Monday, September 3, 2007
Post Apartheid, Testimonials and East London Roundup, 1995
1995. Esslemonts' 5 Sandhurst Road, East London home sold.
When I'd asked Mr. Gunn for a testimonial, he'd refused. Later, I shamed him to co-sign a testimonial I'd asked Midlane to write for me.
Old friends, NED Inspectors, had testified for my NZ residence application. Barry had written: "Mark is an independent, inner -directed and enthusiastic person, who sees the challenge rather than the problem... possesses an empathetic nature and a keen sense of humour... a balanced individual with an alert mind and positive nature."
Hugh wrote: "I was impressed with Mark's hard work, dedication and vigour... He makes a strong commitment to any task in which he becomes involved... honest, trustworthy, and a loyal, good friend, a man of integrity and a man of his word... At times he can be thought to be blunt, as he doesn't suffer fools gladly." Over the years, Hugh had written several job testimonials for me, and Hugh's drama lecturing legacy would flourish in KwaZulu-Natal schools for decades after apartheid died.
We unravelled our lives and said, "Goodbye" to friends. The elderly knew we'd never see them again, and said so. We cashed in our life -insurances and stopped our annuities. We sold our house and two Pringle Bay plots. We steam-cleaned our garden implements in readiness for MAF inspectors in NZ. We disposed of our belongings, giving Snap and Gerry beds, carpets, crockery, cutlery, other goodies. We put remains on a verge with our black rubbish bags, which Xhosa street-kids scavenged. By liquidating our assets, which went back to mom's inheritance, we became nomads again. Snap wailed, and ululated our wake sentiments: "Bye dronkie Luke Lulululululululululu..."
We paid Pickfords a fortune to pack, store then ship our belongings to Lyttelton NZ. We didn't know then, that our wealth would evaporate, and our living standard would deteriorate in NZ, and would stay low for many years.
I'd paid a Worm City audiologist R7000 for two new in-the-ear analogue hearing-aids, as I would need them for NZ job interviews. One Starkey hearing-aid didn't work. The other caused pain in my ear when I twiddled volume-control. I waited two months for the hearing -aids to be repaired in Germany, and received them days before we left SA. Both clogged up with sweat and wax.
We gave Lucky and Koffie to a farmer, as we couldn't afford NZ quarantine fees. I gave our myrtle braai-wood to self-employed friends, and we stayed in their home during the Easter holidays. After we'd emigrated, they emigrated to Canada, as they had young kids. They'd become tired of Xhosa strikers toyi-toying on their shop computers.
We stayed in a caravan at Gonubi campsite, while sorting out our affairs. We bought a teeth-brace for Jake. Leah threw away her glasses, and had a keratotomy operation on her short-sighted eyes. We bought four new, double sleeping-bags, which would be our duvets in NZ. We cut our belongings to four full suitcases, and bought our one-way tickets from Aloe Travel.
We paid our last bills. First National (Barclays) Bank, which I'd banked with for over 25 years, delayed our settling in bank-draft. The white foreign-exchange lady threatened us with obscure Reserve Bank rulings, and harried us about our annuities. She gave us half our funds, making us fax her after our arrival in NZ, so she could telex us our money. Our settling-in funds were far less than the maximum allowed out of SA. She treated us like deserters.
We walked Gonubie board-walk, fished green Gonubie River, paddled in surf, and tanned in autumn sunshine. Jake had his ninth birthday. More Azanians were killed in SA during Jake's nine years than Rhodesians were killed during and after their Bush War. A circus came to Gonubie, and we fed apples to elephants.
My Border years were Mandela years of blood-letting, while Mandela was freed from prison, then led SA to democracy, to become our first black president. I'd never coached cadets at Selborne College, and my greatest subversion over 12 years' high school teaching was avoiding cadets coaching over 11 years, despite pressures from white staff, and Botha's militarization of SA. Selborne academic standards would drop, and Selborne would erect more razor-wire fencing. Neighbouring buildings would become slummy and condemned. Worms in cosy diapause, Mr. Gunn, Norman, Midlane, Bands, Forword and Paxton would do cadets and rugby for many years, and some black teachers would be employed.
Overall, I was a successful teacher in Natal, Vrystaat and the Cape. I got on well with most pupils, parents and staff. As for the few spiteful pupils, parents, staff and inspectors who belittled, patronised and mocked me, they were sluggish, weak, and were threatened by my confidence, focus and professionalism. As for Selborne College biology teaching facilities, I had better facilities as a student teacher at Beachwood Boys High, Durban North, than I ever had two decades later as a Selborne teacher.
Although headmaster Mr. Gordon often slugged teachers and boys with the British Army motto, "Be the betht," Mr. Gordon and his successors were simply not the best, as they didn't provide the best teaching and learning environments for biology and general-science teachers and boys.
My experience of Natal biology and general-science teaching was that senior teachers gave subject notes, baton-passing to junior teachers, to send them along the way. Those subject notes were baton-passed to pupils, so good sets of subject notes maintained subject teaching standards and learning standards for years.
