On my first day back at Ukhanyo Primary School I was impressed to find that it was now a beautiful brick building, painted in bright yellow, with real classrooms and a huge roofed courtyard in the centre of it. The principal, Mr Thyali, always wore a perfectly ironed shirt with a tie, and the week started with school assembly for all the learners, with a prayer and announcements by the principal. Hundreds of learners stood together, listening to Mr Thyali, or bowing their heads for the prayer. After that we marched to our classrooms. My teacher was Mr Honono who was one of the older teachers. There were about fifty learners in the class and everybody respected Mr Honono.

Of course, I missed Mrs Naki, but I know that this teacher also did his best for us. He taught us EMS, which stood for Economics, Measurements and Science. In Economics he would talk to us about saving money and avoiding debts. ‘Only buy with the money you have,’ he’d say. ‘Everything else means trouble!’ In Life Orientation he spoke about eating healthy food. ‘Don’t eat junk food like white bread. Always brown bread!’ Then he’d unwrap his daily sandwich and, yes – it was brown bread!

On occasion, when he was tired and some of us were too rowdy in class, he would command the culprits to the front and give us a beating with a plastic pipe on our fingers. No one questioned that he had the right to do so. Most of the kids there were also beaten at home.

It was here at Ukhanyo that I started enjoying soccer. I had never played it with my brother Mavusi in Masizakhe. But here I did. In time, I became a really good midfielder. I had long legs and could run fast. But the best thing about soccer was my first friend, Yamkela. He played in the same team as I did. There was never any competition between us. He’d pass to me whenever he could and I did the same for him. Many times he shared his sandwich with me at break time, as I never had any food to take to school.

Since we were friends we also spent time together in the afternoons after school. It never bothered him that I had Anam with me. He knew that my mother and Anam’s father got drunk every evening.

Tell us what you think: How is Yamkela a good friend to Mbu?