Let’s not just remember what it was like then. Let’s find a way to get at least some of those old values back
The other day I sat with my handwritten telephone directory, looking for a number of an old school friend. It struck me that most of the guys were gone. To quote the Bard: “Gone to the bourne from which no traveller returns”.
And I suddenly felt a sense of loneliness. These were my buddies – all gone. Quiet as the grave. And a deep sense of having been left behind overcame me.
But do not stop reading, because I don’t intend to shuffle off this mortal coil. Not yet, anyway. It’s just so strange to remember how we were all young and strong and unafraid once. I am taking about the 1950s. Where are our teachers?
We recall the things they said that shaped us. We sing songs they taught us. And we remember the skills they taught us. We recall the punishment they were not afraid to mete out.
We didn’t like it then, but we appreciate how we were taught respect and self-respect then, things which are sadly absent in our lives today.
I am an ex-Sintonite, but the sentiment is universal. Our school-going age was such that most of our teachers – with hindsight – weren’t very much older than us. They were young graduates fresh out of university.
Many of them studied under special permit at a university then commonly labelled a “white enclave”. They were young warriors who showed us the way out of apartheid. And we as students resisted or agreed, resented or admired, but we grew.
The ministrations were lasting enough to make us the new generation of teachers not many years later.
We now know that they, like us, could not see how it would end, how some of those teachers would leave, others would be ground into powder by the relentless cruelty of the apartheid system.
But they soldiered on as part of what was called the “resistance movement”. And we have our memories.
So I ask fondly: where are they now? Wilfie is in Australia. Cosmo became head of BBC Shakespeare, Ivan is now selling herbal medicine on a flea market. Most of us sank into ignominy.
We had mediocrity and dehumanisation forced down our throats with unrelenting cruelty and remorselessness. We were told that the paler ones always came first. So much so that we started accepting that our place was always second or less.
But this story is not about an ending. Maybe we have made a false start. I am asking those who are left to go back to those olden, golden days. Children are not adults.
Adults know better because they once were children.
Let’s not just remember what it was like then. Let’s find a way to get at least some of those old values back.