It had felt a long dreary sun-bathed ride when the taxi came to a screeching halt in Zola. The place was comprised of tedious identical brick-and-mortar houses, wavering from one corner to the next, with a cacophony of people, loud music, and local taxis humming in all directions, driving haphazardly between the lines. He set off to find his way through this puzzling chaos to house number 10.

Jonny roamed from pillar to post, from one section to another, asking around about his destination…until there stood house 10 before him, a small crude matchbox. He entered through the near non-existent corrugated gate, slouched in, and knocked on the door with the little energy that still sapped through the engine of his being.

“Jonny boy! Damn, you look horrible, ngwanamina. Look at you! You could lift me up like a sack of potatoes. What the hell? Mamane na tatane, what have they been feeding you? You’re as I imagined you. Tall bastard like your father…I can’t believe anyone tried you,” Uncle Charles laughed. “Don’t worry, Goliath, I’ll nurse your wounds. Want a drink boy, boy?” Excitedly he embraced and welcomed his nephew, whom he hadn’t seen in ages.

The monotonous bellowing of cattle in the valley of Nwakhuwani was quickly being replaced by the crazy mixture of Zola’s noises in Jonny’s head. After a week of settling in, bonding, and catching up on the fond memories and experiences of bygone years, the crux of the matter that had brought the lone village ranger down the valley to the of dog-eat-dog city of Joburg surfaced. It was agreed that they’d visit a nearby primary school to see if they could enrol him, although a whole term had already passed.

“Nephew, nephew, wake up! The early bird catches the coldest beer when the truck arrives in the morning, don’t you know? Or have you forgotten what brought you over here?”

Yawning, and still in the grip of a beautiful, joyride dream, Jonny woke up swiftly, took a bath and put on the too-small worn-out clothes he was now sharing with his uncle.

At Zola Primary School, they were met coldly by security for wanting to come in unannounced. Eventually they were let in after some crafty convincing by Uncle Charles…

“Sorry, mister. But we can’t register Mr Tintswalo. Fifteen is quite old for primary school, don’t you think? He hasn’t been to school for how long? But sorry, sir. We sadly can’t help you, especially at this time of the year,” the four-eyed administrator said, after Jonny’s situation had been relayed to her.

Uncle Charles fastidiously tried to shoot through the impenetrable needle-hole with his elbows and retorted, “He’s a brilliant kid with a never-die spirit. Now, madam, would you deny yourself the privilege of having such an enthusiast in your arsenal? I tell you. My nephew is special!”

The unimpressed administrator responded, “Well, sir, your nephew is way too old. I don’t think any school can work with him.”

They headed out without hope, and aimed for one school and another, but they kept being turned away, to their combined annoyance and loss of inspiration.

After having failed to secure a place at seven schools, at last, they found a breakthrough at Suphatsela Primary School. Principal Matlala heard about the young boy’s story through the administrator and saw he could lend a helping hand. He listened to their story, which they now had down to a practiced performance, and responded thoughtfully.

“Why haven’t you been in school, son? At this age you should be further ahead. My greatest worry is not that you’ll be enrolling at this time of the year, but whether you have the right mindset to catch up with the class and deal with the stormy mockery from others.”

“Eish, sir,” replied Jonny eagerly. “Thank you for having us in your nice office. Sir, I promise to put my best foot forward and work hard. People like you inspire me the most. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. Back in Nwakhuwani, we used to attend classes behind falling walls, and by the shade of the tree. During stormy seasons we’d abstain from going, until they effectively had to close doors due to severe underfunding, and the disturbances that occurred so often…I want to bring change and show other kids in my village the importance of education. If you can afford me the opportunity.”

Impressed and bit by the bug of flaming passion of his youth, Principal Matlala responded, “You remind me of my old days. I’ve gotten so old and lackluster – I forgot that, occasionally, a charged young boy or girl comes to our school and excites the teacher in all of us…I have no doubt you’ll prove an asset. Please take care, Mr Tintswalo. Your nephew is a lively one. Now, gentlemen, please excuse me. I have a meeting with a district agent. Have a nice day. And see you on Monday, Jonny!”

Tell us: Do you think Jonny will excel at school, or will it be difficult for him to fit in?