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Blinded by blazer buttons

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It took us off-guard when ‘Teacher’ walked into the class and her hair that normally was pulled back with an Alice band was shimmering, stylish and bouncy.

Her eyes looked bigger too, and later on, the girls told us that Teacher had applied something called ‘mascara’.

The surprises didn’t end with flowing locks and battering eyelashes. Another teacher, Mr B, walked in and he was not wearing the usual tatty brown jacket with the faded patches at the elbows. He was wearing a dark blazer with shiny brass buttons that glinted in the sunlight.

A few of the boys, I heard, had to be admitted to the clinic with burnt retinas because they had apparently gazed too long at those shiny buttons as Mr B walked across the playground in the sunlight. Also, a few of the pupils injured themselves because they were not used to walking on waxed floors.

Everything started making sense when, during our English lesson, a tall, thin man with white hair and a pencil moustache, wearing a dark three-piece suit walked in and sat down at Teacher’s table. Teacher’s tone changed as she put up the first of her charts on the blackboard.

We exchanged glances amongst each other – Teacher using charts with press-stick, this could mean only one thing.

That man was an inspector!

During inspection week the entire school would go into overdrive. Mr B would suddenly remember where all the tools were and they would be neatly arranged on our workbenches when we walked in. He would tell jokes and be friendly with us.

He would even use the blackboard compass to draw circles on the blackboard instead of drawing it freehand like he usually did, making us believe it was 100 percent accurate.

It’s as if, for that one week, our school had been upgraded to a private school. Don’t get me wrong, our teachers were never monsters, they were just overworked; during inspection week it’s as if their hidden potential was unleashed by the pressure.

I always wondered, “If this is how teachers behaved when they were being evaluated, shouldn’t this be how they were supposed to behave when they were not under scrutiny? Shouldn’t this have been the norm instead of the exception?”

Here’s where I am going with all of this I heard that recently a convoy of trucks transporting much-needed aid had passed through Kimberley on the way to the drought-stricken areas of our Province.

I also heard that Kimberlites had turned out in their numbers to cheer them on, hand out bottles of water, cold sodas, sandwiches and other comforts for the hot, weary, discouraged travellers.

I watched a short video clip where one of the farmers expressed his profound appreciation to the residents of our City who had poured out so much goodwill and resources during this difficult time.

He said that just seeing Kimberlites standing at the side of the road, waving, smiling and cheering them on gave them the courage to continue fighting during this difficult, difficult time.

About 15 years ago someone who had been transferred to Kimberley asked me what the city was like. I told him: “There is not much to do in Kimberley, it’s a terribly dull, boring place. But the people are nice. You couldn’t hope to meet nicer people than you’d meet in Kimberley.”

How much has changed in the past 15 years that I would be so surprised and delighted to hear how nice Kimberlites were to those weary travellers – this used to be the norm, not the exception. And yet it gave me hope that all is not lost for this city; reminding me of something that former US president Barack Obama said during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.

Obama said: “There is a word in South Africa – Ubuntu – that describes his (Mandela’s) greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.”