Mongameli, pet name Mongs and Fanele were very popular soccer players who enjoyed the admiration of their fans mostly female. Fanele was more popular because he was humble, gentle and very appreciative of the effort that his mother and grandmother made towards his upbringing.
At home he followed a very strict routine, did his chores as laid out by his parents. He learned to schedule his activities, to prioritise them according to the time he had allocated for them.
After soccer practice one afternoon well after 4pm, the boys were sitting at the pavilion reflecting on their day`s performance.
Mongs was a brilliant goalkeeper and so complacent about his position and performances that he wondered why Fanele kept reminding him about the jealousy that always prevails even among his own fans, let alone the opponents. Mongs always shrugged it off with a crooked smile and arms arrogantly folded across his chest.
On their way home, they met their coach who was also their register teacher. As he drove away in his fancy sport car, he made a “thumbs-up” sign, admiringly saluting Mongs, who responded in the same way.
Fana laughed out loud and Mongs said, “And what was that about? I know this guy is said to be a real bully in his home, can never see eye to eye with his wife, let alone his children. His wife drives their kids to school in an old Mazda van.
“Wow!” exclaimed Fanele. “But you seem to be great buddies.”
“It is all in the game,” Mongs replied, shrugging his shoulders.
“Well, well!” Fanele responded, also shrugging his.
Seven years into his teaching career, the coach worked himself into the position of school principal.
When the announcement was formally made at assembly, Mongs shivered in his shoes and stood there, eyes wide open.
Here, Fanele takes over the story:
Coach retained his position as soccer coach – I had secretly hoped that we would appoint someone else to this position. In fact as principal, he had the authority to lay down his own rules.
Within three months, a lot happened, including a completely different format for admission forms.
Our parents were invited to a meeting, which was also attended by members of the SGB. The chairman’s duty was simply to welcome all present and then hand over responsibility to the programme director – who also, strangely, handed this to the principal – who, also with a confused blush, seemed taken aback by the attitude of both the SGB and programme director who was in fact deputy principal of the school.
Mom came home in such a sombre mood, I could not help asking, “And how was it meeting our brand new principal?”
Mom replied: “Ayifuni, wena! Ungadiqheli!”
I apologised because it really was “None of my business.”
Mongs and I were delayed in class after school and were late for soccer practice. Coach/ principal gave us bicolour punishment. Irrespective of my other duties i.e. home chores and school projects, I had to make bicolour priority number one.
Mom asked me why this was called bicolour. I replied, “Mom, ayifuna wena!”
But she wanted to know what Mongs and me were in for. I explained.
“I have to write ‘I must never ever be late for soccer practice’, each letter in every word written in a different colour,” I explained. This had to be repeated to the end of the page and beyond the margin.
“So how are you going to achieve this,” Mom asked with a confused frown on her face.
I explained that Gran had offered to do my home chores and I was hoping to finish my homework before supper, then begin my 10 pages of bicolour right through the night. This had to be done neatly; otherwise, I might have to repeat it and perhaps be required to do more pages.
Mom and Gran didn’t sleep a wink that night and at midnight, Gran brought me a cup of hot black coffee, sat at the end of the table doing her knitting – the scarf she had hoped to finish before winter, a surprise birthday gift for my 16th.
I continued with my punishment and finished at 2.30am, slept on the sofa, woke up at about 4am and dragged myself to our outside toilet. We did not have a bathroom or a shower, but using the hose pipe from the garden tap I treated myself to an amazingly refreshing shower.
At 6am, Gran had tucked my lunch (left over from the supper I could not finish) into my backpack. At 7am, I was waiting for my school transport.
School starts at 7.45am and coach/ principal was sitting at his desk when I entered. I greeted him politely and handed in my bicolour.
On my way to the classroom, I met Mongs who was literally dragging himself to the office. Quickly I asked him if he had finished his bicolour.
He replied, “I am not mad, bicolour is the most hideous punishment I have ever heard of in my whole school life. I am just going to tell him that I could not finish it because life does not revolve around his inhuman and abusive behaviour.”
On the way home, Mongs told me he had been instructed to repeat the bicolour and to hand, it in without excuses the next day. He was to be accompanied by his mother, who was told that if Mongs had not done his punishment, he would be suspended.
To cut a long story short, Mongs’s mother struggled to have the coach/principal supply a transfer letter to his new school and was compelled to make a verbal explanation about what had happened.
Favouritism, racism and nepotism in our society and communities is a major stumbling block, especially when this extends to the government.
Bicolour punishment, I think, evokes hatred and negativity and does very little in correcting the behaviour and character of the victim.
After reading Mongs and Fanele`s story I wondered why their SGB allowed themselves to be put in such an embarrassing situation.