Later, before their second break, Khanyiswa’s class file into Miss Lisa’s classroom.

“Let’s hear some of your ideas on the poetry task I’ve assigned you,” Miss Lisa proposes, once all her students are settled at their desks. “Any volunteers?”

Several hands shoot up, including Smiley’s.

“Well, well, Ismail, this is a pleasant surprise,” she says. “Please share your thoughts with us.”

Smiley stands up, a shy smile on his face. “My poem is called Rappetry – a fusion of rap and poetry. You like, Miss?”

The learners applaud, and Smiley’s curtsy causes everyone to break out into raucous laughter; even Miss Lisa giggles behind her hands.

“Thank you my good people. Please stop, you’re making me blush. But no … don’t stop!” he announces, and more laughter fills the classroom.

“Quiet down; there are other classes in session,” Miss Lisa orders. “Please sit down, Ismail. I look forward to reading your poem. Bear in mind that poetry and rap differ in culture and sound. Rap focuses on rhythm, rhyme and musicality and poetry on word flow and rhyme,” she offers as feedback. “An excellent choice for expressing yourself.”

“Yoh Miss! You know rap!” Felix exclaims, his eyes bulging.

“I know a little bit about a lot of things, Felix,” she replies. “It’s good to diversify your knowledge. In fact, having good general knowledge will help you with your poetry and writing.”

She looks around the room. “Khanyiswa, your hand was up. How about giving us a sneak preview of your poem?”

Khanyiswa slides off her chair and stands up. “My poem is about the late Stephen Hawking and how he achieved so much, despite being physically disabled,” she says. “I’m contrasting it with able-bodied people and their defeatist attitudes and calling it Hero Within,” Khanyiswa explains.

“That sounds very inspirational, Khanyiswa,” Miss Lisa says. “If you haven’t thought about it yet, consider incorporating his legacy into your poem, and how it will benefit generations to come.”

“Thank you, Miss.”

The lesson continues at a brisk pace as more learners, encouraged by Khanyiswa and Smiley’s performances, are eager to express themselves.

Another roar of laughter erupts when Cebisa states the subject of her poem:

“I’ll be looking at fashion from toeka time, fit only for Gogos, to what’s hip and happening today,” she starts. “From simplistic hoodies, jeans and sneakers, to leggings, shoes and accessories every young girl should have in her wardrobe. And I’m calling it I am Fashion.”

Portia’s description has everyone looking at the clock, wishing time could move faster – their stomachs are rumbling.

“You all know I want to be a chef, so naturally I’ll be celebrating food in my poem. From ekasi meaty favourites to foods from other countries you haven’t heard about kanti – but your stomach will dream of. I’m calling my poem Culture Vulture.

Miss Lisa is impressed with the thinking behind her students’ ideas and gives positive feedback where she can. Nothing, barring crude and vulgar language, is off limits.

“My door is always open if you need to discuss your progress or just need advice – about anything,” she encourages them, before the siren wails.


Tell us: How do you acquire good general knowledge to help all your subjects?