I grew up on a farm with my mom. My dad always lived in a city where he worked and only came home rarely, on weekends, not every weekend, but may be twice a year. I was the oldest male-child in the house, after my older brother went in exile and joined SWAPO, a political organization that fought to liberate Namibia from the South African apartheid government.
Since I was the oldest son left at home, with two of my young brothers and youngest, baby sister, and my mom, I had to take on the tasks, which were generally handled by adult males, usually the fathers, the heads of household. Tasks such as plowing the field during the rainy season, looking after our farm animals, and simply maintaining the exterior and interior structure of the house and the sprawling, long and high, fence that covered our farm of more than 75,000 acres of land.
These kinds of tasks had to be dealt with constantly on a daily basis, every day of the week. And since I was just a little boy, in addition to helping my mom at home with all these tasks, I also had to go to school and keep up with my homework and study. Most parents then discouraged their children from going to school, so they could stay at home and work. However, I had and still have a wonderful, the best mom, not only that she never asked me to stay out of school, she actually helped me study. She actually taught me how to read, even before I started school. For all of us, her children, to get an education was her first priority.
In order to stay on top of all the household chores and school homework, I made a deal with my mom. That we’d go to school three days a week, and stay to work at home on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. On the days we had to go to school, we would get up at five in the morning, and work in the field before leaving for school. And then after school, we would go to work in the field some more and attend to our farm animals.
That was my daily life, everyday of each week, except on Sundays when we had to go to church and rest up. In my whole neighborhood, I was one of the very few kids who went and stayed in school. Most of them stayed at home, and probably never even passed standard 5, let alone finish school.
In primary (elementary) school, I was smart, but not the smartest kid. Luckily, there was this girl in my first grade class, standard one. Her name was Katalina Asino, and she was so beautiful. She was so beautiful that she took my breath away each time I looked at her. I have to say now that I had fallen in love with her the very first time I laid my eyes on her on the first day of class. However, Katalina didn’t come from my neighborhood but from the opposite side of our school. I was from the east side and she was from the west side of the school. So, the only time I could get to see her was if I had gone to school.
Not only that Katalina was the most beautiful girl in the whole school, she was also the smartest kid in class. I immediately befriended her, the very first day of school, the very same day I met her in class. However, if I had to be her friend, or maybe I could now say, her boyfriend then, then I’d have to be smart like her as well. So I had to push myself harder, study harder, just so I could keep up with her in class, and still be able to play together outside of the class, during the school recess.
At home, when I was not at school, I missed her a lot, and so I had to talk to my mom about me going to school every school day, instead of just a few days a week. Basically so I could see Katalina. Of course I didn’t tell my mom why I really wanted to go to school every day, but my mom perfectly understood the need to be at school every day regardless of the never ending house chores. So, she let me go to school five days a week, but so as long as we would work on our farm before and after class.
At school, I was able to see Katalina every school day, but I was also able to keep up with her academically. That was the whole thing about being her friend. It wouldn’t have looked good to be her friend and not be smart. Because in quizzes and tests, so as in the exams, Katalina was always the first student and I was second in class. There has been times that I was also either the first and she was second. It was beautiful. I was able to do my chores at home and be the second best student at school.
Times went on like that for years until we got in standard four (grade six). We had also gotten a bit older, and Katalina started looking and talking to other boys, other than just me. And when she did, her school work started to slack too, to the point that she barely passed standard four. In standard five, she was slacking far behind. We weren’t even talking as best friends by then, as she was seeing and dating another guy, Gottlieb, who was one of my best friends. I was devastated when Katalina and I were no longer friends. I couldn’t sleep at times at home, nor could I do anything else, because my mind and thoughts were about Katalina. I wrote her several love letters and most times, she would throw them away, letting the whole school read them. That had hurt me so much that I felt like quitting school. But I never did, because I am not and have never given up on anything that I’ve wanted in my life, and at that time school became my only priority.
