Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Apartheid East London, Selborne College Teaching, 1989-1990 Hassles

Selborne College conditions stank, and my QwaQwa carbuncles oozed. I assisted protege Malherbe, androgynous English teacher, in his dilettante direction of Twelfth Night. I directed one-act house-plays, then vowed not to direct house-plays again, as Eurocentric or American plays were irrelevant to culturally boycotted SA. Other teachers weren't interested in directing house-plays.

My deafness was catastrophic, as analogue hearing-aids were inadequate with background noise obscuring my "hearing." Socializing was painful, so I became a loner.

Mr. Gordon ordered staff to supply their SADF details to Major Bossie. Young cadet-masters gave their details, as their military service improved their teaching salaries. I wrote to Springbok Command asking them to keep my Commando records, as I planned returning to Kleinzee. I never heard from SADF again. At a staff -meeting Cronje said, "I did SAP border-duty during the Rhodesian Bush War. I don't want Selborne giving my conscription details to the army, causing me to be called up again!" Cronje squashed that privacy abuse. Bossie, like Kleinzee's Alwyn and Pampoen, used similar intelligence gathering. Did other employers do likewise?

Unrest: De Klerk became president, succeeding ailing Botha. (Patti Waldmeier, Anatomy of a Miracle, The End of Apartheid and the Birth of a New South Africa, W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., New York, 1997). In 1978, the year I'd married, Die Groot Krokodil Botha had become president, sometimes licking his lips and wagging his finger at TV viewers.

September 1989 General Election: De Klerk's Nats were re-elected saying, "We are reforming." (Fred Bridgeland, Katiza's Journey, Beneath the Surface of South Africa's Shame, Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1997). It was the last white election in SA. De Klerk's reforms led to the end of apartheid, like Gorbachev's reforms led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Oct. De Klerk said Sisulu and other ANC bods would be released from gaol. (Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, Abacus, Little, Brown and Co., London, 1996).

Pretoria: Wit Wolf Strydom shot 7 blacks. He was gaoled and later granted amnesty, together with other "political" inmates.

I sent Mr.Gordon a memo stating it was impossible to teach science pracs properly in a classroom. Never mind the health hazards. I suggested if I wasn't allocated a lab, I should be moved to a classroom near the lab block. (So enemies could keep close ne?) Piderit bawled, and Midlane bit his nails, while smoking in a biology meeting and muttering, "Back-stabbing staff..."

In 1990, Mr. Gordon allocated Midlane and Allam the biology labs, and I got a mouldy classroom from maths master Norman, Verwoerdian throwback, who forced all boys to do maths to senior levels - giving maths teachers jobs. My classroom, nearest the labs and Mr. Gordon's and Blumrick's offices, had rotten wall cupboards. Damp from an under-floor pipe had caused rot. Shelves had thick, black fungal layers: a health hazard. I tore out one musty cupboard and threw it away, leaving a black hole in decayed floorboards. I kept the useless cupboard closed, and bought my own metal cupboard. After I submitted my cost claim to Blumrick, Mr. Gordon said, "You've dethtroyed government property!"

"Norman mouldered this class..." I said. Three years later, after my many requests for a lab and teacher equality, Mr. Gordon replaced my cupboard just before moving me to another dirty class. I realized Mr. Gordon was a corrupt nerd who corrupted his proteges in a dirty school.

Selborne was the only school I taught at where boys' ratting on teachers was encouraged by management. Sending a boy to management for punishment was useless. The boy was back-patted, and after a cozy chat with Blumrick or Mr. Gordon he returned grinning to my class. Written disciplinary policy recommended a teacher send disruptive boys to management for soft treatment. Unwritten policy involved a teacher caning a bad boy in an empty office, which I did. The teacher had to record date and reason(s) for punishment in a book.

Mr. Gordon shimmied, only when a bad boy was caught cheating in a test or exam - routine discipline. Mr. Gordon rarely expelled bad boys, and rarely sorted out bad boys on the day an infraction occurred. (Example: When a bad boy sneaked out of the hostel, got pissed with another bad boy, then later woke up hungover in Mr. Gordon's office, Mr. Gordon joked about it in the staffroom, but didn't expel the bad boys). Mr Gordon procrastinated, and during the last period on Fridays, he disrupted Selborne by calling out "name lithtth" over his intercom. Bad boys then gathered outside his office for "punishment." The noise was appalling, so on Friday afternoons I gave my classes written work.

Management failed to keep Selborne clean; failed to keep order; failed to provide a safe teaching and learning environment for teachers and boys; (Examples: fume-cupboards didn't work in labs, and safety equipment was old or non-existent); failed to provide an equitable learning environment for all pupils to succeed. I and other biology and general-science teachers were compromised year after year, as lab allocation was inequitable, and management kept the number of labs inadequate for pupil numbers.

Unrest: Gotterdammerung 02/02/1990. President De Klerk unbanned the ANC, PAC and SACP. (Ibid Bridgeland). He said the rest of apartheid laws would be repealed. Mandela was released from prison. (Ibid Bridgeland). Other ANC leaders had already been released. Blood winds blew through townships. Nahoon River fish eagles called, "Kaaa! Ka-ka-ka-ka-kaaaa!..." And on the freeway bridge near Abbotsford, someone painted black graffito: "Mandela is a kaffir."

Note: Norman is a composite character.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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