Lerato Gwala is a matric student at Goodhope High School who lives in a small village in the Eastern Cape. She lives with her grandmother and six siblings in a small, dilapidated house. Her parents passed away when she was seven years old and she knew then that her childhood days were over.
After her parents passed on, Lerato and her siblings moved in with their grandmother. Gogo raised the children with love and care. Even though they lived in poverty anyone could see the love that was present at the Gwala house.
“Gogo, I cannot believe I’m finally in matric!” she exclaimed in excitement.
“Yes, my child. You have grown into a beautiful lady who respects her elders and for that I commend you.” her grandma praised. She was proud of the young woman Lerato had become.
“Thank you, gogo. I love you.”
She placed a kiss on her grandma’s forehead, grabbed her backpack and rushed to school.
It took half an hour for her to travel to school by foot but with years of routine she had adapted. The morning air was piercing but that never bothered her. She was too excited for her first day back at school, and nothing else mattered.
Lerato had always dreamed about being an accountant from a young age. She hoped to work with her aunt at her company in Cape Town one day.
The home bell rang and all the pupils of Goodhope High cleared the classrooms.
“Lerato, please wait!” shouted Themba who was Lerato’s friend. She paused and turned around to meet her friend.
“Hey!” I was looking for you.” said Themba with a smile.
“Same here!” I never saw you in the morning.” Lerato said.
The two friends exited the main school gate and were now starting a dusty journey back home.
“I arrived a bit late. Actually… I wanted to congratulate you on becoming our Deputy Head Girl. You deserve it.” Themba complimented.
Lerato smiled. She couldn’t wait to tell her grandmother the good news.
“Thanks, Themba. Honestly, I did not expect it myself.” She sighed.
“Well I did. You’re smart, kind and beautiful. That’s a deadly combination.” Complimented Themba.
They both laughed and carried on with their conversation.
As Lerato came closer to home, she started jogging. The dust of the gravel road had turned her shoes and socks brown. She was welcomed by her brothers who were playing outside with their wire cars.
She saw her grandmother sitting on the edge of the bed reading a letter with a tense face.
“Good afternoon, Gogo.”
She sat down next to her when she didn’t reply.
“Is everything okay?” She asked. Gogo looked up at her and gave her a weak smile. Lerato smiled back at her.
“You won’t believe what happened at school today, Gogo! Your granddaughter is the Deputy Head Girl of Goodhope High.” exclaimed Lerato.
“Congratulations, my child.” She said.
Lerato knew something was bothering her grandmother but before she could ask, her granny spoke.
“I went to the Post Office today.” She started.
“I received a letter from your aunt in Cape Town.”
“What does it say, Gogo? Is she well?” asked Lerato in excitement.
“She is well, child.”
“But she has requested for you to come live with her in Cape Town. I had wrote to her last year and asked her to apply at a good school there.” Said Gogo.
Lerato kept quiet as she thought of words, then spoke.
“Why did you write?” She asked.
“My child, you are in matric now. The education you receive at Goodhope is substandard for someone with your intelligence. I want the best for you and only your aunt can give you that. She lives with her two daughters and is happy to take you in. In this letter she tells me that the school she applied to has accepted you.” Explained Gogo.
“When do I leave?” asked Lerato.
After finding out she’ll be leaving tomorrow morning, Lerato started packing her clothes and everything she owned. She was excited about the trip but anxious at the same time. She knew nobody at Cape Town and it would be her first time travelling alone by bus.
Morning came and Lerato had said her final goodbyes to everyone including her friend Themba.
“We’ll surely miss you, Lerato.” Themba said. He then left as he still had to travel to school.
Lerato’s bus appeared and she took out her ticket so she could board. The bus doors opened and she knew it was time.
“I bought you something yesterday, my child.” She watched as her grandmother took out a brand new phone from her purse.
“Gogo, you shouldn’t have. Do you know how expensive these types of phones are?” She gave her grandmother a big hug.
“I know, dear, but I have been saving to buy you one since you were doing standard eight. I got myself one too so we can contact each other.” They both laughed and hugged for the last time.
Lerato sat next to a window in the bus so she could wave her grandmother and siblings off. She settled into her seat as her family disappeared out of sight.
Cape Town. A four day journey.
Her aunt had sent some money and a ticket for her trip. Lerato thought of her friends back in the Eastern Cape. She wondered who would replace her at her old school. She knew that a new life awaited her in Cape Town and before she knew it, she was already in the Mother City.
She marvelled at all the huge buildings that surrounded her. She could see the beautiful Table Mountain in the distance. Everything looked exquisite at night. She got off at a bus station at Woodstock street. She gathered her luggage and went to meet her aunt and cousins.
During the ride to her new home, she caught up with her cousins. Eventually they arrived at a beautiful mansion with a big garden. They had supper and then Lerato went to her new room to rest.
Tomorrow would be her first day at her new school and she was elated.
In the morning, Lerato got ready for her first day. Everything happened quickly and soon she was at her new school with her cousins, Lisa and Siviwe. They gave her a tour around the school then left her alone to make new friends.
Lerato was on her phone after speaking with her grandmother when she felt someone shove her to a comer.
“Here’s the village girl everyone.” said a tall girl said and soon there was a crowd of pupils around them.
Lerato tried pulling away but failed.
“Please leave me alone!” she shouted. She felt frightened as if the world was closing in on her. The crowd of girls started laughing and taunting her.
“Farm girl, farm girl!” they taunted.
Lerato could hold back the tears no longer as they tumbled down her cheeks. She screamed as a rough hand came into contact with her left cheek. The tall girl she didn’t even know, had slapped her across the face! Through blurry eyes she could see the hatred in her bully’s eyes, as she turned away and left.
In her maths lesson the teacher approached her and asked why she was crying. Lerato quietly said she was missing her family.
After school, Lerato walked home as it was only a ten
minute walk from her school. Her cousins, being in grade nine, had sports that afternoon. She was alone.
She went to a shop nearby her school to buy a cool drink before she started the journey home. She was at the gate when she heard a piercing scream next door, but ignored it assuming it was the TV.
That night, Lerato cried herself to sleep as thoughts of what happened on her first day drifted into mind. She wondered what would happen to her the next day as she fell asleep.
Lerato froze when she saw her bully, Naledi coming her way. She stared at her. Then she saw a fresh bruise on her arm and face – Naledi quickly turned away, covered it up. Naledi spent the entire day avoiding Lerato and everyone else.
Weeks passed and Lerato had started to enjoy her new school. She was receiving praises from all her teachers and had started to make new friends. That afternoon when Lerato was at home, she heard an alarming scream, as well as loud crashes coming from next door. She ran next door and peeked through the kitchen window. On the floor lay ‘her bully’, Naledi. She was bleeding from head to toe and a tall, drunk man sat next to her crying.
Lerato immediately called the police and within a few minutes there were police cars surrounding the house. Her aunt had also come home and she too, saw what had happened.
An ambulance rushed Naledi to the hospital and the man who was with her was arrested.
Lerato went to visit Naledi at the hospital later that week. Naledi apologized and thanked Lerato for everything. Lerato had not known ‘her bully’ was being bullied next door by her own father.
“So I guess we’re friends now?” Naledi asked nervously.
“Of course, you bully.” Laughed Naledi.
They both laughed and embraced each other with hugs.