Khanyiswa unlocks the front door, pushes it open and steps inside. Then she closes the door behind her and locks it.

In her bedroom, her favourite room in the house, the walls are plastered with inspirational quotes. She has the habit of reading them as she undresses.

Tell me and I’ll forget;
Show me and I may remember;
Involve me and I’ll understand.
– Chinese Proverb –

Be the change you wish to see in the world.
– Mahatma Gandhi –

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.
If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
– Nelson Mandela –

And her favourite:

Nothing is IMPOSSIBLE. Because I-M-POSSIBLE!
– Khanyiswa Sibewu –

She changes into jeans and a jersey and, with thick wool socks snuggling her feet, walks to the kitchen. On the way she tosses her school shirt into the laundry basket.

After a quick snack she catches up with her social life on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. Then she settles down at the dining room table with her school books, to tackle her mountain of homework.

So much to do, she thinks. The teachers really think we don’t have lives outside of school. And this geometry is no ‘one plus one’.

Khanyiswa is busy jotting down ideas for her English poetry assignment from Miss Lisa: ‘Express yourself in a poem of at least one hundred words’.

English is Khanyiswa’s favourite subject, especially the way Miss Lisa teaches it. She’s young, but her gentle demeanour, combined with a genuine interest in their progress, and a no-nonsense attitude, has earned her the respect of the learners. She’s also what the boys call a ‘hottie’, with her slim figure, fashionable clothes and rocking her natural hair – afro-style.

Khanyiswa is deep in thought about people who have changed the world when her concentration is interrupted by a thundering knock, and she almost falls off the chair.

“Oh crap! I forgot about the key,” she says, clicking her tongue.

Eish, uMama knocks as though she’s breaking down the house, she thinks, barrelling towards the door. She’s like a force of nature; but I’m going to be just like her when I grow up – strong and educated.

“Uxolo, Mama!” she shouts while unlocking. “I’m so sorry I forgot to remove the key.”

Mrs Sibewu shakes her head when the door opens, and she steps inside.

“Molo, Mama,” Khanyiswa greets her mother, kissing her on the cheek.

“Hello, my child,” Mrs Sibewu responds, smiling. “How was school today?”

“Kulingile, Mama,” she says, taking her mother’s handbag and placing it on the coffee table. “But not so good for UCebisanoPortia. They failed the physics test.”

“And you? How did you do?” Mrs Sibewu asks, frown lines creasing her forehead.

“I am the daughter of Mrs Lydia Sibewu, top financial consultant. Of course I passed,” she answers, winking at her mother. “It was tough though. I always have to study extra hard for physics.”

Laughing, Mrs Sibewu gently pinches her cheek. “That’s very good, Khanyiswa. If you keep working diligently and stay focused, nothing and nobody can steal your dreams.”

“Enkosi, Mama.”

“It’s five o’clock already; your father will be home soon. Let’s start on supper, and don’t forget it’s Thursday,” Mrs Sibewu says, tying on an apron. “It’s English Power Hours tonight.”

“I haven’t, mother,” Khanyiswa says, grinning. “That’s why I left my English assignment for last. My tongue is loose.”

Since Fezile’s birth, the Sibewu family have upheld a tradition of speaking only English between six o’clock and eight o’clock on Monday and Thursday evenings. When Mrs Sibewu suggested it to Mr Sibewu, he had huffed, “I speak English all day long at the bank, Lydia. I like my tongue to flex freely in my own home!”

“But think about Fezile and the children to come, Dalumzi,” she’d argued. “Don’t you want them to be successful?”

“They will be educated, Lydia. That will bring them success!” he’d said.

“We raise our children not for ourselves, Myeniwam, but for the world out there,” she’d reasoned with her husband. “Speaking English fluently will empower them, and that is a lifelong benefit.”

He’d sighed deeply, knowing his wife would not stop until she’d convinced him, though secretly he agreed with her.

“Very well, Mfaziwam, we’ll give it a try.”


Tell us what you think: Is Mrs Sibewu being too extreme about her children speaking fluent English?