Thursday, June 21, 2007

1971 Apartheid Durban, Dokkies Roundup

1971. Mark Esslemont playing The Little Prince in 'The Stolen Prince'. (Burge)

I cancelled my extra-maths classes and bunked Dokkies lectures to swot for varsity exams. Meneer JV Smit phoned: "Meneer Ezzlemont, why'rrre youz nottat kollege?"

"I'm swotting for varsity exams."

"Youz muz' rreturrn ta kollege an' atten' alla lekshiz!" Broeder Bul betrayal? On our last lecture day, Meneer JV Smit swooped into our class, to disingenuously present each of his last Engelse studente with a big English-Afrikaans dictionary. Pity Zulu wasn't taught at Dokkies, as Natal's population was mostly Zulu. Portuguese and German, spoken in Mozambique and South West Africa, would also have been useful. Rosie's Hindustani would've been very useful.

Our psychology lecturers had sometimes quoted from Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa. I failed to relate my coming of age amongst Zulus, Indians and Afrikaners with Pacific Samoans. Although communism was the "threat" of my generation, Dokkies psycho-lecturers espoused Pavlov, amongst other learning theorists, so Afrikaner studente were classically-conditioned to salivate over signals of volk, taal, kerk, kultuur, rugby, conscription, paternalism: the rewards being privilege and superiority of the volk over outcasts.

I passed varsity exams well. As I had one week's swotting time for Dokkies work, I stayed at Donna's pozzie, where we swotted biology. Lert tablets were useless, so I bought dexidrine tablets from my Broadway chemist to keep me awake. Donna tried a few, and had a fit at supper. Her step-mom shat me out.

My Dokkies diploma was my donkey wagon dompas. I qualified as a biology fundi, aged 20 years 3 months. We applied to 'Maritzburg Head Office for white teaching posts, expecting to have our white school choices ignored. We expected to be sent to Babanango, Zululand, or elsewhere. Most new teachers were posted away from Durban. I was posted to white Virginia Primary, Durban North. Principal Mr. Young had coached me extra-maths before I matriculated. He needed sports-balls on his staff, as he had too many sports-slack lady teachers. I'd live at home and continue part-time varsity. During the next two decades, I'd teach in six white state schools in Natal and the Cape, none of which would expect me to attend job interviews.

After our graduation ceremony, students gathered around meneer Olivier's desk, jostling to receive exam-results certificates. I farted like a honey badger, then wandered off, returning my locker key to Broeder Bul, who became NED biology inspector. Later, meneer Olivier cooed, "Meneer Ezzlemon,' youz teachirrz muz' get dizziplin' hey?" Meneer Olivier's son became 'Maritzburg College principal, then NED English inspector. I was the last English student to leave Afrikaner Dokkies.

At Dokkies and in the army, I'd met good and bad English and Afrikaners. I'd broken away from Durban North and the "Durban North smell." I'd survived conscription. I'd learnt about travel, sciences and arts, but was skeptical about Afrikaner domination. My deceased father and maternal-grandfather were Poms. I'd visited England. Although I spoke English, I wasn't English. I wasn't an Afrikaner, although mom's Hendrikz blood flowed in my veins. Dokkies studente and troopies had 1920s Broederbond brainwashing, like volk, taal, kultuur kerk. (RW Johnson, South Africa, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2004). I found some Afrikaners easily led, selfish, brutal, hypocritical, anti-English, belittling.

Apartheid separations had succeeded with me. Only contacts I'd had with outcasts were on a master-servant basis. I knew no educated blacks, coloureds, Indians. I had no non-white friends. I was schooled in English-medium white schools, and had led white students. I'd graduated as a white biology teacher, with zoology distinction, from a white, dual-medium teachers' training college. I spoke English, satisfactory Afrikaans and a bit of Zulu. Donna was so impressed with our slack lecturers, she wanted to be a lecturer.

I was repelled by Dokkies's Afrikaner kultuur, including conscription, tyrannical Afrikaans, and apartheid affirmative-action for minority whites. Exclusive pseudo-intellectual Afrikaners I knew at Dokkies, differed from my loving, inclusive Hendrikz tannies at Somerset East. For twelve years, at Durban schools and Dokkies, I'd had compulsory Afrikaner brainwashing. Enough was enough! Compulsory English and compulsory Afrikaans were the two subjects I'd done most so far. I'd travel further with English. At varsity I had choice.

An expat Rhodie had dropped out of Natal varsity, battled to learn Afrikaans, but acted in Hugh Thompson's plays and completed his Dokkies diploma with me. He avoided both Rhodesian and SA conscription, and later became a white school principal.

I'd ridden the donkey wagon for three years at Dokkies, and would ride it for another ten years in Durban white schools. Dokkies had failed me by not training me as a sports coach. Not all students did PT training. Halfwit lecturers, far from ,"the classroom situation," didn't tell us that new teachers would have to carry experienced, slack teachers, by doing extra ECA, which would waste our evenings, weekends and holidays. That vital "volunteer" aspect of teaching was never explained at Dokkies. Neither did lecturers inform us that conscript teachers would have to coach cadets.

I didn't believe in Verwoerd's crappy Bantu Education turning out rubbish blacks, which was also never discussed at Dokkies. I didn't believe in Calvinist, Christian-National-Education (splintered white education) although I'd teach in white apartheid schools, turning out militarized, racist whites. I didn't believe in minority Afrikaner domination, forcing me to belong to the Natal, white, English tribe, Durban North clan, teaching faction, separated from outcasts. My conscience options were stirring; family destruction; jail; exile; swimming with the rip, rather than against it. I did the first and the last.

Another 19 years of brutal apartheid would pass, before non-whites would be educated in state, white schools, and the five separate English, Afrikaner, Indian, coloured and black education systems would be abolished. I was a Natalian - a white man, despised by Afrikaners for being Natal Engels en Rooinek, and loathed by outcasts for being supremely white during apartheid, with all its privileges. I jogged the green, middel-mannetjie track, between the stony tracks of minority white nationalism / fascism, and majority black nationalism / tribalism. My ocean - Indian; my river - Umgeni; my hill - Berea, where my ancestors rested; my totem: "Haha-ha-ha-haaa..."

Post apartheid, Dokkies became dual-medium again for English and Afrikaners.


Mark JS Esslemont said...

I replied to the following expat's email with Dokkies info:

"I am a South African currently teaching in Taiwan. I was doing a search on Dokkies when I stumbled upon your picture which led me to your blog. I have two enquiries: How did it go applying for a teacher's licence in New Zealand ( as Dokkies closed in 2000) and did you need your original diploma or was a notarized copy acceptable?"

Bismarck in Tainan said...

This post spoke to me. I've been living and working in Taiwan for the last six and a half years and the reason I left was basically the feeling you described in this paragraph:

"I was a Natalian - a white man, despised by Afrikaners for being Natal Engels en Rooinek, and loathed by outcasts for being supremely white during apartheid, with all its privileges."

I was also a Durban boy (1975-1988) until my family moved to Potchefstroom where I went to Boys High and Pukke. I so understand that feeling of not belonging, of not being one or the other. Eventually I just couldn't stand it anymore and left.

I'm enjoying the blog so far. It's nice to read the experiences of the generation before me, especially someone with a similar background.


Mark JS Esslemont said...

Glad you're enjoying my blog Bismarck. I taught Taiwanese boys at Selborne College, East London, SA, and have met Taiwanese in NZ - nice people. Us Natalians are spread all over the planet. Hamba kahle.