Class Act by Namhla Tshisana
In Class Act by Namhla Tshisana we have the theme of acceptance, connection, appearance, insecurity, conflict, bullying and identity. Narrated in the first person by a young twelve year old girl the reader realises after reading the story that Tshisana may be exploring the theme of bullying. The narrator is having a difficult time in school due to her appearance with many of her fellow students calling her Sister Mary Clarence. Though the narrator’s mother considers the narrator’s school uniform to be practical. Due to the fact that the narrator is still growing. The narrator herself feels pressurized by those who taunt her. Something that is noticeable by the fact that the narrator hates school. It is an environment in whereby she feels alienated by her peers and is unable to make a connection with any of her classmates. Who simply judge the narrator by her appearance in her school uniform. There is also a sense that Mr Sauls feels defeated just as the narrator feels defeated. This could be important as one would expect a teacher to have responsibility towards a student. To educate them. Yet Mr Sauls seems to be more concerned with the length of the narrator’s tunic and scolding the narrator. Something which would play on the theme of appearance again.
There is also a sense that not only does the narrator dislike school but she make also be afraid to attend classes due to the fact that she is taunted so often by her classmates. The narrator finds the adjustment to high school difficult enough without having to feel as isolated as she does. It is also interesting that the narrator tries to adjust in order to feel accepted by her classmates. Something that is clearer to the reader by the fact that the narrator has her tunic shortened by her sister. However the narrator’s classmates still manage to make fun of the narrator due to the colour of her underwear. Something which should be trivial to most people but to the narrator it is enough for her to realise that she may not fit in with her classmates. It is also interesting that the narrator never retaliates nor does she attack her classmates for their perceived faults. Which may leave some readers to suggest that that in reality the narrator is insecure within herself. She is at a tender age in life in whereby not being accepted by her peers is something that can have an extremely negative effect on the narrator. At no stage does the narrator attempt to defend herself.
It is also possible that the narrator does not have the ability to think ahead and realise that her high school life is only transient. Though that is not to take away from the fact that the narrator has such negative feelings. Feelings which at the narrator’s age can be crippling. There is also a sense that the only person that the narrator is able to connect with is her sister Ayanda. It is Ayanda who shortens the tunic for the narrator and who appears to have more liberal views than her mother when it comes to the length of the tunic. This could be important as the narrator has somebody that she can look up to. However Ayanda cannot always be there for the narrator. Which may be the point that Tshisana is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that the narrator has to face the loneliness she feels on her own. Though conflicted the narrator has to face up to the realities of her situation and try to persevere. Something that the reader realises will be difficult for a young twelve year old girl.
It is also interesting that he narrator does not discuss the difficulties she is encountering with either her mother, aunt or Ayanda. She appears to keep everything bottled up inside. Something which will only leave the narrator feeling more confused over the course of time should the taunts continue. The narrator also appears to be allowing how others in school are treating her to affect her identity. With the narrator suggesting that she should accept that she is Sister Mary Clarence. Tshisana’s referencing of a fictional character in a movie is interesting as it highlights to the reader how influential popular culture can be on a young person. Rather than formulating or developing her own identity. The narrator feels as though her life would be easier should she be Sister Mary Clarence. This may be important as it highlights to the reader just how difficult things are for the narrator in school. She feels as though she is being put under the microscope by her classmates. Yet she has done nothing wrong. Unfortunately the narrator has been singled out by her classmates due to her appearance and even when she changes her appearance her classmates still find fault with the narrator. Something that will compound the isolation that the narrator feels.