Obituary: Deanne Lawrance

2010-03-10 00:00

WELL-KNOWN educator and free thinker Deanne Lawrance died yesterday after a long illness. She was 71.

Throughout her life Lawrance was involved with education. In 1969, Lawrance and her former husband Clive went to live in Boston, U.S., for over six years, where she became involved in the creation of the Boston Learning Project. This was an inspiration for the Brookby Learning Project, an alternative education centre, which Lawrance later founded and ran from her home “Brookby” in Prestbury.

“Communication has always been my interest,” she once told The Witness. From 1982 to 1987, she taught at Amakholwa High School in Sinathing at the height of the conflict between the United Democratic Front and Inkatha. She eventually became acting principal. Lawrance also taught, at different times, at Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School.

In 1976 Lawrance became regional organiser of the South African Institute for Race Relations (SAIRR). She founded a bursary fund for African scholars and with Victoria Biyela ran the African Art Centre in Printing Office Street.

Lawrance moved to the historic house “Brookby” off Morcom Road in the early 1990s. In an interview with The Witness, Lawrance said her time at “Brookby” consisted of three cycles. “The first saw lodgers with spiritual inclination providing meditation and related focuses. The second was devoted to running an alternative school. Our third cycle, under the auspices of the Brookby Centre, saw regular gatherings of persons interested in alternate philosophies and complementary healing.”

Lawrance also ran the regular Exploring Consciousness Film Festival, and the Soul in Education conference that she organised in 2004 attracted eminent international speakers. Over the years Lawrance also wrote many articles and letters published in The Witness.

“Lawrance was a remarkably generous, thoughtful and innovative person,” says Colin Gardner, a long-time friend and a colleague of Lawrance at SAIRR.

“She initiated or involved herself in many areas of creative activity. The Maritzburg community is much the poorer for her passing.”

Lawrance leaves three children, Anthony, Vanessa and Sarah, and eight grandchildren.

A thanksgiving service will be held for Lawrance at the plane tree avenue in the Botanical Gardens on Friday at 1pm.

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