Learning the ways of the ant

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise."

It should be with a tinge of nostalgia that colleague and Sunday World editor, Charles Mogale, remembers this verse from the Book of Proverbs.

It is not that Charles and I are former or current Bible-punching fanatics, or something akin to that, but to us, these words have such profound meaning - of history and wisdom.

We were quite young when these words were drilled into our adolescent minds forever.

You see, we went to the same school, the erstwhile famous Tshepo-Themba High in the Vaal Triangle. Lest Charlie chastise me, he was my senior.

And it was at school that we encountered these words. Alas, the star that was "Spes", our revered school, has faded, just like a neglected, once polished brass lamp.

We knew the verse by heart and would mouth it unconsciously as JA Nakedi, the headmaster, bellowed the words from his high podium during morning assembly.

I now see why JA - we called him Chief and so did his staff - acquired that tall podium. He was a short man. So when he stood on it he loomed large.

I swear that none or few of us understood what the heck Chief was saying or even bothered to find out. He also never bothered to explain it.

But what Charles and I will remember is the melodious voice of fellow pupil Sabrina Mahloko, who, as soon as the Chief had put a full-stop to his recital, and as if on cue, would lead the 1000-plus assembly with his favourite hymn, The King of Love.

Yes, the Chief is long gone but the meaning of his favourite verse sank in, albeit later in life.

But my walk down memory lane is not just a nostalgic trip to my alma mater. It is a reminder that we were young and attentive and had a purpose.

Yes, we may have been the products of abominable bantu education, but the teachers of that era laboured against all odds in guiding and moulding us for the future. They were resilient and never spared the rod.

Teachers such as my English master Shadrack Modise and Fairbridge Rampa who taught us Afrikaans stand out. They were passionate about their jobs.

Rampa would cane us for not scoring high grades.

He told us we hated Afrikaans at our own peril.

"The Afrikaners are also among the captains of industry and I bet they will not employ you if you can't speak their language," he would say.

Perhaps that is why I am so fluent in Afrikaans and why I obtained higher marks in the subject than in English.

Here is hoping that today's teachers and their charges take a leaf out of Chief's book.

Then schoolgirls knew that falling pregnant meant expulsion. Teachers did not go to school drunk, nor did they sleep with their pupils. Parents knew that their children would be punished for not wearing proper uniforms.

What, therefore are the ants' ways?

Says writer Beth Johnson in the publication Old Archives Path: "They are persistent in the execution of their duties. They share and cooperate with each other and work for the benefit of the colony."

Think about it.