The only reason I went to school was because I was forced to by my parents.
I could never understand why I had to wake up in the freezing winter morning to go to school where I was taught difficult things I could hardly comprehend.
I failed to understand that being taught to recite “the cat sat on the mat” could add any value to my life.
Look, I cannot recall anyone during my formative years who enjoyed school. We all wore long faces every day of the week until Friday.
My worst memories are of winter.
I could never fathom why, if the grownups felt school was so important, we could not attend only when it was warm.
What made school an ordeal during those years was the daily dose of beatings by frustrated teachers who had to handle huge classes of dirty, bedraggled children whose only interest was meal times.
I suppose the reason why the kids of today enjoy school is because beatings have been outlawed.
Teachers who administer corporal punishment on learners can be hauled before the courts.
Not so during our days.
In fact , the most famous teachers loved by parents were the thrashers.
In our society, it was assumed that a stick wielding teacher was the best teacher. Younger teachers of a more liberal bent who refrained from beatings were seen as a soft touch. Not only did they lose the respect of parents, but also of the very pupils they taught.
Instead of thanking our lucky stars that we had a pacifist teacher, we would instead take advantage so much so that a prolific beater would be assigned to keep law and order in our class. Hence, I went through the first years of my school life with the daily reality of a beating.
If I had a choice I would have quit. I mean there were better things to do, such as playing and getting up to mischief. Of course we did bunk school quite frequently. But such escapades came with the risk of even more severe beatings.
There were kids who would play truant and only show up at mealtime before going back to play at the stream. Whenever they were caught, they would be lashed in front of the whole school so as to strike the fear of God in other aspiring truants. Sometimes their parents would hunt them down and, instead of administering the beating, just drag them by the hand to school where they would demand a beating for their whimpering offspring.
Parents who went to school to demand a thrashing for their errant children were much respected in the community and considered very responsible.
I can tell you during our day, beating was rife and the teachers who excelled at it enjoyed household status. For many of us our years at junior school were miserable. Only after years of this misery did it dawn on me that actually a good education was necessary to secure a better life.
I then realized my parents were right after all. I must also concede that the thrashings helped a great deal in drumming education into my head.
Whereas I used to admire the village loafers who never had to go to school, after enough thorough thrashings, I realized they were doomed.
I mean, there was a time when I wanted to be left alone to behave like the loafers. They did as they pleased and smoked and drank at an early age. They wore battered shoes and tattered clothing and swore adult insults which we looked forward to repeating out of earshot of grown ups.
It used to puzzle me how a young boy my age could transform into a loafer who swore, smoked and drank whilst his peers went to school. So naturally the loafers were our role models.
If they took a liking to you, they could offer to teach you how to smoke. They spoke about girls in nonchalant tones which suggested they had even done things which children of our age were not permitted to.
But as time went on, I realized the lives of the loafers had reached a dead end. They could never dream of wearing nice clothes. They could only dream of owning a car. They were reduced to life long beggars.
It was the prospect of owning a car that convinced me the life of a loafer was no good. Without the prospect of owning a car, the loafer was destined to live his entire life in the village. There was very little chance of discovering new places and opportunities.
My parents were right after all when they said school was important.
I did complete school and go onto finding a job. My job allowed me to buy new clothes and shoes. It allowed me to drink as much as I wanted and smoke fresh cigarettes not bummed off anyone. Having a job and earning an income gave me independence.
Since then, whenever I return to the village in my car, my erstwhile role models who had somehow transformed themselves into loafers who could smoke, drink and swear without any reprimand now considered me a role model. In their battered shoes, with pieces of string for shoelaces and their worn out cast offs, the loafers are a sorry sight.
Out of both curiosity and courtesy, I tend to interact with them whenever I am in the village. After buying them a few drinks they would narrate sob stories of how they were so intelligent at school and had they received the right guidance they too would be proud owners of motor cars and probably married to white women.
This would be said by those who claimed to have been good at the queen’s language and could even bedazzle the teacher with their bombastic words.
The sob stories would go on as the beer flowed. Some would blame witchcraft for their situation. I am reminded of this because school has just started for many youngsters.
For them the choice is clear. Depending on how they apply themselves to their studies , they either become village loafers or go onto to own motor cars.
The difference between us and them is that thrashing is not allowed. This is a mistake.
To reduce the number of potential loafers, let us go back to the days when the most respected teachers were the thrashers.
Let us bring back corporal punishment!