My name is Viora Mayobo, born in one of the remotest corners of earth, where to this day, life is at a stand-still. To acquire knowledge we walked three and half hours each way, for seven years.
I’m one of nine children born of mother and father; I’m the 5th child – 4 before and 4 after me. And if you happen to be one of those originating from weirdly large families, I suppose you know what that means – that you are right in the center of the bull’s eye – the noise, the fighting, competing for attention, among other things. You are no stranger to the game!
Father was first of three children – father and his two sisters; his father (my paternal grandfather) died young, when father and his two sisters were only kids. And because his mother (my grandmother) did not have means to support herself and her small children, she decided to remarry; she married her brother-in-law ( grandfather’s older brother).
The man she married was married and had children of his own. As a result, grandmother was subjected to ill treatment. It was for that same reason did father make a promise to himself – to not have children young; he worked tirelessly to support himself through school, and to help care for his poor mother and his two sisters, a promise dear to his heart.
For sure, father made good on his promise; he started having children way into his fifty’s, a decision we his children came to suffer the consequences, but we didn’t fault him for it. Father worked as first secretary in Chiwena village in Mumbwa district for many years, before he decided to become a commercial farmer.
Becoming a commercial farmer meant one thing only – moving to the village – the remotest corners of earth where people still climb in trees to speak on their cell phones. In Mumbwa township, our school was located a short while; it took us 15-20 minutes at most to get to school. In the village, however, that fact was one that was in reverse order; it took us 3 hours and half to get to school, each way – to get to school and to return home after school.
We labored more than usual in pursuit of knowledge; we utilized our whole being to acquire knowledge. Quite frankly, I thought of quitting school more than once; but if that were the case, what would have come of me, I wonder?
The distance of three hours plus was intimidating, for sure. But it was that same distance that gave us rare capabilities, capabilities we didn’t know we possessed. The English language being considered a second language in that part of the universe, I hated it, as did all the other children in my class.
Rather than focus a great deal on great distance, we practiced to speak the language; we spoke in tongues, in broken English; we laughed at one another and worked to master the basics of it, something children who were afforded a chance to live close to school did not have access to.
They spent most of their time being children; we spent ours on preparing for the next day. I outperformed then in class, of course; and they wondered how that could be. But how could that not be so? The walking of three plus hours was a surmountable challenge, a mount Kilimanjaro, one we had to learn to tackle from many different angles.
When they wondered why most of us that walked long distances were intelligent in class, they failed to realize…while they were having fun, we worked to reduce those mountains to comfortable, acceptable heights. And the walking, though it seemed like an obstacle at first, became a rare motivation that made us want to go to school, everyday, to learn to speak one of the most spoken languages in modern times.
It was that same obstacle I conveniently used as a weapon to stay above my competition in class. And, boy, I enjoyed it; I was always at the center of attraction because I knew how to read and understand the underlying concept of every sentence in English, fully, when they did not…
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