Children of the Fallists

It is the first day of her formal schooling, my Azania. Finally grown and a young warrior in the making. It seems like it was only yesterday when she was just a baby conceived in the midst of a revolution. Revolutionary bae, I call her. I remember those days; those violent days marching with an unborn baby in my stomach amidst the rubber bullets and teargas from downpressor-men, sent to put an end to ‘rowdy and violent’ students.

Today, Azania is ready for her first time in school. Disappointingly, she worships English as if it is better than any other language. I blame her father for that. The pre-school he had put her in prioritised the language more than our indigenous tongues. I was bitter about that, as I do not take kindly to strictly-English-speaking Blacks. They tend to be far removed from their roots, no matter how enthusiastic they are towards the problems facing Black people.

So, on this particular day, I listen to my daughter stuttering, trying hard to perfect the language that she is now going to be using 8 hours each day from here on. At home she speaks her paternal language, Sesotho, while I talk to her in my assimilated isiZulu. For her it makes sense that she must learn this English; perfect it. After all, this is the language of success. I have seen how it frustrates her when the aspirant middle-class Africans weigh her up for speaking in a native tongue. I have watched as she weighed herself and then decided she is lesser-than than the other English-speaking kids. This propensity is common with children who attend schools in townships - their confidence is weak. Their persona is often timid. I was once in that boat too. It takes a lot to undo that damage and at times, it follows you all your life. It is no surprise when we turn to be white-worshipping adults who fear challenging white supremacy; even after witnessing it ruin our lives.

I watch this little warrior apologise to the teacher in her broken English. Apologetically, she announces to her mistress that she does not know how to speak the language well. She is almost hating herself for that. You can read this hate from her face. Her entire thoughts are cursing the lips for failing to utter sentences which the new class is already programmed to master. How does a six-year-old learn to self-hate at such a tender age? I wonder if the person raising her is to be blamed for such. I am by the door observing this. By the way, I am THE person that is raising her. And so, I am disappointed that I have groomed an African queen who is apologetic for not being able to speak her coloniser's language. The youth of '76 would be distraught to learn that they were shot and died in vain.

I, once a fallist, am further disappointed to be sending my daughter to schools that will train her to leave herself at the gates and then put on a mask that emulates whiteness. Wasn’t this what we were fighting for when we said, Rhodes Must Fall? And then, 13 years later, I will be troubled when she, like me, goes on to protest anti-Black institutions... It will seem to me like she is an angry Black child when she realises how cruel whiteness is, even after you have mastered its culture. Yes, the cycle keeps recycling itself. How can I send my daughter to the dens of kasi schooling that I received as a child? But I made it out okay in the township schools, did I not? Yes, I remind myself. I am proud to brag about the richness of isiZulu I received in such schools: the same wealth that my child will be deprived of.

I wonder what the ancestors think of us when they see us taking these devastating decisions, entrusting our children’s education to our oppressors! What kind of a people does that? I suspect that the ancestors realise how much internal damage these schools inflict on our children. In fact, given a choice, I’d rather just homeschool my children. Based on my known strengths, but that also requires a realistic financial stability; and so it remains a dream that seems far-fetched when you are an economically-marginalised African parent with bills to pay.

With my Azania going to grade school now, I hope she will always remember why I named her that way. May she remember that she was conceived at Azania House: a home for all those who fearfully and fearlessly took a stand and said, 'imperial and colonial cultures must fall’. She must remember what it means and never again apologise for not being able to speak the master's language properly. My Azania must know that she has a place anywhere in the world. Those who speak with a twang must not scare her off. She must be wise enough to realise that the country was long bought by those who shot and killed those children who fought against a settler language!