Sunday, August 19, 2007

Apartheid East London, My Selborne College Settling In, 1989

Rookie-teacher Allam, another protege, taught biology next door to me. He boasted about his 101 Battalion conscription in Ovamboland, where he'd taught Ovambos. His two years' conscription was credited as two years' "teaching service," enabling him during his first year at Selborne College to buy a subsidized Abbotsford house in Pearl Street. It had taken Leah and me seven years of refunded NED pension savings before we could buy our Durban duplex. After my conscription completion, thousands of conscripted teachers like Allam were bribed by taxpayers regarding their "teaching service."

On cadet days, Allam dressed up in his first-aid uniform and supervised a first-aid corps, used on sports days. Naive Allam wanted to become a doctor, but his medical school applications were rejected. Specialist Allam was dumbfounded that I was trained and able to teach humanities and sciences. "The Human Sciences Research Council gave you too many bursaries," he mocked.

During school time, SADF trained cadet-masters and cadets strutted and fretted, last fodder for USA proxy-wars against communism. Two bands blared military music. A cadet tattoo was held at Selborne College while SA smouldered. Protege Bossie, Afrikaans and cadets HOD, CF Major, organized the tattoo. Photos of dead war-heroes hung on Selborne hall walls. At rugby matches male staff dressed-up, wearing suits. Moffie masters loved militarized cadet days and rugby days, their strutting uniform days. I didn't dress-up, nor coach cadets.

Rugby war-cries were practised for first team matches. On Derby Days, egged on by cheerleaders, boys cheered. Rugby injuries, keeping Allam busy, included boys hobbling on crutches, and boys wearing plaster-casts on limbs. Some casualties wore nose -fixing devices. A shrill relief-teacher regaled schoolboys with his WW2 stories, and taught Religion and Rugby.

I wasn't paid for three months until Pretoria's Big-Boetie computer deleted my QwaQwa debt. Pretoria had retained my pension contributions to recoup my unpaid QwaQwa relocation costs. But Cape Town's Wale Street head office had paid thousands of Rands to freely relocate us from Koffiefontein to Worm City. For me to get state, white teacher's pay, the Pretoria computer vetted my QwaQwa debt, then permitted Cape Town lackeys to pay me in East London, 1000 kays away. After I phoned head office to sort out my pay Mr. Gordon said, "You mutht communicate through me to contact Wale Thtreet head offith!"

I ignored Mr. Gordon, and wrote to a Wale Street lady, who told a Pretoria tannie to delete my QwaQwa debt.

Forbidden to teach in white high schools, unless a registered teacher, I had to register with the SA Teachers Council for Whites. SATC was a clique of Afrikaner and English sinecurists, collecting compulsory funds from white teachers, and trying to manage disciplinary matters: sometimes striking teachers off the roll for hitting kids, molesting kids, fiddling funds. I deigned to join the SA Teachers Association (SATA), which networked white Cape principals and white teachers. Mr. Gordon organized a SATA holiday conference at SC.

Selborne tuckshop had an honours-board for catering mothers, and Mr Gordon had meetings with a tuckshop mother in charge of school catering. He played Major Domo, coordinating Derby Day, PTA, ECA functions (like Buffalo River Regatta), and boys' hostel meals, while faffing about snacks and drinks. Selborne honour depended on after-sports catering, while Xhosa street-kids starved nearby.

I stopped attending boozy, chatty, catching-a-tan, champagne -parties and school-pool braais with staff and parents, as my deafness was gaining, forcing solitude: which stopped me going mad. Many daily humiliations were caused by my deafness, so Solitude meant Deafness minus Madness.

Staff tea-money paid for teas and farewell gifts. If staff taught at Selborne for years, their tea-money paid for their measly farewell gift many times over. Staff shared snacks on their birthdays, and women staff prepared snacks for farewells. I would've preferred some of the guzzled money to be spent on decent lab equipment, like microscopes, or a new biology lab.

Mr. Gordon interfered and obstructed. Once a week in his office, he pep-talked me and new teachers. As I'd taught for twelve years, his prattling was insulting. One rookie-teacher returned to Cape Town, and another became a lecturer at Lukin Road Tech. A music teacher and I, old-hands, stayed. Mr Gordon sashayed from his office for staff meetings and assemblies, but the rest of the day he cacooned himself in his office behind closed doors and red and green door-access -lights, which dehumanized boys and staff. I often got the red light, so stopped talking to him.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.


Scott Kohlhaas said...

Thanks for this story. It shows again how conscription is corrupt!

Would you be willing to spread the word about It's a site dedicated to shattering the myths surrounding the selective slavery system and building mass civil disobedience to stop the draft before it starts!

Our banner on a website, printing and posting the anti-draft flyer or just telling friends would help.


Scott Kohlhaas

PS. When it comes to conscription, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Thanks Scott for the info.

As I was conscripted, I disagree with conscription. But voluntary military service may be needed, like Boere against the British invasion in the Boer War, or allies against fascists in WW2, or jihadis against American occupation of Iraq.


Mark JS Esslemont said...

Ad hominem, edited comment from an anonymous Selbornian: "...I was indoctrinated at Selborne College in the 70s & 80s at the height of the struggle against apartheid. Yet I chose not to be conscripted... My cadet experiences were worthy in that it steeled my resolve not to do my military service."

The commentator didn't say whether cadets was optional at Selborne, as it was during my later teaching years at Selborne, when most boys did cadets. Height of the so called "struggle against apartheid" was 1983-1993 when ANC terrorists tried to make SA ungovernable, doing many cowardly attacks against black civilians, like endemic necklacing, township hostel killings, rail commuter killings & killing Zulus in Natal. Never mind terrorist attacks on white civilians at restaurants, sport clubs, churches like Bahai Church Mdantsane, key buildings like East London council bldg, roads commuter attacks...