Young and full of zeal to learn

Nonhlanhla Mbele, 5, was up before everyone else in her home yesterday morning to get ready for her first day in Grade R at HA Jack Primary School in Waverley, Johannesburg.

Family members helped her dress in her new school uniform, while her mother, Thethiwe Mbele, struggled to deal with her hair.

"Her hair is short and she just does not like us to comb it. I even put some moisturiser on it to soften it, and explained that she could not leave the house for school without having her hair done," Mbele said.

Once set and ready to go, Mbele and Nonhlanhla's aunt, Mamodima, accompanied her on a 10-minute taxi ride from Alexandra, which was then followed by a 20-minute walk to get to the school by 8am.

Still skipping and full of energy, Nonhlanhla looked at some of the other children and said to her mom: "Why are they crying? They are so stupid."

Dry-eyed Nonhlanhla quickly made a friend and was soon up to mischief.

"The new friends got lost on the school grounds. They could not find their classroom," her aunt said.

"Eventually they came across a locked door, which they were convinced was their classroom. They started screaming because they thought their teacher and their school bags were locked behind the door," she said.

"When the screaming had died down we told them that the locked door was a store room and persuaded them to accompany us to their classroom.

"By the time it was close to first break I was concerned because Nonhlanhla had already eaten her lunch within five minutes of arriving in class in the morning."

Mbele and Mamodima watched as Nonhlanhla dashed out into the playground and wondered if the smart, independent and highly spirited young girl would come home with a "warning letter" from her teacher on her first day at school.