Remembering the crestfallen girl child

Back in the village in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, slithers of sunlight tore the dark cloud apart, give a glimpse of hope to the two pupils as they fox-trotted to the distant school. They were in Form Two now.

The 8km route to school was arduous, snapping energy from the leg muscles through undulating slopes and stunted shrubbery dotted with huge acacia trees, which nature juxtaposed with rock promontories, sudden flat land stretches and at times uncharacteristic blind rises.

This morning, tree branches and leaves swayed and sang from the morning easterly winds, as if to urge the two pupils — a boy and girl — on, to run on to school. Sweaty and dusts caked on their Sandak shoes, Chipo and James soldiered on.

Each day, the two figures cut a duet to school and for those 8km to and from school, they became too close. They shared every moment of the journey. They shared food and indeed shared stories of school and home. The war was just over and everyone was going to school at the behest of the new thinking inspired by the euphoria of independence. The young, the old and the infamy, the former liberation fighters and all and sundry were encouraged to embrace the education for all mantra.

The two were among the youngest pupils in their class. Some of the students were former freedom fighters, who at times beat up teachers out of rage. There were at least three fathers in their class, big men who shaved before coming to school.

This day as they came back from school it was hot, and even the cicadas’ plea for mercy through melodious singing did not stop the blistering heat. The two pupils rested under a huge acacia tree, which gave out a soothing cool breeze that swept their minds off the school work and whatever the school results held for their future. Their blood got hot and that was it.

Day after day it became routine. The huge tree shed became their love nest. Stupidity, village elders say, is like a silent fart, it soon announces itself through smell. It is hard to hide. Indeed the love nest activity soon announced itself through pregnancy.

Chipo tried to hide it but soon her tummy could not fit in the school uniform without people noticing. Firstly, she cut open the side seam of the uniform and extended the size, but that too had its time limit. Then she adopted wearing a jersey 24/7. Hot or cold she adapted. But, that too had its time limit.

The two discussed their plight but soon James tried to convince her to abort. That presented serious problems. She had no idea how to do it and let alone who could do it without it being noticed. That plan was abandoned. But the days never stopped moving as the sun rose and set, imperceptibly. The pregnancy grew.

One night, Chipo’s mother flew her bedroom door open and found her sleeping. She demanded that she undresses for inspection. Unsuspecting that sudden eagle swoop and unprepared to explain, she was dazzled and she shivered with fear. She burst into tears and told her mother the truth. Trouble started henceforth.

The first reaction was withdrawing her from school and a buffet of punishment, including forcing her to elope. But before she eloped James had left the village and moved to Harare at the arrangement of his brother and parents.

Chipo’s schooling ended with the pregnancy. She gave birth to a baby boy and started nursing the child, while James never set foot in the village. James continued with schooling up to university. Chipo was condemned to the village, where a few years later she hooked up with another man and got impregnated again.

Over the years James rose to become a senior executive of a huge conglomerate and became affluent. He became the talk of the village when he married an African-American. The wedding was splendiferous,with huge and latest cars in show. Food and drink were plenty. James took his child from Chipo’s family, paying the three cattle charged, one for conjugal damages and two as a token of appreciation for the upkeep of the child. Chipo remained forever heartbroken.

James could not allow Chipo near him. Not even just to exchange greetings. Chipo cut a felon figure. It never occurred to James that she was a victim of being a girl child. About three weeks after the wedding Chipo committed suicide. James did not attend the funeral, neither did he allow his son to attend it, saying it would affect him forever.

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