On Saturday August 12th, Nina and I were delighted to welcome to our home in the upper Tawe Valley, South Wales (about 15 miles north of Swansea), Colourgrad Makhonya Mpoko and his wife Lisa, and Clifford Chigaru and his wife Thembi, and Simbarashe Chabarika, who was able to join us from Cardiff (braving the local bus system!).
Nina and I were at Tegwani / Thekwane from September 1970 to Christmas 1973.
I taught English at all levels, and was a master in Kumalo House, as well as ‘President of Saturday Nights’ in the Beit Hall. Nina was the founding Librarian of the Beit Library which was built and opened during those years. And Jenny, our elder daughter, was born in Mater Dei Hospital, Bulawayo (Nina waiting out those last days in the home of a former Tegwani Principal, George Hay-Pluke) in September 1971, and learnt to walk and talk, and even read a little, in her Tegwani years. So it was an extra happiness that Jenny was already staying with us that weekend in August.
Colourgrad and Simbarashe both left Tegwani in December 1971.
I don’t think I ever actually taught either of them, but in the nature of School life, a teacher knew and had dealings with most students of his/her own gender. All three were certainly well-remembered by name, and when Simbarashe arrived, he was most strikingly, in face and temperament, the young man we had known 46 years ago. Clifford stayed in the Science VIth, and left in 1973, so I certainly took ‘General Studies’ periods which he would have shared in. Any way, this was the first time we, the Grahams, had met any of them again for over forty years.
Really, the photo says all that needs to be said. Of course we reminisced and set off memories – of other alumni, of the teachers, both Zimbabwean and ex-pat, of the routines and occasions of school life, of the occasional traumatic disruption, of locations around the campus – that seemed still fresh after so long a time. But really the most remarkable thing – the blessing, if that’s your idiom – was how quickly and simply we were warmly at ease together. In a world that has seen the shocks and disruptions the past 12 or 18 months have brought, it was deeply heartening.
Teachers shouldn’t have favourites, but there was one form that was very close to my heart.
I taught a few of them in that very first term in 1970, as they went into Junior Certificate. I then took a new class including Tegwani returners right through years 3 and 4 to School Certificate, and their performance in that in 1972 was in some ways the high point of my entire teaching career. They were a gifted, diligent and responsive lot, and it was a delight to work with them. And then a few came on through into the VI Form Arts, and I taught them again in 1973. It’s perhaps invidious to mention individual names, because I can’t type up a class list ! But if you’re reading this, you know who you are, and I salute all of you, while remembering also those few that I know have died.
We were so young; and in the scheme of things what is 39 months as compared to 46 years ? And yet Thekwane has a very special place in our hearts, and we are very happy to still be in touch, and able to support the maintenance and ongoing development of Thekwane, and proud that the generation who were there in our time have stepped up to that mark. So, thank you, Colourgrad and Clifford, for taking the initiative and making the effort. And thanks to your wives for their gracious patience !