Monday, 24 August 2009

Class of… then and now

My daughter (18) has made me swear on Dean’s Southern Constellation that I won't identify her in this school pic, taken a few weeks ago – her matric class. And I won’t. But I do want to post it, because it is such an interesting counterpoint to my own.

My matric-class pic was taken eight years after the Soweto Riots of 16 June 1976, which is now marked annually in our country as Youth Day – the black students of a huge township southwest of Johannesburg decided they’d had enough of being educated forcibly in Afrikaans, then seen as the language of the oppressor (and there were other issues too), and staged a walking rally which turned into a riot when a policeman panicked and opened fire. Many schoolchildren were injured or killed.

In 1982 (at left) I was in matric. (My brother, then aged 19, was a conscripted troepie in the army – had already been for a year and would be for another; it wasn’t a happy time for him). I went to a girls-only government school.

My children – English-speakers – have been educated largely in Afrikaans because of where we live. The Afrikaans community in these parts, although at times wary and, yes, sometimes bigoted (show me a human being who isn’t), is largely open-hearted, welcoming and unafraid of change. I love her matric-class pic because it shows how much can be accomplished when people are brave – this school not very long ago was a bastion of the white and mainly Afrikaans. (There are differences in this pic that you can’t necessarily see because of skin colour.)

This is why I love living in South Africa now.

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2 comments:

tonypark said...

You both look great.

ReasonCheck said...

M, you looked like you belonged in the front row. However, your fellow back-rowers largely fit the bill.

Your poses are uncannily similar. Good stuff!