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COURTESY OF ATIKA SCHOOL
Read the passage below and then answer questions 26 to 38
When I was a small boy, my home was always full of babies and children of my relatives. In fact, I hardly recall any occasion as a child when I was alone. In my community, the Sons and daughters of one’s aunts and uncles are considered brothers and sisters, not cousins. We have no half-brothers and half-sisters. My mother’s sister is my mother, my uncle’s son is my brother and my brother’s child is my son or my daughter. The school consisted of a simple room. I was seven years old, and on the day before I was to begin, my lather took me aside and told me that I must be dressed properly for school. Until that time, I, like all the other boys, had worn only a blanket, which was wrapped round one shoulder and pinned at the waist. My father took a pair of his trousers and cut them at the knee. He then told me to put them on, which I did, and they were roughly the correct length, although the waist was far too large. My father then took a piece of string and drew the trousers in at the waist. I must have been a comical sight, but I have never owned a suit I was prouder to wear than my father’s cut-off trousers.
Of my mother’s three huts, one was used for cooking, one for sleeping and one for storage. In the hut in which we slept, there was no furniture. We slept on mats and sat on the bare floor. I did not discover pillows until much later. My mother cooked food in a three-legged iron pot over an open fire at the centre of the hut or outside. We grew all the food we ate at home.
From an early age, I spent most of my free time in the field playing and fighting with the other boys of the village. A boy who remained at home tied to his mother’s apron strings was regarded as a weakling. At night, I shared my food and blanket with these same boys. I was no more than five when I became a herds boy looking after sheep and calves in the fields. I discovered the almost mystical attachment that the Xhosa have for cattle, not only as a source of food and wealth, hut as a blessing from God and a source of happiness. It was in the fields that I learnt how to knock birds out of the sky with a slingshot, to gather wild honey and fruits and edible roots, to drink warm, sweet milk straight from the udder of a cow, to swim in the clear streams, and to catch fish with twine and sharpened hits of wire.
As boys, we were mostly left to our own devices. We played with toys we made ourselves. We moulded animals and birds out of clay. Nature was our playground. I learnt to ride by sitting atop weaned calves — after being thrown to the ground several times, one got the hang of it. I still love open spaces, the simple beauties of nature, and the clear blue skies.
I don’t think my parents intended to take me to school. No one in my family had ever attended school. But a friend of my father’s, George Mbekela visited us one day and told my mother, ‘Your son is a clever young fellow. He should go to school.” My parents discussed it and decided to send me to school.
Maurice A. Nyamoti is a teacher by profession and has passion for assisting students improve performance
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