” Mr Mshazi said with sarcasm in his voice. S’busile whispered again to me, telling me that she told me so. Mr Mshazi then asked the standing pair, he wanted to know whose idea it was to bunk school but assumed that it was the boys’. He told them that their actions would have dire consequences: they would have to carry more books as they showed the rest of the class the ‘khushu’ movement.
He gave them 27 books to pack in their backpacks.
Mr Mshazi then instructed the entire class of Grade 11G to go to the sports grounds, so that we all could see the ‘khushu’ movement.
“Sometimes you have to listen and take me seriously whenever I tell you that things are about to get ugly.” S’busile said.
“Yeah, I see you were right. You’re always right.”
She then gave me an ill-gracious smile before walking past me. I didn’t mean what I said to her, I just wanted her to get off my back. We arrived at the sport ground, along with the vice principle.
“Do what you do best, show my learners the ‘khushu’ movement. I’m sure they’re dying to see it. You know that they weren’t there on Friday to see it for themselves, so show them,” Mr Mshazi said.
The pair looked at each other, they didn’t do what they were told to do.
“I said run!” Mr Mshazi yelled.
Then the boy and girl ran. The books were too heavy but they managed to do 12 rounds in exactly 26 minutes. They were sweating and tired when they finished. They then went to the same spot where the rest of us stood. They stood facing us, the girl was crying, but the boy showed a brave face.
You could see from Mr Mshazi’s body facial expression that he did not like what he did to them. All he wanted was to teach them a lesson and make an example of them to the rest of the other learners.
“My Grade elevens I’m sorry that all of you had to witness the union of these two before us today us, and I was the pastor. I now introduce to you Mr and Mrs Khushu.” We clapped our hands. “You are now husband and wife Mr and Mrs Khushu,”
Afterwards we went back to class and that was the wedding I got myself an un-invited seat to and it’s probably not the last.
***Tell us what you think: Have you ever been punished publicly, in front of your fellow students? What did you do and what was the punishment?