Mathabane attends his first real day of school two weeks later, which turns out to be “a nightmare.” Hundreds of the children are packed into a small courtyard for an assembly. The principal shouts over crying, screaming children to announce that this is Bovet Community School and tries to explain the rules and expectations on students. The courtyard is so cramped and hot that several small children faint. Amidst a long list of rules, the principal observes that the children “embody the hope for a meaningful future for black people.” The principal prays, the assembly sings a hymn, and everyone is dismissed.
The overcrowding at Mathabane’s school suggests that black schools in Alexandra are underfunded and understaffed, adding yet another disadvantage to young black people as they try to succeed in the world and rise from apartheid’s poverty. This again demonstrates how apartheid structurally oppresses black people by making it exceedingly difficult for them to get an education.
Over 200 first-year children pack into one classroom while their teacher, a teenage girl, shouts from the front of the room and tries to quiet everyone down. Eventually she loses her patience and begins striking students at random with her cane. The principal comes in and realizes that there are two classes’ worth of children there and separates them out. The rest of the day, Mathabane and his classmates learn vowels, how to count to 20 in Tsonga, and how to stand and sit when told. All the children hate it. Mathabane’s mother tells him that if he learns something, then “it’s worth it.”
Once again, the single under-qualified teacher for 200 children suggests that Mathabane’s school—which it took his mother a year to get him into—is so under-resourced that it barely functions, adding yet again another obstacle that Mathabane must overcome to learn and succeed as a black person under apartheid.