on earth was I, a respectable middle-aged White Afrikaans-speaking
teacher, doing, bumping along a rough single track road in my brave
little VW Beetle, looking for the school where I was supposed to start
teaching that very morninghaving been appointed the previous
day to "Report to this school (in one of the infamous South African
Bantustans) tomorrow morning to teach Senior History (according to
the White Man) and Afrikaans (The Language of the Oppressor)" This
was in 1988, during the Bad Old Days of Apartheid in South Africa.
I eventually, at about 10am, found the schoolonly there was
no school. Just a constant stream of traditionally gaily dressed ladies,
blocking the "road" as they carried small buckets, and any kinds of
tins, of concrete and poured it into what looked like rough ditches
forming big squares dug in the dry dust. We looked at each other in
mutual amazement, then one approached and asked: "What do you look
I explained that I was looking for "the Senior School" and was informed
that this was indeed the Senior School, "……but it is not yet finished"
Taking pity on my obvious confusion, she then directed me to the Middle
School a "little bit further" on along the road, saying: "maybe you
can find your pupils there"
So I carefully geared up my little Beetle and proceededvery
worried about the double negative suggestion of the "maybe" and the
dubious "little bit further"
But find them I didabout 40 minutes later80 "senior pupils"
sitting under a tree next to a ramshackle building from which omnious
sounds emanated, indicating that some form of teaching was taking
Well, seeing my reputed "itchy feet" (according to my mother) and
Rebellious Nature (according to my previous principal, who probably
received my resignation with gratitude) had led me to this point,
I would see it through, come hell or high water. A quitter I am not.
I boldy approached what seemed to be the entrance, praying the veranda
would not fall on my head (it held) and found the headmaster's office
just beyond the sagging veranda roof. Having no idea that he had acquired
a Senior Teacher, he greeted me politely with: "What do you look for?"
I explained who and what I was and he looked slightly bemused at the
speed with which a Senior teacher, albeit a Boer (White woman) was
provided by his government. However, he explained, there was a "little
problem" as there was no classroom for the senior pupils, but the
big tree would provide enough shade and there was an extra chair available
in the staff room, where I would find two more senior teachers.
He gestured in the direction of the passage, and I considered myself
dismissed and wandered off to find the "staff room" where I was met
with the now familiar: "What do you look for?" Patiently I explained
once more and they brightened considerably at the prospect of help
and we went outside to figure out a Plan of Action.
Part 2: "Little problems"