Excited, sleepy and a bit teary eyed were the mixed reactions of pupils who entered the gates of St Mary’s Primary School in Gardens, Cape Town, for the first day of school on Wednesday morning.
For little Isagontle Booi, her first day of Grade R was extra special because she celebrated her sixth birthday and was given a tablet as a present.
The excitement of it all, however, was perhaps a bit too much for one day. “She only woke up in the car and I had to dress her in the car,” her mom Zine said.
Holding his girl in his arms, proud dad Tebogo said: “I have been waiting a very long time for this day.”
They were surprised when she told them for the first time in the school yard that she wanted to be a nurse when she was grown up.
Birthday girl Isagontle Booi, 6, stares through the school yard fencing (Jenna Etheridge, News24)
Pupils who followed their parents into the school were almost dwarfed by the big backpacks on their shoulders and the school supplies they had to carry, such as big boxes of paper and bulk packs of toilet paper.
A boy follows his mom to school (Jenna Etheridge, News24)
Before saying their final farewells, parents made sure to capture the moment on their phones and asked their children to pose in their new, slightly oversized blazers – a feat in the summer heat. Tabotha Cetiywe said her daughter Khayone, 6, had hardly slept because of the excitement of starting Grade 1. Iminathi Magadana, 6, told her mom Nothemba that she was excited to meet her teacher and wanted to be a teacher too one day.
Tabitha Cetyiwe and Nothemba Magadana take photos of their girls Khayone and Iminathi (Jenna Etheridge, News24)
Not everyone was impressed with the prospect of being separated from their parents. One girl bawled while queuing to enter her classroom. A boy clung onto the balustrade and had to be coaxed to let go by his patient mom. He cried and dragged his feet as he was led inside.
Others had been waiting for this moment for years. Nokuthula Gadeni told News24 that her boy Bukho had counted down the days to Grade R so he could join his brother Fikelela, who is in Grade 6. “He likes to pray. He’s been practicing every night [for school],” she chuckled, adding that she was clearly raising future reverends. “He says: ‘God, bless mommy, daddy and my brother Fikelela. Oh and don’t forget me, God. Also, daddy must buy me a phone.'”
Nokuthula and Bukho Gadeni (Jenna Etheridge, News24)
Fun and games awaited the Grade 1 pupils once they had placed their backpacks in lockers and were seated on the floor in front of their teacher. She asked them to share the highlight of their holiday. One girl got up and shared: “I went on a boat and saw sharks. Real sharks,” which prompted the whole class to gasp. The tears and fears were soon forgotten when they were given brand new crayons to draw their holiday antics.
Grade 1 class (Jenna Etheridge, News24)