Retired teacher finds success in writing

2014-09-10 00:00

FROM sugar plantation to factory floor to top educationist, Dr Frank Naguran (85) has finessed an already remarkable career into a literary one.

“Something happened on my 80th birthday,” said Naguran. Long asked by his children and grandchildren to tell his story, “I suddenly realised I’d rather write it all down”.

The result was his first book, Echoes from my Valley, which combined autobiography with the story of Indian education and life on the sugar cane fields of KwaZulu-Natal.

“People are curious about life on the sugar plantations,” said Naguran. “I was born and grew up on one of them.”

Naguran’s grandparents came to South Africa as indentured labourers in 1889. His father, simply known as Naguran, was a labourer on the Renishaw sugar estate on the Natal South Coast. His father left the estate in 1939 and moved his family to Durban.

Naguran left school at the equivalent of today’s Grade 8 and worked in a factory for nine years moving from the factory floor to a dispatch clerk.

“But it had always been my ambition to become a teacher,” he said.

He studied part-time, obtained his matric, and entered the teaching profession “by the back door” in 1952.

In the 1950s, due to the shortage of space for Indian children, schools were run on the platoon system — one section in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

Naguran was employed into this system as an unqualified teacher in training.

He went on to obtain a BA, a BCom, followed by a bachelor and master’s degree in education, capped with a PhD. His career thereafter saw him become vice-principal of ML Sultan Technikon and, by the time he retired in 1989, chief education planner in the provincial Education Department.

Echoes of the Valley proved to have a readership beyond Naguran’s family. When it was brought to the attention of Aziz Hassim, author of The Lotus People, he was impressed enough to write the foreword.

Then local and provincial libraries put in large orders. “I was surprised at the book’s success.”

Surprised enough to try his hand at fiction, the result is the just published Dupes of Destiny. “It’s set against the backdrop of the indenture system but it’s a tale of forbidden love across two continents.”

Naguran said the book also shows the roots of Indian political activity in South Africa. “Though they suffered they did not cow down to authority — they fought against the system.” Rather like Naguran himself.

• To obtain a copy of Dupes of Destiny contact Frank Naguran at 031 462 3376 or naguran@telkomsa.net.

• Stephen.Coan@witness.co.za

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