Wednesday, August 1, 2007

1984 Apartheid, De Beers Kleinzee Job and Durban Roundup

1984. Leah Esslemont, Ndumu Game Reserve near Mozambique.

De Beers flew me to Cape Town and accommodated me in the Capetonian Hotel. I boarded a six-seater Scareways plane, which flew me over Namaqualand to Kleinzee. North of the Olifants River, I saw thousands of giant termitaria circles on dry terrain below.

At Kleinzee, Meneer Nel, Afrikaner Superintendent of white Kleinzee Private School, interviewed me. Compared to bully Mr Maher, Meneer Nel seemed dof. I liked Nel, a Vaalie, bald, fat and arrogant. "You muzn' be zcarred of Gallztone, perrzonnel managerr hey?" said Nel. "I rreporrt to him." Nel took a can of deodorant from his desk drawer, and sprayed his underarms through his jersey. "I'll zhow you zybarrite development in Kleinzee." Meneer Nel drove me to Gallstone's personnel offices: waving to hotnot and Afrikaner passersby. Nel stank of after-shave, sweat, deodorant, fear.

Kleinzee was on the Buffels Rivier south-bank. The river ran rarely when it rained in eastern granite berge. Main Street separated coloured housing and recreation club from white (Afrikaner and English) housing and recreation club. Xhosa migrant-workers from Sterkspruit, about 1000 Kays eastwards, lived in Dreyerspan Hostel, north of Buffels Rivier, moer-in-gone into the fenced, mine security -area. Kleinzee shopping-centre was used by everyone. Kleinzee was fenced off from the rest of the planet. North and south access roads through sandveld were controlled by security-officers manning boom-gates. Visitors had to be security-cleared weeks before arrival.

Small Gallstone explained: "Kleinzee is a remote diamond-mining dorp, in a restricted diamond-mining area on the west coast. All black, coloured, Indian and white personnel are vetted by SAP before working for De Beers. Anyone with a criminal record is rejected, as IDB is too tempting. What are your De Beers ambitions?"

"Your job," I replied. Gallstone smiled. Gallstone would prove to be my best boss, and would wield more power, authority and responsibility than any boss I ever had. Positively, Gallstone and Nel didn't wear ties.

Nel fed me Cape wines and a rump steak in the white rec club restaurant, then faffed me to Ferreira his VP. Youngish Ferreira, boep -bril-padda-man, explained: "Nel heads Zonderberg Primary, the coloured school on the west side of town, as well as Kleinzee Private School for whites. Nel also coordinates the separate white and coloured pre-primary schools. I only lead our white Kleinzee Private School man. A coloured VP leads Zonderberg Primary, where mainly coloureds teach, but some whites teach there as well man. Our dual-medium Kleinzee Private School only has whites man. Half the classes are taught in Afrikaans, half are taught in English man. As Namaqualand is a coloured / Afrikaner area, our school has more Afrikaner kids than English - lekker job for a Soutie man, as our English classes have fewer pupils than our Afrikaner classes."

I flew back to Durbs. Gallstone phoned, and offered Leah and me Kleinzee teaching jobs. Ferreira phoned saying, "You were seventh on our short-list man, but we chose you as we thought you wouldn't give us any shit man." Ferreira was dof.

Leah and I profitably sold our Wild Fig Tree duplex, as SA had rampant inflation. My Glenwood goodbye speech: "Although over the last two years I've taught biology up to matric and led the general-science department, supervising ten white teachers and an Indian lab-assistant, and been responsible for general-science teaching of over 600 form 2 and form 3 boys, and inaugurated and led form 3 drama classes (a first in Natal boys' highs) and a Wildlife Society, and coached cricket, my salary was static: so much for NED merit-assessment. I reckon management and teachers need to care about the quality of their teaching." Mr. Maher blanched.

