‘Our teacher would tell us we were going to hell’

Johannesburg - TV presenter and model Shashi Naidoo was only 10 years old when she first fell victim to racism.

“I was in primary school, but I remember it as if it was yesterday. That’s how bad it was,” she says.

“I was part of the first group that was accepted into a Model C school. There were only two of us and we were both Indians. They were testing the waters by only accepting two Indian girls.

“Some teachers were culturally biased. They would do religious studies and it would only be about Christianity. The teacher would mock us in full view of our schoolmates and say we were going to go to hell because we didn’t believe in Christ,” she says.

“One specific teacher would always say ugly things to me. I remember one day we had to do an essay on what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I said I wanted to be a doctor. The teacher called my parents in and told them: ‘You need to stop giving your child unrealistic expectations. That’s not going to happen for her and she shouldn’t be thinking along those lines.’”

Racism, she says, had a huge effect on her life at school.

“I can relate to the pupils from Pretoria High School for Girls. I know how it is to be a victim of racism. They were bold enough to be the voice of many young girls out there.”

The ugly remarks affected her and school work, and she ended up hating school.

“It affected my school work very badly because I was constantly criticised in everything I did at school. I was told I wouldn’t be anything I wanted to be,” she recalls.

“In my second year of university, I couldn’t wait to go back to my school to tell the very same teacher that I was in fact studying to be a doctor. It didn’t even bother her. That day, I learnt to let it go and to be my own driver.”

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