Monday, September 3, 2007

Post Apartheid, East London, Selborne College Roundup, 1995

Xmas 1994. Jake & mates, Esslemonts' back yard, 5 Sandhurst Road, East London.

We trekked the N2 freeway to Durbs by the sea. On New Year's day, I took Jake to North Beach, where broken glass littered grassy banks and Beach Baths carpark: freedom. Along the road, at South Beach a Zulu mob rioted: freedom. Over the years on public holidays, former white beaches were messed by thousands of blacks: freedom. In Worm City, on public holidays, a black amoeba spread from Osner Hotel along the Esplanade into Eastern Beach surf. Jake and I stood on North Beach Pier, feeling north wind blasts from Aids infested KwaZulu-Natal, overcrowded with 8000 000 souls.

London's NZ embassy informed us of our residence-visa success, an anti-climax, as it was two years since our emigration decision. Our trekking around SA had prepared us for emigration. Luke thought we were going on a long holiday. Jake was concerned about losing friends.

I gave Mr. Gunn a term's notice, then sat on the bench under the red flamboyant tree by Selborne College tuckshop, overlooking the hockey field. I felt sad, as I sensed I'd never teach again. In the staffroom Mr. Gunn squeaked to staff, "Mark won't be replaced until affirmative-action quotas for blacks begin."

"You can all cheer," I said: silent staff. Although Model C schools had functioned for four years, Selborne clung to apartheid status quo, having no black, coloured, nor Indian teachers. A white teacher taught Xhosa to Xhosa speaking black pupils.

Luke began his first and last term at a Jewish pre-primary. Jews had already emigrated, and Jewish enrolment at Selborne had decreased over the years. We heard when Jews began hearing anti-Semitic comments it was time to leave.

I'd joined Selborne-Vincent Neighbourhood Watch. Late at night, male residents car-patrolled suburbs, reporting suspicious characters, incidents, robberies-in-progress to SAP. We patrolled unharmed, shining torches on Xhosa bush-dwellers sitting around their campfires. We scrutinized suspicious-looking Xhosa wandering roads, and dossing on school premises and at Guild Theatre.

The nearest I came to being a klipgooi victim was when I checked inside Selborne's swimming-pool filtration plant. The room was dark, and when the Xhosa pool-attendant saw me enter, he picked up a half -brick and followed me inside. On recognizing me, he dropped the brick. I wondered how many Mdantsane tsotsis he'd hit with bricks? Was violent crime an excuse for revenge-attacks on whites by ex revolutionaries? A Xhosa thief was shot dead a block from our home. A white painted outline of his body stayed on the pavement. SA had many white, tarry figures.

"You're a racist!" said Forword before staff.

"As newly promoted VP, you represent institutionalized racism," I said. "You're galled I suggested a door should be installed in Selborne's grandstand, stopping Xhosa vagrants using it as a urinal and doss-house. Razor-wire fencing hasn't deterred them."

"You're running away to the land of milk and honey eh? We know we must never employ another PR person again. You've given us lots of shit since you've been here."

"The mouse swims the cream to butter and avoids the cats. PR is very different from IR, where I worked as a personnel officer for De Beers, which you resent." Forword winced. Playing Pig Dog, I barked so other worms would wriggle: "You manage Selborne finances, yet you and your cronies have never reviewed my salary nor merit-increments. Over the last six years, if you, Selborne management and inspectors had any integrity you would've increased my merits and advised me to apply for a board for my deafness, to secure my family's financial future. Neither you nor any staff have offered me accommodation nor help, while I'm packing up. Midlane sent a goodbye card, only because I gave him my biology notes. Most lessons he wastes lab time writing chalk notes on his green-board." Forword and Midlane squirmed.

"My career includes ten happy teaching years, but also eight outcast years working without labs in three boys high schools, under spiteful management like you. Midlane and I achieved the only two biology A results in the last matric exam. Midlane had a lab. I hadn't. Management never praised my A result. As for my sports coaching achievements, I've survived a hit cricket ball striking my face, and a hit hockey ball striking my balls. Being born to a teacher, married to a teacher, and having taught for 72 terms, it'll be decades before I purge teaching from my system."

"Counting my intellectual, emotional, social and health costs, you and other management rookies benefitted from my Natal, Vrystaat and Cape expertise gained before my hideous Selborne experience. After six years at Selborne, 10 biology / science teachers and HODs benefitted from my expertise, at great cost to myself, as I was never allocated a lab. Many other teacher and pupil play directors and backstage workers at Selborne and Clarendon benefitted from my drama expertise at great cost to myself. Never mind the thousands of Selborne boys I taught who benefitted from my sciences professionalism."

My last fifth form class said, "Goodbye" by lining up and shaking my hand: my best, "Goodbye." I slipped notes in Forword's and Mr. Gunn's pigeon-holes stating: "I won't be at Selborne on the last day of term in protest against six years of lab discrimination. Other teachers can complete my reports."

On 07/04/1995, I left Selborne with few regrets. I couldn't abide a measly goodbye gift and hypocritical speeches by management, who'd betrayed my trust in them to provide teacher equality with my own lab.

My high school biology / general-science reckoning: East London 6 years: 24 terms no lab = 100% Kak! Durban 6 years: 7 terms no lab + 17 terms own lab = 70% OK.

In Natal and Cape schools, I'd worked with at least 2 SADF, CF majors, several captains, and gangs of brainwashed officers: all swaggering around, coaching cadets, and sniffing out intelligence for SADF.

I gave my old bicycle to Ambrose, reprography machine-operator, as Ambrose had done more for me than any white staff, by copying notes, tests and exam-papers for me. The white typist had complained about my handwriting, and had made me wait for my typed exam-papers. Forword had pandered to her rude excesses. My white colleagues had been selfish and indifferent to my discrimination hassles, and Mr. Gordon's corruption had slimed dirty Selborne for years.

I encountered Xhosa pupils in town. One said: "You never said 'Goodbye' to us seh, Why're you leaving SA seh?"

"Your leaders govern now. They must stop the killings. I reckon hell is a silent, cold place. I've breached the sound barrier by teaching you and your Selborne pals for years without hearing-aids. As a former pupil, student and teacher, I've been 35 years in schools. While teaching over 18 years in 7 schools in Natal, Cape and QwaQwa, I've coached 8 soccer teams, 5 rugby teams, 7 hockey teams and 15 cricket teams. I've also coached swimming, athletics, PT, yachting, cadets and wildlife. I've directed plays in all schools I've taught at, and I've had enough. I'll never teach teenagers again."

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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