1983. Esslemonts' Mini outside Wild Fig Tree Close duplex, Montclair Road, Durban. >
Leah and I bought a duplex at Wild Fig Tree Close, Montclair Road. NED paid me a housing subsidy for the duplex. As Leah was married, and had broken NED service, she was no longer a "permanent" teacher, with "permanent" perks, like a housing subsidy. NED discriminated against white female teachers. As a solo parent, mom had struggled for years to become a "permanent" white teacher.
Leah did several Durban temporary teacher jobs: at white Stellawood Primary Hard-Of-Hearing class; then acted as Tomlinsons Pre -Primary principal. Leah began a pilot reception-class at white Montclair Junior Primary. As white junior-primary rolls had lessened over the years, there were empty classes in Natal white JP schools. As the JP headmistress was ignorant about pre-primary teaching, she was unwelcoming and patronizing, threatened by Leah's Durban and London pre-primary expertise. In her teaching career Leah was a leader, and did pioneering teaching in SA, and later in NZ.
Unrest: Pretoria, Church Street. SAAF Intelligence Office was car-bombed by the ANC, killing 21 blacks and whites. (Nelson Mandela, Long Walk To Freedom, Abacus, Little, Brown & Co., London, 1996).
After six months, Leah left reception-classes - as NED had promoted an Afrikaner Mevrou over Leah, who'd done the hard work of inaugurating reception-classes. (By 2001, Durban multi-racial reception-classes were common). Leah then taught at white John Ross Pre-primary on the Esplanade. The highrise school did bomb-drills, and white infants knew what to do in bomb -scares. Chicken-wire netting hung over the concrete play-area, to catch broken glass from smashed windows, if an ANC bomb exploded.
In 1983 I reached the dizzy heights of my teaching career. Mr. Maher allocated me a dirty, old lab, where I led general-science and taught Standard Grade (SG) matric biology. I fed general-science notes to pupils and staff, and inspired maths, PT and biology teachers in general-science teaching. One morning, I opened a sash-window, which disengaged, crashing onto concrete outside Meneer Basson's office. Startled Meneer Basson then blamed me for my dilapidated lab.
I team-taught with Blikskottel, when he became hysterical about general-science. Over sixty boys doing practical in one lab was stressful. I did most of the teaching, while Blikskottel learned, keeping order. Science teachers like Blikskottel, patronized biology and general-science teachers, as they preferred teaching maths and senior physics / chemistry. They disliked teaching general-science to frisky form two and three boys, and teaching junior biology - unknown parts to narrowly specialized science / maths teachers.
Dev, Indian lab assistant, hid in my lab office, took his shoes off, and slept in my wicker chair. I knew when Dev was hiding, as his feet stank, and stench slipped under my office door into my lab. Once, Meneer Basson found Dev asleep on a sickroom bed, reserved exclusively for sick white boys. A bollocking from Meneer Basson cured Dev.
Once, Dev left apparatus on a lab bench for Blikskottel, who sometimes taught in my lab during my free periods. Blikskottel relied on me for lesson plans and pupil notes. The lesson involved throwing sodium metal into a water-filled trough, and seeing exploding hydrogen and molten metal whizzing on the water.
Later, Blikskottel asked: "Wherre'sa sodium? Mah lesson was buggerrred."
Me: "A standard eight boy must've stolen the sodium when leaving my class!"
Mr. Maher's intercom announcement: "Teaching staff, please ensure no boy leaves your class until further notice!" Blikskottel, Dev and I searched the school. Dev found the sodium canister behind a toilet cistern. If the boy had flushed the sodium away, it would've exploded. The culprit was found and expelled.
Inspector Mandrill saw me in the staffroom and said, "I'm sorry it was your fault a chap was expelled."
"He stole sodium, set out with apparatus for Blikskottel," I said. "You expelled him, as he was a thief and a danger to himself and others."
"Nooit! You're a lazy chap! Your NED file needs updating!"
"Without promotion or HOD pay, I run general-science and supervise ten teachers. In my experience in three Durban high schools, science, biology and general-science are offered to pupils, yet there're never enough labs nor decent equipment. What're you doing about increasing labs in Durban schools?"
"We're discussing that at NED executive level."
1983. Leah Esslemont, Wild Fig Tree Close lounge, Montclair Road, Durban. >