Up on the rolling hills of Ixopo, quite hidden from the main road, somewhere in Natal sits the Catholic boarding school, Little Flower School. A long winding road takes you from the road below up the hill, past a hospital and a church, to the Boys Hostel and then a bit further up above the Primary School, just past the tennis courts, to the separate Girls Hostel. Still a bit further up is a swimming pool, and above that, a fair-sized field, used mostly for Sports days, hockey and on rare occasions, soccer (the boys soccer field proper being down a sharp hill below the Boys Hostel). Nuns and a Priest occupy the Church side of the grounds; on the other side are a row of houses occupied by teachers, creatively named, “Teachers row”, most of the teachers, if not all of them, are not from the town and therefore lodgings such as these are a necessity. It was here, on a cold, misty, overcast, depressing, overcast Sunday afternoon that I was deposited, to complete the rest of my High School education with my necessities in a suitcase, my other essentials in another smaller suitcase, and the obligatory Church blazer on a wire hanger.
For the next three years this would be my home, away from the familiar environment and comforting presence of childhood friends and family. I found myself totally alone in the world even though there were a few hundred boys just like me on the inside.
Truth be told, boarding school was exactly what I needed, I’d become increasingly lost in this world, totally unfocused, the environment at the boarding school was totally the opposite to the environment back home, it was extremely conducive for studying well, the facilities included a library and were top notch, the teachers second to none when it came to excellence, our young energy catered for by a number of activities. Between school and our sport activities, and Church service both Friday evenings and Sunday mornings, there was little or no time to get homesick; there were times on Saturday and Sunday afternoons when one’s mind could not be pried away from the warm comforts of home, it became easier and easier to fight those thoughts as time went on. A personal low was being left alone at the hostel the entire Easter Long weekend (my parents were not able to arrange return transport for me on time), personal highs being when I helped the teachers soccer team win a tournament in Pietermaritzburg, and when my sister surprised me by making it to my Confirmation (a Catholic thing).
I mention all these things because a question often comes up – is boarding school a good or bad idea? For me at the time, yes, it most certainly Was a good idea – in cases where both parents are seldom home, and in cases where more discipline is needed, yes, boarding school Can be the answer.
Most importantly, would I do it to my own kids? Send them out there and leave them to the mercy of total strangers, some of whom may or may not be bullies. Would I ever be prepared to see my kids Only 4 times a year? Hell NO!!!