Gottlieb knew that Katalina was my girl, and he would tell me about all the fun things they’d be doing, him and Katalina, just to shove it in my face and then laugh at me, which to him was just a big joke, but to me, even if I didn’t show it, deep down inside of me, I was horrified. However, instead of looking down on myself, I lifted my head up high and I studied hard, more than ever. Standard five (grade seven) was and may still be one of the hardest classes in Namibia and South Africa. Most students in Namibia back then never even passed it. Also, most of my classmates in standard five were repeaters, those who were taking it over. Some students were repeating it for their 3rd or 4th times.
While Katalina was struggling with the rest of the majority of the class, I was thriving. I made up my mind that I would not flunk the class and especially that Katalina was not talking to me, I had to show her that I was the best man for her, that I was smart, and not only that, I played soccer, was on school soccer team, and cross country. In my mind, that’s all I had gotten used to, getting A’s and B’s in any class at that time. Even though Katalina and I were no longer best friends, I couldn’t let myself get any grades less than A’s and B’s.
At the end of the year, after the final exams, I was only one of the 3 students who passed standard 5, out of more than 40 students in our class. Two of those students were repeaters. Katalina and Gottlieb both flunk the class, they stayed behind, and I moved on to a secondary (high) school at Iipumbu Secondary School, then to Jacob Marengo Tutorial College.
I believe that certain things happen for very good reasons, and that Katalina was my angel, purposely sent by God to help me with my early years of school, she was the main reason for me to go to school and study hard in order for me to pass all my primary classes. If it was not for her, I don’t think that I would have been able to pass my classes with A’s, let alone go to and stay in school. I’d have ended up just like some or maybe, most of the students in Namibia who never even finished standard five. So, if I could go back in time at my primary school days with Katalina, my true guided angel, then I would try to encourage and make her realize how silly it was to give up on something so important, education, instead of just focusing on some other things, especially boys, some who may not have had her best interest.
At home, there were never days that we went to bed hungry. My mom and I worked very hard to keep our house afloat, and it was one of the best fields produced in the area. We produced lots of food products, from corn, watermelons, black-eye peas, peanuts, rye and more. At the same time, my older sister Jenny, whom I’m forever indebted to, was working for the Retail Magnate, Mr. Aupa Indongo at Continental #1, so she was able to financially support the whole family and my school fees. Thus we were very well off compare to other families, and, in addition, we were never hungry and were never in need of anything. I was able to comfortably help my mom and work at home, in our farm, while maintaining good grades at school. This was and still is an achievement I will always alone cherish. And it didn’t go unnoticed, because when I left for the secondary school, I was told that most parents in the area were pushing their children to go to school so they could one day be like me.
Excelling in school, while at the same time helping my mom at home, just made me feel very proud of myself. Thanks to my mom who never stopped me from going to school, even when most other parents wouldn’t let their kids go to school every day or even some days in the week as I did.
A few years ago, I tried to find out what had happened with my God given angel, Katalina and to my great sadness; I was informed that she might have died of AIDS. And, that just sadness me more, because I never even kissed her, and mostly, I never had a chance to say thank you to her for helping me realize my academic potential early in primary school and for helping me go to school every day and passed all my classes with high grades.
Angels come in many different ways, shapes, and forms. She or he might be the guy next door, or perhaps someone who tried to talk to you in the hallway or street the other day, or may be the person who was standing on the corner begging for some change, but you’ve ignored him, or perhaps, your best friend who tried to warn you about a mistake that you were about to make.
Angels come in many different ways, forms, and shapes. Try to explore and discover yours, and try to listen to him or her. You may just make the right decision as I did, by going to school and finish my primary school education, and eventually college – which is the best thing that I’ve ever done in my life. Now, I’m going to pursue my MBA at INSEAD and PhD in Economics at Harvard University, with focus on Economic Development, Macro and Political Economics.