Into the matric memory bank

2012-01-07 00:00

THAT old saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” echoed strongly for me as I covered the stories of the matric results this week.

It was quite a while ago when I wrote matric, I am forced to confess, and I was lucky enough to pass.

In those days there were no corrupt teachers whom we could pay bribes to for copies of the papers.

Even if there had been, I didn’t even get pocket money, so that would have been no help.

Our teachers seemed impenetrable in the face of temptation.

My parents, being good upright citizens, would never have aided and abetted me in any underhand plan, they were the old fashioned kind that thought plenty of threats would do the trick.

“Look at that street sweeper, that will be you if you don’t get a matric.” my father would say regularly.

I think even municipal hygiene experts need qualifications these days, Dad.

“Don’t even think of boys,” my mother would growl if I dared to mention a member of the opposite sex.

“If you get pregnant and leave school without a matric you will end up on the streets.” She was definitely not thinking of an exotic job on the street corner I’m sure.

So amid these vivid pictures of doom and gloom I swotted and did my homework and was generally one of those nerds who did well, but not a brain box who astounded people with their brilliance.

My only real passion was English and I loved to write English essays.

I amazed the prefects, also know as suck-ups, when they ordered me to write a bizarre essay in detention.

The topic was “the noise a cricket makes while eating grass”.

I turned in a four page essay that was so good it was featured in the school magazine.

Alas it led to my poor choice of career later, journalism, where words are seldom related to fun.

I went to the normal government school in my neighbourhood, it was the thing to do. Private schools were for religious fanatics or for snobs.

If they played National Party subliminal propaganda over the school intercom I was totally oblivious.

Yes, the boys did cadet marching on the field, which was a source of great amusement.

Boys pretending to be soldiers — my son does the same on his Xbox gaming console today, much to my disgust. Pacifist mother raises psychopath, I worry to death.

I drove past my old school and was shocked to see the wall surrounded by razor wire and littered with billboard advertising by neighbourhood shops. Maintaining standards now comes at the price of selling out to commercial interests.

How well I remember sitting on the field with the so-called “bad boys”, this privileged status gained in exchange for lunch and occasional homework notes.

Our few minutes of freedom between classes were for working on a schoolgirl’s tan, named for the telltale white band left by the socks.

For centuries generations of girls have been smitten by the allure of the “bad boys”, like moths to a flame.

The rebels, the misunderstood, the ones who had records for the most “jacks”. In my day corporal punishment was very “in”. The boys received a caning referred to as “jacks” and they boasted about it.

Slutty girls wore their hems higher and socks lower and we secretly envied them. How could they defy the rules of the school in such a brazen manner? Much of the matric year was spent worrying about whether we would pass, how we could spot exam topics and how we could master exam studying techniques.

It all seems so far away — and I can’t recall anything I learnt except the detailed cross section of a leaf.

I have no idea how this has served me, but I did get my matric certificate with a university exemption.

My parents sighed with relief and immediately dispatched me to the next stage of my education, tertiary education.

My father heard via reliable sources that no virgins had ever emerged from Rhodes University. Legend has it that the bell at the entrance will ring if that ever happens.

So I was bundled off to Natal Technikon now (DUT) where there were no communists or lustful boys.

And truthfully that is where my education began.

• trish.beaver@witness.co.za

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