My Wildlife Society boys waited by my lab and shook my hand: sad we wouldn't be hiking the Berg anymore. But they'd never forget when I went "flap-happy," as they put it, after two bad boys once left a path, without my permission, lost themselves in Ndedema Gorge, and only found their way out late that night. (My friend Roy Cowgill had lost a boy in the Berg, when the boy left a path, without permission, and fell to his death). The next morning, I flapped the boys' arses so hard they never hiked the Berg with me again. And the rest of the group were softly flapped, for leaving their camp untidy.

Blikskottel farewelled Leah and me at Killarney Hotel, then Smugglers Inn, where we munched monkey-nuts ogling a strip-show. Pissed Blikskottel slurred, "Mishterr Maher didn' like yourr shpeech hey?... 'Memberra Eshplanade bombin'?"

"I worked at John Ross School nearby," said Leah, dipping a Simba chip in pate.

"Rreally? Sdrrollin' along Esplanade, ah 'earrd dunderr. Know whad ah mean?" Blikskottel gnawed a polony sarmie. "Was rrainin' an' sunny... a Monkeys' Weddin'. Ah sdood againsda buildin'... wasn' rrain: Dhousandsa splinterrs showerred frrom high-rrise windows... Afterra showerr, ah shuffled away... Passa Niknaks!"

In London Leah had taught and socialized with non-whites, but in Durban over 5 years and in 6 white schools Leah had taught and socialized only with whites. As Durban white and non-white schools were racially splintered, during my 10 years' teaching in 5 Durban white schools, white teachers never socialized with black menial staff. We only socialized with white parents and white teachers. That was the reality of apartheid state schooling. Black, coloured and Indian schools were splintered as well. In Durban, aged 32, I'd never shared a meal nor sociaized with black staff. I'd never taught with non-white teachers, nor taught non-white pupils, nor played nor coached sport with non-whites. But that would change after I left the white education donkey wagon.

After leaving Glenwood in mid 1984, I complained to the NED director about Mr. Maher's and Inspector Mandrill's bad behaviour. The NED director said my NED file was clean, so I left it at that. Years later, Mr. Maher early-retired to make way for a post-apartheid white principal. After Meneer Basson retired, he was replaced by Inspector Mandrill's son. Two colleagues, Jew and Afrikaner, had the same surnames as bosses of apartheid's Chemical and Biological Warfare Programme. By 1987 a lady teacher I'd taken on wildlife excursions left her husband for a standard 9 schoolboy.

By 2008 two white deputy HMs, already teaching at Glenwood HS when I left in 1984, were still there, so apartheid white affirmative-action continued years after apartheid ended. By 2008, drama was taught in senior classes.

1984. Leah Esslemont, Boer War Vroue Monument, Bloemfontein.

See Glenwood High School, Durban.


Mark JS Esslemont said...

Face Book comment from a former biology pupil, living in Mauritius:

"Just wanted to say, 'Hi' and thanks for the classes, those were good days and you were about the coolest teacher at Glenwood."

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Face Book comment from a Glenwood teacher colleague:

"You have a vivid recall of ... & .... They were indeed bullies & I was one of their many 'targets'. After applying for a merit assessment, ... told me I was so 'bad' I shouldn't be teaching matrics & must've arranged for my transfer. ... told me we were a maths teacher in excess &, if asked to take a transfer to Empangeni or elsewhere, I should accept it graciously.

Imagine my surprise & (...'s) when the inspector offered me a transfer to ... Boys' High, closer to home. There I met a real principal, a gentleman, ...., who was the converse of ... & did much to restore my bruised ego. Needless to say my former matrics played their part by excelling in their finals, also to ...'s & ...'s surprise."

Typical bullying by Glenwood's bully boss & his sidekick: blame the bullied teacher for non existent poor matric results before the matric exam. The boss pulled that nonsense on me too, & had to eat humble pie when all my SG matrics passed well in 1983. My reward: no matric class in 1984. Stupid management.