Friday, July 13, 2007

1980 Apartheid Durban, Merits, Funeral, Cantabile and Teaching Roundup

1980. Esslemonts, Umgeni Bird Sanctuary, Durban North.

NED introduced merit- assessments, but merit was a joke, as apartheid stopped fair competition between whites and non-whites, so my spoilt whitey generation would never know who were the best. State white teachers weren't employed on merit, as they hadn't competed with other national groups, but Inspector Mandrill said, "Directed and undirected questions are important for your merit-assessments and your NED files chaps..." Teachers re-learnt questioning technique. I didn't bother.

"If all Hillcrest teachers are good enough for merit-increments?" asked Skelm, "Will we all get pay increases?"

"No way chaps," said Inspector Mandrill. "That's not budgeted."

"So unfairly, not all deserving teachers will get salary merit -increments?"

"Nooit chaps!" Skelm and family soon emigrated to Australia.

Inspector Mandrill assessed us. Blikskottel got a merit. I didn't. "If you ask for a reassessment," Mr Hawkins said, "It'll reflect badly on me."

Inspector Mandrill reassessed me saying, "You're a lazy chap!" He didn't say senior-assistant teachers like me became teachers with first-merit salary-increments. It was my first and last merit -increment. During the rest of my teaching career, merit-assessments destroyed collegial teaching, as white teachers toadied principals and inspectors for merit-increments, which would never be fairly distributed, so I never applied for more merit -increments. Management never asked why I didn't apply - so much for fairness. Post apartheid, the ANC government would mock white merit appointments, by affirmative-action for blacks.

Mr. Hawkins asked me to organize a pupil dance-troupe to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Republic, for the following year - 1981. "Fuck that!" I thought.

Unrest: Slovo's Umkhonto We Sizwe ANC terrorists, directed from Maputo (LM), blew up SASOL Oil Refineries, south of Jo'burg. (Joe Slovo, Slovo, Ocean Press, Melbourne, 1997).

Mom and I visited Jimmy's sweltering Chatsworth house, where agitated Rosie lay on her death-bed. Jimmy flicked off Rosie's white sheet. Naked Rosie lay slim and wrinkled: her silvery hair, coconut oiled in a long plait; her ruby-and-gold nose-stud; her heavy, gold -and-ruby earrings; her yellow cord of gold jewellery on her sagging bosom; her bony hips; her silver-toe- rings. " I don' wanna die one time Mak..." cried Rosie.

After Rosie died, Indian women laid Rosie's corpse on a table and washed her. Women dressed Rosie in her best sari. They stuffed herbs in her mouth and nose, then lay Rosie on an outside table in the sun, for family and friends to mourn.

A hearse drove Rosie, in a red shroud, to Chatsworth cemetery. Mom and Indian women stayed at the cemetery gate, while Shorty, drunken Maharaj, Jimmy and other men bore Rosie to her grave. We were the only whites at Rosie's funeral. A Hindu priest said holy words, while men using ropes lowered Rosie into her grave. Fraser and I bowed our heads, placing our hands, palms together, pointing to Rosie, honouring her the Indian way. We shovelled earth on Rosie. Jimmy wept. Mom paid some funeral costs.

For years, Rosie had reminisced about her LM laundry-work, and King George's 1935 Silver Jubilee. Rosie remembered the Boer War and World Wars. By example, Rosie had taught me curry-munching, Hinduism, humility, dignity, tolerance, loyalty, commitment, equality, a sense of humour in outcast adversity, and barefoot trekking.

Cantabile was one of Durban's top adult choirs, which had existed for years with loyal sops and altos, who'd started with Con as school-girl singers, Like Leah. Tenors were sometimes criticized by sarcastic -sopranos and bullying-basses, during practices at St. Cyprians, Umbilo. Con became sick, so some choristers wanted Cantabile closure. One practice, Con agitatedly asked, "Mark, what do you think?"

"Con, we should close." (Soprano chirpings). "I've sung with you for seven years, and trekked overseas with you. I sang juvenile lead in The Cooper operetta. We've toured school programmes, and sung in Durban City Hall, as well as churches and hospitals. We've sung on Springbok Radio and SATV. Over the last two years, we've only sung at hospitals and weddings. Leah and I trek from Pinetown for practices. There's no future planning..." Cantabile disbanded, until Con recovered.

During the seventies, Leah and I'd encountered white immigrant teachers, mainly Poms and Rhodies, in Durbs schools. We knew white South Africans, like Charlie and Skelm, who'd emigrated. Some left for good. Others were unsuccessful migrants, and returned to Durbs. As dad was British, I procured a British passport from Durban British Consulate. It was illegal to have dual-nationality in apartheid SA, but I reckoned, "Stuff that!" My British passport would enable Leah and me to live and work in UK.

Leah and I resigned from white teaching. On my last Hillcrest day, Donna arrived, replacing me. As I hadn't seen her since my wedding, I asked, "How's your family?"

"You talk too much." Donna and husband soon emigrated to Canada.

Blikskottel began cadets at Hillcrest, Mr. Hawkins early-retired, becoming an Anglican priest, and my science HOD, a boozer, later did time in Argentinian gaols for drug trafficking.

My Durban had involved much trekking, conscription, marriage, 26 active years in schools, teacher training colleges and Natal University, during apartheid.


Mark JS Esslemont said...

The adult son of a science teacher man I'd taught with at Hillcrest HS emailed me, saying his father lived in Guatamala City, and two lady teachers had stayed teaching at HHS for over 25 years, and Herr Flocker had died of a heart attack several years ago.

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Email from Donna's Canadian family said that Donna was divorced and living in Dorset, UK.

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Email from Donna said she had a new man in her life.

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Malcolm Cairns, vice Principal I worked with at HHS, head of science, later did time in Argentinian gaols for drug trafficking. Malcolm Cairns wrote a book on his teacher - trafficker life.