By Thando Sithole
THE old woman was tidying her old bedroom when she came across her youngest son’s report card. She grinned then she called my name, “Thando come and see this.” It was a piece of paper spoiled by the common red soil found on most tea estates and surrounding plots in Mutema. “Your father’s old report card, my dear,” she said. “He was just so bright in school. “Look at this.” She showed me the old report card, from St Augustine’s Mission and it had a chain of As. I was doing my early morning chores when she saw the report card and she decided to show me first before the owner saw it later. My mother was making some breakfast and my brother and uncle, my father’s elder brother, were attending to a goat which had borne two kids that morning. God knows why he crossed the border to fight, yet he was such a bright student. Legend has it that the spirit of Nehanda could just descend on an individual and one would find themselves making the great trek to the border. To join the liberation struggle, my father tells me he was rebelling against the call-ups by the government to join the auxiliaries or the Selous Scouts. He went off with three of his friends. All the same, he went off and left a very worried mother who always wondered and prayed if her little boy was safe in the heat of the war. I then stole some time to listen to mbuya who was juggling with her memory. “Your father loved reading a lot and he had his trunk full of books which he used to read. “Let me show you the trunk, it is in the bedroom you are using.” She took me to the room and there in the corner of the room was the old wooden trunk. I opened and found many ancient books used by my father. They were still in a good condition; it was unfortunate that they had picked up the nasty red soil pigmentation. I realised that my father was just a teenager when he went off to join the liberation struggle. Yes, Nehanda’s spirit descended on him and off he went to Chimoio to train to be a combatant. Mbuya was flipping through my father’s old book. I had put away the old report card so that my brother could have a look at it later and my mother as well. The old woman was looking at her little boy’s old beloved texts one by one. She was smiling to herself and said: “I’m happy he came back. “He managed to continue his education and look where he is now. And look at your family. I thank God surely for his grace.” I did not respond, the old woman had a lot to say about my father’s old school trunk and the liberation struggle. “So mbuya how did you get his trunk?” I asked, encouraging her to keep talking. “He left just after his O-Level exams. “Fortunately, your grandfather was working in Mutare and someone from the school contacted him and he went to fetch your father’s trunk. “The headmaster told your grandfather how a group of Form Four boys had just left for the border in the middle of the night. “Your father was part of the group,” she added. “I was really scared when I heard he had decided to cross the border. “I always prayed he would come back. “The war was terrible and it took many lives especially his age mates. “So I used to take his books out of the trunk and dry them in the sum so that termites and those evil little book pests wouldn’t eat up his books. “I wanted him to use the books when he came back from the war if God guided him through his A-Level. He wanted so much to go to university.” She continued her story and this time I was looking at the old textbooks, packing away these important historical documents for future reference. I realised that the old school trunk was one of my grandmother treasures which she keeps. “You should show it to your brother and thank God for keeping your father, my son, during the liberation struggle. “At least he came back safely and managed to go to university. He used the books I had kept for him,” she chuckled. The old school trunk told me a lot about my father’s school days. It also reminded me of how he joined the liberation struggle so that he could go to university in a free country. For the record, my father managed to sail through the war and he even used to teach some of his fellow companions in the camps. He managed to return home and my grandparents were overjoyed. Their little boy was back from the war. My father went to join the liberation struggle at 16. He left his school trunk and all the high school merriment to make sure his offspring and the rest of the nation would exercise their freedom and enjoy the privileges and rights white people had a that time. He exchanged his ballpoint pen for an AK47 rifle to free the country from bondage. God knows how he carried that gun, my father is a small man and that rifle is quite heavy. I salute that ‘boy’ who left his school trunk and pending Form Four examinations. We, his offspring, are enjoying the fruits of his labour. I have just completed my degree at one the most prestigious universities in the country. My brother is learning at an exclusive school as well. Yes, he made it. The boy came back from the war (he was a man now — the war made him grow), wrote his O-Levels, did his A-levels and enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe for a BA in English and Geography. He has a family and he is a media analyst and works at one of the State universities in the country. Thanks dad for abandoning your old school trunk and your then pending O-Level exams. Your sacrifice was worth it and you managed to pick up from where you had left. Three cheers for all schoolboys and schoolgirls who sacrificed their education for the liberation struggle. HIP HIP!! HURRAY!!HIP HIP! HURRAY!! HIP HIP!