under a tree was "no problem", we all agreed. I had a chair, the pupils
sat cross-legged in the dust and although we did have a few "little
problems" like no blackboard, no text-books and no curriculum to work
from, we had plenty of enthusiasm and determination between the lot
of us. And we had plenty of fresh air, of course! (How I missed that
tree when I had to teach 80 kids in a classroom built for 30….)
I had discovered that there had been a history teacher previously,
but he had "gone away" leaving behind some pretty interesting sayings,
like "According to my insides…." which always preceded the answer
to any question. I eventually figured that the previous teacher was
set upon developing "insight" into history rather than language -
but it took me a while - even though I heard the phrase about 50 times
a day as we had to do all our learning by conversing - due to the
lack of a blackboard.
And then I had to convince them that their "insides" were not infallible,
which took some doing, as they insisted that if they answered according
to their insides, I had to accept the answer as valid. I suppose they
had a point, but…….
Of course, as with any group of 80 odd youngsters there were a few
radically minded ( read: 'politically aware") rebellious activists
in the group and they did not like the idea of having to learn either
Afrikaans - "The Language of the Oppressor' or 'History according
to the White Man' from a (of all things!) White woman and took me
I knew I could not win on points, so I went for a KO: "Why are you
"To get a Matric Certificate" they answered. "Who's going to give
you a Matric Certificate?" I countered and they replied: "Those ('despised'
unheard, but clearly meant) guys in Pretoria" (Despite being so-called
'Independent Homelands', the South African Education Department still
controlled the school-leaving exams and allocation of Matric Certificates)
I immediately came back with the technical KO. "Well, you give those
guys in Pretoria what they want from you, then they give you what
you want from them"
Luckily for me, the greater number of the pupils enthusiastically
cheered me and that settled the matter.
They had no frame of reference on which to base their understanding
of European history. Their main hero, for some reason, was Otto von
Bismarck although I never found out why. Hitler was the undoubted
Bad Guy and Napoleon was the "Paramount Chief of the French Tribe"
and they all seemed to have lived together, squabbling over various
things, at the same time in a small place called 'Europe'. And that
was about the extent of their pre-knowledge.
Their loyalty to their previous History teacher was touching, but
at the same time infuriating. I'm sure he was a dedicated History
teacher, but he sure put me through some fancy verbal footwork before
I convinced my class that maybe they should not rely too much on their
"insides". In gratitude for this concession from them, I allowed Napoleon
to be the "Paramount Chief of the French Tribe" in the end of term
examwhich came all too soon.
Time flies when you are having fun, and the Senior School was arising
before my very eyes as I drove to and from my tree every day.
Part 4: A goat comes