If time was a place I would physically go back again, but the hands of time regrettably move beyond human control and can only be retraced in memory.
I can evoke my primary school days like I know the back of my hand.
About 3 km to the west of Tsamaya Village in the North East District sleeps a little known village called Themashanga, which is scarcely mentioned in the media unless if there is a government official addressing residents or holding a Kgotla meeting.
The village, with its small institution of learning, Themashanga Primary School, is where I began my education in 1988.
The vivid picture that creeps into my mind is the aged and dilapidated walls built under the heavy rusted corrugated iron roof and the lively carefree students most of them barefooted and running around the premises before the assembly period and during the break time.
Before attending class, students at times were checked if they were in good hygiene and some would be returned home to have a proper bath. The teachers carrying piles of files from classroom to classroom, along with mupane sticks for punishing some students, were an ordinary sight.
Children with school shoes were only those of privileged parents in the village while most of us walked barefoot.
Each student was required to bring firewood to school every morning for him to be able to eat the school’s monotonous diet of beans, powdered milk and sorghum or else face punitive measures.
When classes convened in the morning, a registry book would always be read and any absent student would always have to come and give an explanation as to where he or she was when resuming class. At times, the school head would command that the older and stronger boys go after an absent student and bring him to school where he would be caned by the headmaster himself in public view.
Primary School was a misery to others but fun to others. The days are, however, worth remembering.
Some primary school teachers were arrogant while others were very friendly to students. Some teachers preferred to chat with students who were from well-off families rather than children from poor backgrounds. This was evident in how they treated them in class.
“One day, I forgot to bring firewood to school as required and had to forcibly get one from a Standard 1 student. The student later reported me to the teacher and I was severely punished,” says Batho Bogopa, a self employed University of Botswana graduate.
Nsiiwa Nsiiwa of Extension 2 in Francistown tells a story of when, one day, he had to fight a bully who had developed a habit of taking his daily food ration and whenever he complained the bully would take him behind the classroom after school and choke him until he pleaded for forgiveness.
“I was never subjected to any bullying again from the older boy after kicking him in the groin; I started enjoying my meals in peace,” he said.
Primary School is indeed a place of learning where the fun for learning never stops; it is a place where most people meet the academic world and come across many personalities of people, particularly teachers and students. It is a gate way to the world of learning.
Gone are the days of my primary school life.