Its assembly time again
and my heart is filled with trepidation
my heart thumps against my chest
my palms are sweaty
so I wipe them across my torn vest.
Tears wet my eyes
as the national anthem begins
not because I love my country so dearly –
a nation that refuses to pay its state workers
for which my mom & dad are part of
the former a teacher
the latter a civil servant
but because of what comes next.
In a deep booming baritone voice
the principal begins to call out the names
of pupils whose parents haven’t paid the school fees
my head slumps on my shoulders
pressed down by the weight of shame.
I hear my name called out
and wait in shameful silence
till all the names are read
and without looking up
or saying good-bye to my friends.
I begin my walk of shame
with eyes downcast
hot tears in my eyes
dragging my dusty sandals along
my hands trembling as I clutch my tattered bag.
I silently take the same foot-path
I took to school this morning
that was once filled with chatter
but is now enveloped by the silent shame I carry within.