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Teachers then and now

10 December 2012, 22:27

To start off with I come from a home where my mother was a teacher. She absolutely adored teaching and she was well known for her offbeat, wild and unconventional methods of teaching. After she passed away in 1991 I still received calls for years afterwards from former students that wanted to thank her for being there for them and teaching them right from wrong (she taught at a not so affluent school that serviced surrounding farming communities).

Although I was still very young when she died and only had 2 years in her school I remember one instance very clearly. I girl of about 13 stole R1.00 out of my mother’s purse that was left on her desk during break time. Someone saw her and the word spread like wild fire. The children looked like a bunch of angry villagers as they cornered the girl and basically played judge, jury and executioner.

They proceeded to, very police like, bend the girl’s arms behind her back and physically push (and drag) her to my mother where she was sitting on the pavilion. They might as well have had pitchforks and torches.

“Mrs. Visser! Mrs. Visser! She stole money from you! We saw her!” they cried and then gave the culprit over to my mother. They stood back with smug smiles on their faces and I’m sure if they could, they would have brought popcorn for the show that was about to start.

They were the good guys afterall and surely this common thief was the bad guy. Boy oh boy was she going to get it! (Bear in mind that this was a time where corporal punishment was not only legal it was condoned and encouraged).

My mother asked the girl if she had taken the money and the girl burst out into tears and admitted that she did.

My mother then turned to the mob and told them all to mind their own business and if she ever caught them tattling over something so trivial she would skin the lot of them. I could literally hear them gasp. They weren’t expecting that.

My mother then took the girl to her classroom and closed the door.

A little while later one of the prefects told me that my mother said I must go to aftercare and she will pick me up much later.

I didn’t understand but later heard that my mother put 2 and 2 together. What will drive a child to steal R1,00 out of a teacher purse? Yes, it’s wrong but a child hardly ever steals out of greed. As it turns out, apparently my mother took the girl home and found out that she was living in horrendous conditions. The parents were not useless but they were unemployed and desperate. They had nothing.

They live off packets of food that the church dropped off once a week but even with that the cupboards were empty. In the bathroom she found vomit in a bucket that was just slime. The girl was undernourished and had begun vomiting as a result but had nothing left in her stomach to vomit up. All she had was bile.

My mother then immediately bought groceries for the house and started a feeding scheme at the school.

My question is this…whatever happened to teachers like that? If they still exist I haven’t come across one in the 7 years that my child has been in school.

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