Posted April 24, 2012on:
Halfway through grade 11 I moved and started a new school. Because I had never done Afrikaans in my life, and my new school didn’t offer French, I started taking Sesotho as my second language (English being first). I figured I would do better at that since I am a Motswana and Sesotho is similar to Setswana. My Sotho teacher was named Mme MaPule. Some of the other students called her Mme MaRanthako though. I later found out that this was because she had recently got married, and Pule was her husbands surname.
I found myself thinking about her today, after not even seing her in 10 years. She actually passed away – last year, I think – in a car accident. Anyway, some Mme MaPule memories:
i) One day I was walking with my friends Nthabi and Pascalina and a girl comes running up to us and tells us that Mme MaPule (who shall hence forth be referred to as Mme) wanted to see Nthabi and Pascalina, and that there was a third girl but she didn’t know who that other girl was. I sighed in relief when they asked her if the third name was Tsholofelo and she said no. Then she said the name was Mpuru (my surname), and I groaned. We were complaining the whole way to her class, assuming we knew why it is she had called us…and it turned out we were right – she wanted us to mark her 3 Business Economics class test papers. Bear in mind, Nthabi and I had never done BE as a subject and we knew absolutely nothing.
ii) One day we walk into class and, after a week of absence, Mme was back at school. Throughout the class she kept doing this shivering thing and making loud noises…like “BRRRR”…like she was cold or something. And everytime she did the whole class would laugh. Eventually she says to us, “bana ba ka, ska tshehang. Ha ke iketse, ke ronngwe” (My children, don’t laugh. I’m not doing it on purpose, I’ve been sent.) and we all kinda looked at each other like, “wait, you are a priest in a born-again Christian church…how does that even happen?”
Point of clarification: when I say sent, I mean like sent on an errand by the ancestors. Like, her body was going to keep doing that until she had done whatever errand the ancestors sent her on.
iii) My very first day in Sotho class, Mme asked me something and I responded with “Eya” (yes). And she said “Eya eng?” (yes what?). I just looked at her in confusion. Her: “Eya ntja?” (yes dog?) Me: still confused. One of my classmates whispers: “Eya Mme” (Yes m’am), and I repeated it. She looks at me and shakes her head like I’m some kind of a lost cause. I relearned that day that in Sotho cultures (and most other black South African cultures) you can’t just say “yes” or “no” to an adult, you have to add “Mme” (M’am/Mother) or Ntate (Sir/Father) to it.
iv) While handing back graded test papers after my very first Sotho test ever, Mme calls me out and says “Tsholofelo, hobaneng o thetsa batho ba baholo?” (T, why are you lying to your elders). Me: *shocked* “Nna Mme?” (Me, M’am) [yoh, but this translation thing though…] Her: “Eya, wena. Hobaneng one o nthetsa ore ha o soka o etsa sesotho” (yes you. why did you lie to me and tell me you’ve never done sotho?) Me: “Ha ke soka ke se etsa, Mme” (I’ve never done it m’am) Her: “Hobaneng, heh, e le wena fela a pasitseng test ye bana babang ba feitse?” (why, then, are you the only one who passed this test and everyone else failed?) Me: “Mme ha ka o thetsa…ke stadiyile.” (M’am I’m not lying…I studied) . Her: “stadiyile keng ka sesotho?” (what is studied in sesotho?) Me: “Eh…”
Point of clarification: stadiyile is the sothofication of the word studied, it’s not an actual sotho word.
v) When I was in matric I wore a ring on my left ring finger, and without fail, every single time I went to her class she’d make me take it off. She said that if I wear a ring on that finger before I get engaged then I would never get married…looks like she may have been right. Oh, and one time she asked me who my boyfriend was and because I didn’t want to talk about such with her, I told her I don’t date cos my parents say I’m too young to date, and she says “if they won’t let you date, how are you ever going to find a husband? are they gonna marry you?”
I just realised how much I really miss Mme MaPule. She was one of my fave teachers while I was at Brebner. I didn’t always like the fact that she used up my afternoons with grading papers and such, but she cared, and she was like a mother to us – when you live at hostel, you need such – and we could always talk to her about stuff and ask her for advise, and she was oh so funny!