Looking back…starting at the beginning
In January 1998, one week before my 21st birthday I started my teaching career as a Grade 4 teacher at Pinelands North Primary School, in Pinelands, Cape Town, South Africa. I had completed a BSocSc degree at UCT majoring in Psychology and English in 1996 and my HDE(P-G-P) at UCT at the end of 1997, which meant I could be set free in a primary school classroom.
I was delighted, petrified, excited and ready to change the world as I believed I was born to teach. This was my higher purpose, God had placed me on this earth and at this school for a reason.
1998 was just four years after our first democratic election, eight years after Nelson Mandela had been released from prison and he was in his fourth year as president of our country. It was an exciting time to be a young South African teacher, ready to change the world.
What made this change even more daunting was that Pinelands North was turning 50 that year and in the school’s 50 year history could not and did not have any teaching staff employed at the school who were not white. But, Ann Morton, a courageous, young, newly appointed principal along with the school’s Governing Body chose the bold step of employing a ‘teacher of colour’ and in so doing changed the course of history at Pinelands North Primary School. After Apartheid change had to be intentional! This was a very basic form of inclusion, but a very important first step. To their credit, the previous principal and Governing Body had begun to integrate the pupil population from the early 1990’s.
So there I was in 1998, classified as Coloured by the Apartheid government. A marvellous gifted teacher ( that is what I thought anyway, it is important not to limit your self-belief when you plan to change the world) , an enthusiastic being, employed as the first of many, who helped end an era and start a new one. So, I salute Ann Morton and all those who fought and fight for inclusion, then and now. I won’t use this post to reflect on what it meant to be that teacher in that time. But it firmly cemented in my life what I had been taught by my parents, in my schooling and at university, to stand up for what I believed and speak out about injustice through my thoughts, words and actions.
My story is not unique in South Africa, there are many others who were the ‘firsts’ in their jobs, at their schools, in their communities and still are twenty years into our democracy. I salute those who fight for inclusion at every level and make a difference daily. Inclusion is about belonging and we all belong on this earth, it is about being included from the inside…out!