A series by Trevor Ncube — Part 1: Rural beginnings

Sara Drawwater
30 April 2013
I am Trevor Ncube, the first child of six and was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. For a good part of my life my parents were domestic workers of limited means. They were hard…

Early daysI am Trevor Ncube, the first child of six and was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. For a good part of my life my parents were domestic workers of limited means. They were hard working decent folks who valued education even though they had very little of it themselves. We were sent to my grandparents in rural Zimbabwe at an early age so that my parents could both work to put us through school.

Life was tough in the rural areas. We had some good times, but the truth is that I mostly remember the bad ones, for these are the ones that left an indelible mark on me. I remember the bullying in particular, because I was a coward. It’s tough to be a coward when you are the elder brother, with siblings looking up to you for protection.

My grandparents were poor. By this I mean they did not have cattle and donkeys. We had a few goats and chickens. And that was all. And there isn’t much you can do with a few goats and chickens in a rural economy. I remember going for days without food. I remember using water with salt or sugar as relish for my nshima (cornmeal porridge). I also remember using mahewu as relish and hating it passionately. I remember going to school barefoot and hurting my toes terribly. These humble beginnings taught me the following:

  • Humility, hard work and a love for people
  • Fighting for justice, fairness and equality
  • Always betting for the underdog

I suspect this is the reason I support Arsenal and Manchester United football clubs.

Primary educationWhen I started school in rural Matabeleland I was not a particularly intelligent pupil.I was consistent in one thing — being the worst pupil in all classes for the first year of my primary education. And because I was dull my teachers hated me. My grade one teacher beat me frequently because I could not read and write. My grandfather was livid and was stopped from confronting the teachers by my grandmother. She was convinced that life would be even worse for me at school if he intervened. Spelling was a particular nightmare. I just couldn’t make sense of it. I discovered later on in life that I am dyslexic. My teacher never knew that such a condition existed. Guess who needed some serious education.

Some of their prejudices were even more irrational. My pregnant fourth grade teacher could not stand my face. She would accuse me of being very ugly, an accusation of which I continue to deny up to this day. I am sure my present company will take my side. She would make me sit with my back to the rest of the class because she said she did not want to give birth to a child as ugly as me.

Those first four years of school scarred me in a big way. The abuse from the teachers affected my self-esteem. The quality of the education was poor, and handicapped me considerably. I still battle with reading and comprehension and really still can’t spell. Sometimes I battle with bouts of acute self-doubt and I ascribe this to what happened during these critical formative years.

I have, however, learned lessons which those classrooms never intended to deliver and these are that:

  • The words we say to others can build or destroy
  • Teachers have a huge impact on whom and what we become in life, but that should not stand in the way of our dreams
  • Africa needs well trained teachers to be successful, particularly in rural areas where the majority still reside

This post is part of a series:Introduction**part 1: Rural Beginnings**part 2: City Beginningspart 3: Journalismpart 4: The Futurepart 5: Africa Rising