The following day was Monday and on Mondays we always assembled at the school hall to begin our week with a prayer. I was late for school on that day but I was lucky that Mr Gonono hadn’t began the prayer yet because I wouldn’t have been allowed to enter the school premises until he had finished praying. Learners who came in after the prayer would be allocated classrooms to sweep when the school was out.
Mr Gonono was our school principal and a pastor at his church. He was always energetic on Monday mornings and I’d wish he would just transfer some of his energy to me. On that Monday, however, he was down. He didn’t dance to the songs we sang like he always did.
Mr Gonono raised the hand with which he was holding his Bible and we stopped singing.
“Close your eyes, bantwana bam’,” Mr Gonono said and started praying. “Bawo Thixo Mthetheleli wethu, we humbly ask for your guidance as we begin this week. Be with the teachers who feed information to these learners. Be with the staff that ensures that our school is safe and clean. Open the ears of our learners so that they can receive the knowledge and skills needed to pass their school subjects. Oh, Heavenly Father, open their ears so that they can listen to their parents when they are showing them the right way. Oh, Heavenly Father, I condemn the taverns that sell alcohol to our children. My Lord, one of our Grade 12 learners isn’t at school with us today because he is fighting for his life in hospital. We pray that you bless the hands of the doctors and the hospital staff who are working tirelessly to save his life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
I looked around for Xolani after Mr Gonono finished praying. I didn’t see him when I entered the hall. I had expected to see him because he normally stood at the back during the assembly.
“Bafundi, your fellow learner, Xolani Mpikayipheli, is in hospital. We received a phone call from his mother early this morning. He was stabbed at a tavern last Saturday night,” Mr Gonono said. “Put him in your prayers. You can all go to your classes now.”
I was shocked to hear that the boy my mother was talking about was Xolani. When I didn’t hear from him on Sunday I didn’t think something terrible had happened. My mother didn’t know Xolani because she disapproved of me bringing friends over to the house. I wasn’t focusing during the first four periods of lessons and before I knew it, it was lunch break.
It was hot that day and I was leaning against the school wall at the spot where I normally hung out with Xolani. Anathi and Sima walked up to me.
“Hi Ayanda,” Anathi said. Sima was quiet.
“Hi,” I said.
“I am sorry about Xolani. It was all my fault,” Anathi said.
“Your fault how? Wasn’t he stabbed at a tavern kanti?” I asked.
“Yes,” Anathi said with her eyes welling up, “You probably don’t remember. You guys were drinking beers like it was water. Then you said you were cold. You said you were going to fetch your jersey and you’d be back in fifteen minutes. Sima asked to walk with you.”
“You guys took forever. Xolani became so impatient. He wanted to go look for you at your house. We were running out of alcohol and I asked Xolani to walk me and my sisters to the tavern to buy more alcohol first. We waited for him outside the tavern. I don’t know what really happened inside but when he came out he was already bleeding from the chest …” Anathi broke down and started crying. Sima held her while she sobbed.
I just stood there, heartbroken and not knowing what to say. Sima turned Anathi around and they walked away from me.
Tell us: Do you think Anathi is to blame for what happened?