Last night my memory was jogged and I was transported back to South Africa - October 2003.
Shirley and I had met up with friends Linda and Ian in "The Greystones" for an evening of beer and conversation. We were in an alcove room left of the main bar. I noticed that there were two women at a table in the bay window. They had a dog with them.
After an hour I put my mask on to visit the lavatory and when I returned the dog started barking like The Hound of the Baskervilles. It was then that I recognised the dog's owner though I could not remember her name. Like me. she was in a party of Sheffield teachers who visited South Africa almost eighteen years ago.
She apologised about the dog's barking and we exchanged a few pleasantries before she and her friend left the pub. She said that she recognised me and then it clicked - South Africa 2003.
There must have been a development grant from somewhere. We were in South Africa on some sort of fact finding mission though to this day I have no idea how it was meant to impact upon our work back in Sheffield secondary schools.
I related a story to Shirley, Linda and Ian about the woman with the dog. It happened at Ogwini School in the middle of the vast Umlazi township on the edge of Durban. That impoverished estate is to Durban what Soweto is to Johannesburg. Sprawling, dirt poor and often desperate.
She was an I.T. and media teacher. One day she thought it would be a really cool idea to lend a costly video camera to two boys - telling them to walk around the school grounds and gather some footage.
Imagine that - teenage South African boys from tin shack homes entrusted with a camera that was worth an absolute fortune relative to Umlazi's median household income. The temptation was too much.
They left the school grounds and took the camera home before returning, claiming that it had been stolen from them.
The wily headmaster was mortified but immediately saw through the boys' ruse. He quizzed them and discovered the truth then he took the main perpetrator home and spoke to his grandmother. The shock and the shame combined to give the old woman a heart attack whereupon she collapsed and died.
The headmaster retrieved the precious camera but there was nothing he could do to restore the grandmother's life. To this day, I am not sure that the woman with the barking dog even knows the full repercussions of what she did that day. Putting such temptation in the hands of the two boys was a very stupid thing to do and the unseen outcome was not only fatal but tragic as well.
I expect that the grandmother was buried or cremated. In contrast, the woman with the barking dog went on to become an I.T. adviser for the local education authority. Such a cushy number.
Where the first world meets the third world. A sad tale, sending teachers abroad to learn does not always work and that little old lady paid the price. But also the two lads perhaps?ReplyDelete
You got it Thelma. I am afraid that I do not know if the boys were expelled from the school - one of the few beacons of hope in that urban sprawl.Delete
The trip sounds rather like the sort of "jolly" beloved of UK Local Councillors and time-wasting MP's!ReplyDelete
One wonders at the naivety (or stupidity?) of the teacher concerned, surely she would have discussed the idea with the headmaster, or local teacher first? Would she have loaned such a camera to pupils at the school where she worked?
Yes. She would have let Media Studies pupils in Sheffield go out of the classroom with the camera to do some filming but she wasn't in Sheffield. She was in a poor black African township where people had so very little. She should have certainly discussed her plan with the local staff but she didn't.Delete
What a picture YP. It makes me think of all those people living without bricks and mortar.ReplyDelete
10% of the world's population live in dire poverty. That is of course one in ten.Delete
Dogs know things.ReplyDelete
Must have known that I am a cat lover.Delete
So you had some good memories and some bad memories. I wouldn't lend my camera to anybody . I wouldn't want somebody messing with it and changing setting as well as misuse. I also don't like borrowing things.ReplyDelete
That camera didn't even belong to her. It belonged to the school where she was working at the time.Delete
To be fair, that teacher's act was only part of a long, long chain of situations and problems which she was obviously not quite aware of. She may well have had everyone's best interests at heart, of course, and there was a lack of training which would have prevented her actions. Yet another example of how the first world country is going to step in and "do good" in a third world country without having the slightest idea how to go about that. What WAS your mission there? The whole thing sounds like a mess to me.ReplyDelete
I loved the "mission". Enjoyed teaching in the school and visiting a couple of other schools too. I met many interesting people and saw a whale in the ocean from the balcony of my hotel room. I wrote a long report on what we had experienced but as I say the purpose of it all was woolly to say the least. Still, it gave me a boost and a better understanding of a country that was still trying to put its apartheid past behind it.. It is almost certain that I will never visit South Africa again.Delete
Naivete can be dangerous and have unintended negative consequences. This is a sobering story.ReplyDelete
I'm sure the woman never thought about the consequences of her actions. A sober reminder to think before you act.ReplyDelete
An interesting memory and an ethical conundrum; notions of blame and responsibility are not quite the right terms on either side - tragic nonetheless.ReplyDelete
It just shows what naivete can do.Delete
What a bizarre story. I'm sure she meant well, enabling the boys to do something that they might not normally be able to do -- film with a camera like that. If she'd thought about it she might have perceived that it could end badly, but surely no one could have foreseen the death of the grandmother!ReplyDelete
She was not in a relatively wealthy English city but in a desperately poor South African township. It was as if she simply had not thought it through.Delete
As a new person at the school, she wouldn't have had the benefit of knowing the students well which might have been another factor in the incident.ReplyDelete
The grandmother surely was in poor health and the event was just the final straw precipitating her death.
The other Sheffield teachers and I were appalled by her stupidity and dangerous naiveite. She should not even have brought that camera from her Sheffield school because she did not have permission to do so.Delete