Irony of believing in morals

2008-05-13 00:00

I am sitting on my veranda on a soft Tuesday afternoon. The sun is beaming gently on the lower branches of the White Stinkwood and the leaves are a warm yellow. I am lulled by the peace and stillness.

It comes to mind that the most ironic decision I ever made in my life was made last June. It was a decision not lightly made and based on the reality of my budget. I had listened to a colleague talk with candour and honesty and enthusiasm of the upcoming strike. I admired her desire to be part of something bigger than her. I desperately wished that teachers earned more money. I knew, however, that I was in no position to strike and so, along with other colleagues, arrived at school on Friday, June 1, 2007.

It was a cold and chilly day and very, very quiet. We clustered briefly in the pale winter sun and then prepared for the coming week. It was my first experience of a strike; a school emptied of its children is not a joyous place. Monday arrived, bringing with it most of our staff and a scattering of children. Oh, our ignorance and naïvety — we expected that was that.

Days of disruption followed. We came to school but threatening messages found us phoning parents. Striking teachers ar-ranged marches and war was declared. Parents were unsettled, inconvenienced, angry and afraid. Children were bewildered and lost, caught up unnecessarily in an uncertain, angry, grown-up world. The swings hung still and no happy laughter could be heard on the playground. Gradually the worst of the violence dissipated and children drifted back to school.

It was hard to convince those attending school that it was back to work and difficult to begin new sections as many parents still feared for the safety of their children. We played more games, read more stories and attempted activities such as baking. Strike fatigue was evident and it was a horrid ending to the second term.

Irony of ironies. Were the gods laughing at our careful financial decisions? In March 2008 I received a faint copy of a letter. It was dated November 2007 and took nearly four months to travel from somewhere in Pietermaritzburg to somewhere in Pietermaritzburg. I had been found guilty of striking for the entire duration of the strike and so from March I would have 21 days’ pay deducted from my salary. Why ever did I agonise over one day’s pay?

Where was I during those days? According to my employer, I was definitely not at school and, what’s more, I made no attempt to prove my willingness to work. Shame on me. Am I not trustworthy? Am I a forger of documents? Apparently. I do not know this person my employer knows. If you should find me please return me to my skin and to my senses because I seem to be lost and alone.

I have tried repeatedly to solve my problems. We do apparently have many channels through which to work. If you phone the numbers on “the letter” you can get hold of a dear receptionist who begs you not to get angry with her and tells you that she absolutely cannot help you, she is only the receptionist and, no, there is absolutely no one, ever, in the office who is available to talk to anyone.

If you phone the switchboard and ask to be put through to the Public Relations Department or the Industrial Relations Department you are met with a rather startled silence and then told there isn’t one.

Being resourceful people, we discuss car pooling, 100 ways to cook beans, and have more ways to save electricity than Eskom has ever dreamed of. We live on the abundance of someone’s avocado tree and dark humour keeps us going.

Maybe, my decision not to strike was not my most ironic. Maybe more ironic was to believe in morals, ethics and justice, to believe that teachers were respected as individuals and that somewhere in some building some unknown person employs me, believes me and cares about me.

The afternoon sun has slipped behind the hill, leaving the sky an insipid dull white. The air is chilly and dark is not far off. My financial affairs are dismal, my blood pressure is steadily rising and my soul is aching. Someone has tramped with very heavy, muddy boots where no one has the right to go. My worst scenario is that we will all simply roll over and give up.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.