Five minutes after midnight Sphiwe is jolted awake by a furious, piercing sound. He gropes in the dark for the source of the noise. He fumbles and accidentally pushes the alarm clock off the bedside table.  It hits the floor and there is sudden silence.

He can hear the rain, which has been pounding on the roof since yesterday afternoon. Sphiwe realizes he is breathing fast. The corrugated roof sheets above his bed seem to be wailing. It must be the howling of the chill wind blowing outside.

The room is pitch black. Sphiwe sits upright on the edge of his bed and moves his feet on the floor, searching for his sandals. Dogs bark in the distance. He eventually finds the sandals and switches on the light.

The light exposes the silver alarm clock that has shattered to pieces on the floor. Sphiwe collects the pieces, puts the alarm clock back together and places it back on his bedside table.

He walks to his mom’s bedroom and softly shakes his sister, Sindisiwe. Sindisiwe sleeps in the same bed as their mother, MaGumede, and their younger sister, Mbali.

“Sindi, Sindi,” Sphiwe whispers.

Sindisiwe stirs and mumbles softly.

“You said I should wake you up to study, Sindi,” Sphiwe whispers.

Sindisiwe stirs violently and jabs Mbali with her elbow. Mbali lets off a sharp squawk.

“Lord Jesus! Sindi wake up! Wake up, Sindi!” MaGumede snaps.

Sindisiwe reluctantly rolls out of the bed and drags her feet to the lounge. MaGumede softly pats Mbali back to sleep. Sphiwe stretches and yawns as he makes his way to the lounge. He finds that Sindisiwe has dozed off on the sofa.


Sindisiwe’s eyelids flutter and she sits up straight. She yawns and looks at Sphiwe. “How do you do it, Sphiwe?”

“Do what?”

“How do you wake up this early and study?”

“I’m just used to it, Sindi. It’s something you also have to learn and get used to if you want good grades.”

Sphiwe takes out his geography textbook from his backpack.

“Where are your books, Sindi?”

“I hate school,” says Sindisiwe. She drags her feet on the floor as she goes to MaGumede’s bedroom. She comes back with her back pack, throws it on the sofa and plunges herself next to it.

“Don’t be lazy,” says Sphiwe.

“I’m not lazy, I’m just regretful,” says Sindisiwe.


“Yes. I should have never told you to wake me up. Now I don’t know what to study,” says Sindisiwe.

“You can start with your homework, or start with a subject that is giving you problems,” says Sphiwe shrugging his shoulders.

“How am I going to study a subject if it is giving me problems?”

“You have to start believing in yourself, Sindi. Just because a subject is giving you problems doesn’t mean it is impossible to understand.”

“It’s easy for you to say that because you’re smart. I’m dumb,” says Sindisiwe, rubbing her eyes.

“You see what I mean? You don’t believe in yourself. Getting good grades has got nothing to do with being smart. The smart ones are asleep, while we hard workers are up studying,” says Sphiwe.

“Okay, let me study before you start lecturing me,” says Sindisiwe. She chuckles.

Sphiwe sniggers and flips the pages of the geography textbook.

“Fortunately for you, I’m in the middle of my final exams, so I don’t have the liberty to lecture you. Start with maths because it is giving you a tough time,” says Sphiwe.

“Oh yes! That’s a great idea,” says Sindisiwe.

Tell us: Are you more of a Sindi or a Sphiwe when it comes to your study habits?