At Durban Virginia Primary (1972-75), a retiring VP gave me his geography notes, which helped my geography teaching, as I'd never studied geography teaching. At Durban Northlands BH (1977), teachers gave me general-science and biology notes. At Durban Hillcrest HS (1978-1980), Herr Flokker gave me biology notes, and I inherited a box full of OHP transparencies from a departing biology teacher. With the 1980 advent of merit-scavenging salary increments, by the time I was teaching at Durban Glenwood HS (1982-1984), few subject notes were forthcoming from other biology teachers. On my arrival, general -science notes were non existent. As unpaid general-science "HOD", I gave general-science notes to several merit-scavenging teachers and hundreds of boys. After leaving Durban for Kleinzee (1984-1986), I left general-science notes and a box full of OHP transparencies for merit-scavengers at Glenwood HS.
At East London Selborne College (1989-1995), few subject notes were forthcoming from merit-scavenging biology and general-science teachers. As I was pressed into junior history teaching, merit- scavenging history teachers grudgingly gave me history notes. I obtained a full set of standards 8, 9, 10 biology and some general -science notes from a Durban DHS biology HOD friend. When I left Selborne, I gave those notes and a box full of OHP transparencies to biology / rugby HOD and cadet coach Midlane, embarrassing him, as he'd been snoeps about note-giving, despite receiving biology HOD merit-pay for years.
Of the several Durban and East London biology HODs I worked with, Midlane was the weakest. All my Durban biology HODs were promoted to senior management or lecturer posts, above HOD level. By 2008 Midlane was one of three VPs at Selborne. Five years younger than me, Midlane died in mid 2009, after 25 years' Selborne College teaching. Piderit, science HOD, loud bully, rugby and cadet coach, was incapable of baton-passing, yet Piderit was promoted principal at Port Rex after apartheid.
Coda: Post apartheid by 2008, 13 years after I'd left Selborne College, I realized that most white male management staff that I knew were already in leadership roles at Selborne in 1993 - Mr Gordon's corrupt legacy. By mid 1993, the new white male principal and white male deputy principal were already playing those roles. The 3 white male VPs and the 2 white male department heads of 2008 were already in Selborne leadership roles in 1993. The 2008 Public Relations white male was the only management staff not teaching at Selborne while I taught there. Of the 12 white senior teachers in 2008 at Selborne, 8 were already teaching at Selborne while I taught there, including one white woman. After I left, 3 white male senior teachers and 1 black female senior teacher had evolved by 2008.
Of the rest of the 22 teaching staff at Selborne College in 2008, I had only taught with 5 of them in 1993 (4 white females, 1 white male). The remaining new teaching staff, unknown to me in 2008, were 6 white males, 1 black male, 1 coloured male, 9 white females. The white male teacher counsellor hadn't changed since my Selborne years. To me the counsellor was a "friendly" snitch who encouraged boys to snitch on staff and processed snitching and backstabbing. He wasn't the only Selborne teacher to do so. When boys once let off a stinkbomb in my class, I told boys to close the door and windows and kept them in for ten minutes to enjoy their stink. When the media teacher heard of my discipline she snitched me to the principal.
By 2008, there was some white and black turnover of hostel staff. All 7 white female admin staff and 2 white tuckshop ladies and 1 black tuckshop lady had changed since my Selborne years. Bursar Cheryl van Zyl had left Selborne, as she'd stolen R567 883 over 4 years to waste at the casino. That's over R200 000 more than I earned as a teacher for 6 years at Selborne. She claimed to be addicted to gambling, (I was addicted to teaching), was sentenced to 5 years jail, serving 10 months, the rest under correctional supervision. (Dispatch online 30/01/2008). I wondered what checks BCom accountancy teachers did? And management checks? At least Selborne boys would learn about breaches of trust and corruption. Curator staff had expanded to 2 white males. I recognized some of the 10 black groundsmen. The rest were new. In 15 years, Ambrose Nene had advanced from reprography machine operator to driver.
Thus, post apartheid in 2008, 13 years after I'd left Selborne College, although there had been some attrition amongst junior staff, all senior white male management staff (except PR) were already teaching at Selborne by mid 1993, during apartheid. In 2008, of the 43 management and teaching staff, there were 39 white males and white females; 1 black female; 1 black male; 1 coloured male. So much for black affirmative-action in the Xhosa Border region. (Selborne College website 2008).
Border witchfinders and sangomas would have much work to do. I wondered whether ubuntu would ever embrace bushy river valleys, where ghosts of bushmen, khoikhoi, Xhosa guerillas, trekboers, British soldiers and settlers haunted? We'd thrown our bones, and drunk our champagne, finished and klaar.
We trekked along N2 freeway, over silted rivers, through degraded, mud-hutted Transkei. Cattle blocked the freeway and black pigs trotted across. Plastic bags fluttered on barbed wire fences...
In Durbs, I gave my .22 pistol to Leah's sister Bebs. Leah gave our TV to her parents, and we holidayed with them. I sold our Golf to an ex security-cop. The Golf had carried us safely for eight bloody years.
Coda: Mr. Gunn retired at the end of 2014, after being Selborne College principal for 21 years.
Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.