Friday, July 6, 2007

1977 Apartheid Durban, Northlands Boys High School Biology Teacher

1977. Mark Esslemont's BA Hons. Graduation Ceremony, Natal University, Durban. (Akkersdyk)

My donkey wagon ride at Northlands Boys High would be bumpy, as I made mistakes. I wore my black-leather coat and brogues - annoying Mr. Wilkinson. I taught biology to weak form fours (year 10) and general-science to mixed-ability and practical classes. "Mixed-ability" and "practical" meant "non-achievers," another euphemism, who would've succeeded at a technical high. Many white adolescents I taught in high schools had bloated opinions of their academic abilities. White pupils were allowed to fail one year in primary schools. Thereafter, they were "passed," if they failed another standard. White, non-academic, "low-class," high school pupils were similarly "passed."

White pupils, aged sixteen, could leave school to seek white, affirmative-action work. Most stayed, trying to write Higher Grade, giving them university entry. Many white pupils I taught, should've done subjects on easier Standard Grade, instead of doing badly on HG. As SG and Practical classes were stigmatized, non-achievers disrupted HG classes. Domestic-science with book-keeping and typing for some white boykies would've been better choices than sciences and mathematics. But according to Verwoerd (echoing Nazi Himmler again) white boykies had to become mathematicians, scientists, other professionals. Kitchen-work was women's-work: kaffirs'-work.

Arrogant, mean Mr. Wilkinson didn't allocate me a laboratory, resulting in stressful teaching. I rushed from lab to lab, or class to class. Maths teachers were few, so science teachers taught maths in their labs, in addition to science classes. Thus labs were under -utilized for science. Without my own lab, science and biology practical teaching was onerous. Due to bad timetabling, I rarely taught consecutive lessons in the same venue. I had to beg keys from teachers to open their locked labs. I had to carry equipment and chemicals from class to class. Mr. Wilkinson stressed me out, trying to break me, as he was power-mad, and liked being "ruthless," as he put it.

My teaching comeback was frustrating. Fanuel, Zulu lab-assistant, interrupted my lessons asking, "Haastjuze me seh? What ken ah do fo' yew toodi seh? What ken ah do?" I explained, handing him a completed lab-request form. Fanuel's equipment-supply was unreliable, due to his poor English comprehension.

Staff morale was low and back-stabbing was rife. I had nowhere to mark books and prepare lessons, as the librarian refused staff library use while pupils worked there. Mr. Wilkinson never praised me and often criticized. Mr. Wilkinson interrupted one of my lessons, asking within boys' earshot, "Why're you sitting on your chair backrest?"

"Teaching my class."

"It's unprofessional sitting on a chair backrest you know!"

I stayed seated on my chair backrest. Boys sniggered. Mr. Wilkinson glared.

I coached cricket and rugby, and did makeup for Pompies's school play. Pompies, head of science, rugby and cadets, swished his swagger-cane, and drilled cadets singing, "LIK-JUK-LIK-JUK..." New staff, having completed conscription, played Judas Goats, so on Friday afternoons I drilled cadets. Staff supervised class platoons, backing-up cadet-sergeants drilling and yelling at boys. As conscript -teachers coached cadets, and slack, senior teachers didn't coach cadets, I vowed never to coach cadets again.

Unrest: 1977 Puppet Bophuthatswana "Independence": Nearly 2000 000 Tswana lost their SA citizenship due to separate development. (Martin Meredith, Nelson Mandela A Biography, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1997).

1977. NBHS Teaching Staff. (Leeney) "The insolence of office." >


Mark JS Esslemont said...

July 2007 email from a SA flags and heraldry expert:

"...Please note FOTW is a vexillological (flags) and not a heraldry (coats of arms) site - although obviously the two are linked."

Anonymous said...

If that Northlands Boys High staff photo was in 1978 I would have been in it! Wilkinson, Jordan , Hook, Hosken, Delport , Grahame,etc etc. Tony Jordan is now headmaster! I was actually a student teacher there in 1977 and taught Geography with George Hook in 1978 and 1979.
My graduation picture looks just the same at Natal U. Same chancellor.
Mike Hogan

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Hi Mike. Thanks for the confirming info. I remember all the teachers you mention. I only taught at NBHS in 1977. Thereafter I moved on to Yellowwood Park Primary & Hillcrest High School teaching.

One year was enough for me at NBHS, as it was going down the tubes then, with the ascent of nearby Beachwood Boys high.

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Moz Linder happily taught at NBHS till 1975. Pitiful.

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Responded to this email from John Dua (Form 6B2 - 1978): I happened across your blog about Northlands in the 70's and the memories, both good and some bad, were immediately stirred. I noticed you have moved to NZ, lucky you. I remember you teaching back in the day as well as being in the drama club, and yes I even remember the leather jacket. This is just a passing greeting, you probably have no idea who I am, but just to say that you did positively influence some of us youngsters back in the good old days, well done."