Dominance battle …High school boys ‘beef’ turns Bulawayo CBD into warzone

The Chronicle

Raymond Jaravaza, Showbiz Correspondent

IN A split second, a usually uneventful street corner adjacent to the Chronicle building is suddenly turned into a war zone by a handful of boys from Milton and Gifford high schools.

The boys mercilessly pound at each other with fists and booted feet — even schools bags are used as weapons or shields, depending on who is attacking and retreating. The fight last Friday afternoon, hardly lasted two minutes before two passersby break it up.

As if nothing happened, the two groups of boys casually walk in separate directions, but it’s clear the war is not over.

The “triumphant” group might have temporarily won the battle, but certainly not the war. 

Cases of teenagers in school uniform fighting in the city centre, particularly in the Bulawayo City Hall parking lot and surrounding areas, are becoming a cause for concern for parents and guardians alike.

To better understand the rivalry between the high schools, it’s important to take a snippet into their histories, whose misconception at times culminates into fist fights for the trigger happy teenage boys.

Milton Old Boys Association chairman Theo Weale, a student from 1993 to 1998, said rivalry between the two schools has always existed from time immemorial but is never expected to escalate into physical confrontations, which are now the norm. Weale who played for the Milton High rugby first team during his school days is a former chairman of the Matabeleland Rugby Football Board (MRFB.

“The rivalry between Milton and Gifford High Schools is healthy competition for dominance by two of Bulawayo’s oldest all boys schools. The rivalry has always been settled on the rugby pitch, basketball courts and soccer fields. 

“On the academic side, the rivalry is settled in debate sessions as well as which school posts the highest pass rates in public examinations, but it was never meant to encourage the boys to engage in fists fights,” said a concerned Weale.

He said because boys in high schools, by nature, have high testosterone levels, incidents of confrontations between Milton and Gifford High School students during his school days were common although public fights were a serious punishable offence back at school.

“We were at high school at a time when gangs from different parts of the city were causing havoc and influencing how schoolboys carried themselves outside school premises, but it was always important to stick to the Milton High School values, which we lived by each and every day.

“We were taught to be the bigger men in the picture whenever confronted with situations that would ordinarily push one into fighting or physical retaliation. Boys by nature are very competitive and will always brag that their school is the best, but that is not a reason for the current students at both schools to be a nuisance in the city centre,” he said.

Milton School was established in July 1910 and was named after Sir William Milton to become the first government, all boys’ school to be established in Bulawayo, distinguishing itself in academic and sporting excellence.

Seventeen years later, Gifford High was established as the Bulawayo Technical School led by Philip Henry Gifford. Over the years, it has taken its place as one of the most reputable educational institutions.

At Milton High, the boys are expected to be strong against all adversities by following the motto “Quit ye like men”, Greek for “Take a stand like men”. Failure at Gifford is not an option as the boys are expected to live by the motto “Hinc Orior” meaning “From here I arise”, the moment they walk through the school gate.

A former Gifford High student Ayanda Bhebhe said his time at the all boys’ school from 2003 to 2008 was characterised by a few brushes with his “adversaries” from Milton High.

“It was all about marking territory, which is why taking control of the Bulawayo City Hall parking lot, Haddon and Sly and the Bulawayo Centre is at the centre of the fights.

“Teenagers take such things seriously, which is difficult for adults to understand, but that is the way it is and it will take cooperation among the parents and both schools to bring the fights to an end,” said Bhebhe.

He added that the fights are usually among the younger boys in Form Three and Four and tend to fizzle as the boys grow older and start their A-Level.

Bhebhe, however, applauded the work done by the old boys associations of both schools in giving motivational talks to the youngsters during school events.

“The old boys associations’ members are usually invited by the schools to speak to the boys, motivate them, and explain to the youngsters how living up to their schools values can shape their adult lives for the better,” explained Bhebhe.

He said both schools continue to churn out respected professionals and distinguished citizens who are leaders in various fields. From sports, the entertainment industry, politics and academia, “Old Boys” from Milton and Gifford High Schools continue to rule the roost, testimony of the influence that the institutions have in the Matabeleland region and country as a whole. — @RaymondJaravaza.