City beginningsI moved back to Bulawayo to live with my parents where life was far from easy. Three square meals a day was a luxury, and we could not afford the basic consumer goods that we now hear about. We used butter to oil our bodies and cooking oil for our hair.
Christmas time for my family was generally unhappy because our parents could not afford to buy us new clothes as per African tradition. I particularly remember the humiliation one year when my parents couldn’t manage to buy us anything whilst most of our neighbours were fully kitted out. However, we looked forward to the goodies that my father’s employers delivered on Christmas Eve without fail. The Christmas crackers, Christmas pudding, sweets, soft drinks etc. brought lots of cheer to my family. In fact we were the only ones with these types of goodies thanks to my father’s employers.
I remember going to our neighbours to ask for school bus money. In fact this happened almost every month towards pay day. It was that or having to miss school.
My TurnaroundBut around this time, some critically important changes began for me. The move to live with my parents meant that I also enrolled for my 5th grade in Bulawayo where my life began to take a turn for the better. The man responsible for this turnaround was my 6th and 7th grade teacher Mr Bafundi Mpofu. He told me for the first time in my life that I had potential. He spotted something in me that all my teachers thus far had failed to notice, something that I had been told so many times did not exist.
I was accustomed to being told that I was ugly, dull and that I would never amount to anything. And I believed this. I strongly suspect I would have had an inconsequential existence if not for this man. I have Mr Mpofu to thank for my success. He kept repeating the message and after two years I started believing that I was good and that I would become someone in life. This part of my life has the following leadership lessons for me:
UniversityAt the University of Zimbabwe I wanted to study law and was devastated when I failed to make the cut by just one point. I had seven points and the cut off was eight points. As with all crises in our lives, at that particular moment this seemed to be the worst day of my life. But I now look back and say thank God I am not a lawyer. I ended up doing economic history which I have hardly used.
I graduated with a 1st class in Economic History. I didn’t seem to have too many options and teaching appeared to be one of the few I had. But I was yanked off a queue to register for a teaching degree by my Economic History professor who thought I was out of my mind. He argued that I was too good to be a teacher which was an insult to many teachers I know.